עדכונים מהבלוג

הכניסו את כתובת המייל לקבלת עידכונים מהבלוג:
February 6, 2016

The Spice of Life

My day at the Local Center for Health and Community* typically starts with some almond milk, possibly chocolate almond milk, or a green smoothie made from freshly foraged plants around Kibbutz Neve Eitan. I like to think of it as hippie bottle service. Inevitably, someone will ask me if I’m hungry  and the answer is always a resounding “yes”, even if I’m not because I’m full of chocolate almond milk.  Whatever is being cooked on the stove top or in the oven I will want to eat.

From there, the path diverges, and I can’t predict what route it’s going to take.  I might be chopping up 20 cabbages for fermenting, or cataloging research articles, writing, weeding, stocking, or greeting a Belgian film crew making a documentary on foraging. No matter what I’m doing, I feel utilized and a part of something important.

What is certain is that the day will be filled with wonder.  JRR Tolkien (a favorite of mine) wrote about the importance of leading a life filled with “childlike wonder” and delight.  I feel that each day here really channels that concept.  Actions that I would’ve regarded as mundane and routine, leave this realm and feel more extraordinary, like they’ve undergone a metamorphosis and emerged as the gateway to new knowledge.  Diced lemons and a little bit of salt leads to the magical process of chemical fermentation and the creation of a whole new substance and flavor. New worlds of tastes open up and my grasp on what spices and ingredients can do is challenged and reestablished daily.
My favorite sentence that I hear is “lunch will be ready soon” and I know it’s going to be a wholesome serving of transcendental cuisine that will push the limits of reality and my definition of food and how I eat.
Homemade whole wheat fettucini with vegetables and cashew cream

Uri is a genius in the kitchen – I’ve heard some people use the expression “the ingredients really speak to me” and I imagine Uri must be communing and directing an intermingling of flavors that fuse together in such succinct harmony. The ingredients used in Uri’s kitchen are all fresh, come from local sources and are in their most basic form you can find them in. Salt is from Eilat and is untreated by an anti-caking ingredient that is in most salt to make the crystals all evenly the same size; greens are gathered from fields around the area; turmeric is ground from roots unearthed in the garden outside and olive oil is from an ancient grove in the north.

The recipes that Uri uses come from a lifelong study and search for the lost lore of ancient traditions, seasoning and aromas passed through ancient sources and antiquity. Uri sees beauty in everything around him and draws a lot of inspiration from the nature that he surrounds himself with, which is responsible for the full-fledged flavor of his food.  The methods he uses to cook are elements that ancient cultures recognized as good for the body and leading a healthy lifestyle. The processing and metallic taste of mass produced ingredients and food is stripped away, so all that remains is the pure, wholesome flavor and nutrition of Uri’s cooking.  He’s tapped into the truest potential in all of his flavor sources; the dishes he makes are simple and honest – salads, pasta, omelettes and stews, but I promise you, you’ve never tasted them like this.

I have my mind blown regularly by what I get to eat and the amazing part is that it’s so good to my taste buds, but also mutually beneficial to my gut and my body as a whole.  The diet I’ve been eating is for the most part vegan, no processed sugars, no creams, or bad fats, the grains are all whole and the bacteria in the bread helps my gut health.  I know this because Uri works with a microbiologist out of Tzfat, who has researched some of the bacteria in the the cultures of fermented foods from Uri’s kitchen and discovered new bacteria that helps in the digestion of food.

The entrance to the ecological house

My days pass in Kibbutz Neve Eitan, where everything is in the leafy green flourish of winter vitality.  I live in the Ecological house which is home to around 4-7 Israelis in their late 20s or early 30s, who are all well-versed in baking up fresh loaves of bread and leading a sustainable existence.  It’s refreshing to be around Israelis and completely immersed in their lifestyle. They’re incredibly intelligent, open and insightful to talk with.  I haven’t experienced anything like this in my five months in Israel and had I continued in my program, I would never had been lucky enough to have such a special experience like this.

Garden and entrance to the humble abode of the LCHC

Over at the Local Center, I work with Tami and Hila – Uri’s support system and earnest cooks in their own right.  Hila works with me teaching me how to make pastes,spreads, yogurts and almond milk.  Tami wields Uri’s schedule, supplies structure and context for the work that we do.  They create an atmosphere of love, supportive, laughter and fresh baked bread and I always feel really honored to get to work with such motivating women.

I’m a lone American in this place, but I feel more connected and part of a community than ever.  I’m encouraged to grow and ask questions from everyone around me and they’re open to sharing their perspective and knowledge with me.  It’s astounding that I’ve only been here for a week; the change in me is visceral – I’m relaxed, I smile more, I worry less and I dream more.  I don’t regret that I left the constructs of my program for a moment because the freedom and happiness I’m finding here is genuine.

Neve Eitan is located at the very edge of Israel and on a clear day, you can make out individual houses on the mountainsides in Jordan.  Birds dip and dive in the sky above grabbing a quick meal on their migration to Africa.  It’s peaceful and you hardly notice the passing of time.  The beauty of the area is just stunning and hard to wrap your mind around.  At night, it’s pitch black and jackals sing as I fall asleep before another anything but ordinary day at the Center.

Bird migration viewing area between winter rainstorms

* We’re in the process of trying to settle on an English name for the Center. Perhaps after reading this blog post, you have some ideas? Feel free to comment and share! – HS

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