Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Tel Aviv Food Festival

Hiya, all; not much cooking this week, yet, except for some organic mashed potatoes. The reasons for this absence from the kitchen are quite complex, but they certainly include our visit to the Tel Aviv food festival, Taste of the City.

The idea is quite fun: many of the city's wonderful restaurants open large booths, where they sell small portions of the best dishes in their menus for a relatively inexpensive price. For example, a set of four Dim Sum dumplings is sold for 20 NIS. The booths are located around Hayarkon park, and the very many visitors (more than three hundred thousand last year!) walk between them, making a meal out of various interesting entrees.

For the most part, folks behave in a civil manner and don't push each other on the way to the food, which is also facilitated by the large number of service people on each booth. It is, however, a strange feeling to be part of a large picnic where everyone, including you, is stuffing their faces and standing in line for more. I can see how this pastime can really turn off those of us with more delicate tastes. It also raises the question of garbage, as this festival is based on a huge amount of plastic and paper plates, and there is no recycling structure in sight.

As far as vegetarian options go, things looked quite good. Almost each restaurant had some sort of a vegetarian option. Sushi places offered vegetarian sushi and agedashi tofu; various rice and noodle dishes, with vegetables, as well as veg and tofu stir-frys, were offered at the Thai and Chinese places; pasta places had vegetarian pastas; and there was plenty of fresh squeezed juices and smoothies for those who preferred to pass on the many beer varieties. The best part was a small and modest booth, bearing the sign "sun soya" or "soya sun", which offered "meat" based on tofu and wheat gluten, with vegetables, silver noodles and brown rice. I think we're going to experiment more with fake meats at home. And, of course, the nice neighboring booth sold little boxes of raspberries, so we had our breakfast for the following morning in hand. All in all, quite an entertaining way to pass the evening. The one thing that spoiled some of the fun was the commercial megacorp booths, with noisy music, dancers, and incessant flier-handing. As we were heading off (by foot - you would not believe the traffic!), a lady handed us some sugar-free gum samples, to finish off the experience.

When we got home, we found our vegetable box awaiting us, with tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, potatoes, carrots, beets, zuccini (in four different colors!), kale, parsley, cabbage and red peppers. It's vegetable salad day, today, for both of us; but we promise to be more creative over the weekend.

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