Thursday, February 24, 2011


"I'm going to the yarkan, the greengrocers! On the corner!" my husband says and sails out the door.

I lie unobstrusively in our Pittsburgh apartment - far away from the zests and smells of yarkan.
The Hebrew word yarkan, conjures the image of an outdoor market, but it means the same in Hebrew and English. The last time we bought fruits and vegetables was in 2007 in  small shuk, market, in Kiriyat Shmona - some kilometers away from our kibbutz, Sde Nehemiya. I wanted to enjoy the last few weeks of Israel living before we started packing for our journey to the States

Every now and then, a Hebrew word, especially food related words, is enough to connect me to the years I lived in Israel.

Take okra for instance.

In the supermarket here in Pittsburgh, I've seen it sold only frozen. But at Engels, just around the corner from our Squirrel Hill apartment, I'm sure there is okra. But I don't even bother buying it because my Mother-in-Law isn't here to cook it. The kind that is sold here is thick and too furry.  In Israel, they are very thin and my mother-in-law cooks it with lots of lemon and garlic. A true delicacy.

"Bambia" as they say in Hebrew. Like my cousin Ronita says, "when you say the word "Bambia," you can feel the taste of the "bambia" in your mouth. So true. At least from an Israeli standpoint.

Like my grandmother, my Mommy-in-Law puts the freshly washed okra on a chopping board and lets it dry in the merpeset, a back room of the kitchen where there is a lot of sunlight. On the kibbutz, people lay "Bambia" on chairs.

No time or sun for that here.

Okra is a slimy vegetable when it is cooked; my mother-in-law makes it ring of spices that it just slides in my mouth. Haim, my husband cooked it a few times, but it turned out so big, like a cucumber. I like the disproportionate size - a big "head" and a slim body; some get mushed while others stay firm and crunchy. Those I love the best.

She fries a lot of garlic and spices before adding the dried okra. Sometimes she adds tomato sauce. It is delicious as a rice dish. When we would visit her for Shabbat, she would cook lots of okra because she knew how much I loved it.

No comments:

Post a Comment