Prompt: What was the best meal you had in 2013? Was it slurped standing over the kitchen counter? Was the menu written in a language you understood? Were you alone? Or at a table filled with family and friends?
This meal for me came in two times.
The first one was in Israel. Instead of going out to party on the streets of Tel Aviv with the other kids, 6 of us from Birthright went to a relatively high end Kosher restaurant. Instead of with a huge group trying to yell over load thumping music, we sat around as an intimate group and talked about our lives. We talked about some incredible things. To top it all off, we had some incredible food. It was the kind of food that changed my mind about how amazing Kosher food could be. I had incredible pasta dish with mushrooms, pesto, and feta. I tried some fried haloumi (type of cheese), some cream filled beet gnocchi, fettuccini alfredo, mocktails around, and I lost track of what else. It was all so amazing. It was a combination of the amazing food, incredible company, and the exoticness of being in a foreign country. I can understand the letters – like any grown adult Jew, I know the Hebrew alphabet and can read along with the prayers. But when it comes to translation or comprehension? HA! That’s a no. We were with one person who knew enough Hebrew to get us through any tricky parts, but I can definitely appreciate the ubiquity of the English language. In many cases, it’s a commonality shared between two non-English speaking countries, because they can’t possibly accommodate all foreign speakers. Especially in Israel, I’m lucky that English and hand-gestures is nearly universal.
I’m sitting here on a transatlantic flight, and I just want to interject to say that the flight attendents are walking around and turning off the overhead lights of the passengers who have fallen asleep. It’s actually very sweet.
The other meal was nearly as emotionally inspiring, but it was one of the more palette-arousing experiences of my life. It was a tapas restaurant in Melbourne, Australia. Here’s a picture of the menu. I had a variety of tartar, cold-smoked fish, mind blowing balsamic mushrooms, and a wine variety that must be called “OMG This Is a Great Red.” Culinarily speaking, it was one of the most impressive meals I’d ever tasted. Although I was traveling for work, and was dining with two colleagues that I knew just as long as I knew my Israeli dining companions. We had more in common over work than strangers, and yet I had so much more fun with the strangers in Israel.
They were both memorable and impressive for different reasons.