Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Do More With Less

I plopped down in front of the T.V. for my mid-morning snack of toast with peanut butter.  (Unfortunately, it’s Skippy peanut butter and not JIF…my mom was always a choosy mom.)  But I quickly found out that television was not going to happen today.  It’s Memorial Day here in Israel, and let’s just say that it is celebrated very differently than in the States…although I don’t think “celebrated” is the proper term to use. 

In fact, as a day of remembrance for fallen soldiers, “celebration” is strictly forbidden.  Last night at 7:00, all businesses, stores, and restaurants closed.  If you didn’t already have food at home then I hope you weren’t hungry because you wouldn’t be able to pop into your local corner store. 

All T.V. channels pause broadcast on Memorial Day

I was told you’re not allowed to play music, or to have your business open, or you could be fined.  Additionally, the T.V. channels all show blank screens that state it is for Memorial Day, and broadcasting will resume at 8:00 this evening.  There was a siren this morning, signaling everybody to stop what they’re doing and give a moment of silence.  Although I wasn’t on the road…I hear that cars stop, even on the freeways. 

Actually, I was also in Israel last year (on the Hebrew calendar) during Memorial Day, but I think my memories were overshadowed by the Independence Day celebration (which is the day after), and the last few days of travel with my cousin, Robin.  It's interesting to be here again, under a different circumstance, experiencing these holidays again.

On a completely unrelated subject…now that Passover is over, I’ve begun to experiment with my cooking again.  I will admit that there are additional challenges I face here, in no particular order:
  1. Two electric burners rather than a big gas stove
  2. Grocery shopping – I can never read the labels for the things I want to buy to know if it is in fact what I’m looking for
  3. Decreased variety of brands and products
  4. The brands and products that I can find are usually imported, and significantly more expensive than they would be in the States.  Case in point – a 10 oz. bottle of soy sauce was about $6.50 USD.
  5. We have a mini-fridge with a small freezer cabinet, rather than a regular sized refrigerator
  6. No dishwasher = hand wash every utensil, dish, pot and pan

As a result of these differences, the good news is that I’ve become much more creative with my cooking.  I’ve learned to boil my water in the tea kettle heater before using it to cook pasta so that it doesn’t take too long to heat on the burners.  We did a major IKEA run (bless them) to maximize the space in the kitchen, I use chicken as a frequent substitute for pork, and I’ve learned to mix and match sauces and flavors to get closer to what I want – even if I can’t find it already bottled at the store. 

Just last week I recreated Za Jiang Mien, a ‘recipe’ that I copied down while visiting my grandfather’s friend in Texas a few months ago.  It was a labor of love, but with a few substitutes and a lot of patience, I finally got something that was stomach-able.  I’m not often proud of my cooking…but this was actually pretty tasty.

My bowl when we ate Za Jiang Mien in Texas

Wang Yeh Yeh dishing up noodles

Recreating Za Jiang Mien in Israel - with a few substitutions

Life doesn’t always hand you everything in a perfect Kikkoman soy sauce bottle, so it’s important to learn how to substitute and make do with what you have.  Today I challenge you to pick something in your life that isn’t exactly as you’d like it to be – whether it’s a broken heater but you need heat, a job that’s not perfect, or a cake that needs to be baked but you don’t have sugar – find a way to fulfill the need with the things you have at your disposal.  And if it’s the latter…try not to go all “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” on me… J

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