Snippets from America – Part 1

by Brian on September 15, 2009

in Just For Fun,The Old Country

We just returned from a nearly three-week vacation in the U.S. We visited family up and down California, hiked in redwoods and spent too many hours on planes and waiting in airports. Here are a few choice snippets from the trip. I’ll be posting a second batch later in the week.

Donuts follow me

One of the extravagances I indulge in when visiting the old country is doughnuts. Regular readers will recall our frantic searches for Krispy Kremes in years past.

This trip, to alleviate any sugar stress, I discretely informed our hosts that a box of Entenmanns’s glazed buttermilk doughnuts would not be unwelcome. Perhaps I didn’t realize the dedication of our friends and family to plug my fried dough fix.

The deluge began in Santa Rosa at my mother’s house. It continued at Juliet and Birger’s in Berkeley. Aaron’s home in Los Angeles was initially doughnut free…until the day of our departure when not one but two boxes appeared as a parting gift. That accompanied us through the first half of our stay in La Jolla.

The doughnuts were emblematic of a general glazed environment in which we found ourselves. From decadent desserts to a hurried visit to the scandalously synthetic and sugar injected Jelly Belly Factory (I’ll have more in a future post), I felt at times like it would have been just as effective to insert an IV and pump the sweet stuff directly into my veins. (By the way, I gained a couple of kilos on the trip which I’m diligently striving to work off. Can you say tofu?)

Aroma bait and switch

When Israel’s popular Aroma café opened outlets in New York and Toronto, Israeli expats and friends of the Jewish state rejoiced. High quality coffee, sandwiches and salads to challenge Starbuck’s hegemony had made it to North America. So when we heard there was an Aroma in Los Angeles, where we stayed for three days during our vacation, we were eager to feel the Israeli love.

As soon as we pulled up to the Aroma, though, we knew something was wrong. The familiar Aroma logo was missing, replaced by a flowery cursive. We asked the hostess at the door what the deal was. Speaking in quick Hebrew, she explained that there was no connection between the Israeli and LA Aromas – other than both were staffed by Israelis and served Israeli fare – and that the California establishment was not officially kosher though only dairy and fish were served.

We had driven at least a half an hour out of the way and we had three hungry kids (and one boyfriend) in tow. What choice did we have?

For the record, the menu is a mish-mash of Israeli fare – more Caffit than Aroma (the “sweet potato extravaganza” was similar to the Jerusalem brand but with more deep fried fritters). The prices were nothing to celebrate over either: for the six of us, the bill was over $100.


What is it with tattoos in America? It’s not like Israelis don’t go for body art. But tattoos in the Holy Land seem smaller, more decorative than their American counterparts. Everywhere we traveled in California, there were men whose entire arms, backs and sometimes chests (there were a lot of shirtless men) were covered in ink. I can’t vouch for the women’s chests, but we glimpsed many backs and arms that had undergone the artist’s needle.

And then there were the dagger earrings. We saw several of these aggressive accessories adorning exceedingly tough looking young men during our visit to the Six Flags Magic Mountain amusement park. Combined with the tattoos, I found myself actually pining for the Israeli version of macho.

Merav returns to the dark side

One of the key events of the trip was fifteen-year-old Merav’s return – after four years of staunch vegetarianism – to the world of the carnivore. Merav had not undergone an existential eating crisis. Rather, she had caved to the pressure exerted by her posse of meat eating friends back home.

We planned this meal meticulously. We picked a fancy kosher meat restaurant in Los Angeles. Merav asked her Safta and me to order and not tell her what she was getting. We chose spaghetti with meat sauce. It seemed less in-your-face than a steak for her first time out. We didn’t want to spoil her conversion from the get go.

The spaghetti arrived with a candle in the center. It would have been too embarrassing if we sang something silly like “Happy meat day to you,” so we restrained ourselves. Merav took a taste. Then another. Her face contorted with those initial bites. And then she delivered her pronouncement. Thumbs up.

Half way through her meal, she turned to me and gazed longingly at my veal chop. “Can I try some?” she asked innocently. “Sure,” I said. “I think I’ll have that next time,” she quipped.

Tell the doctor that the operation was successful.

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