MIN­GLING FLA­VORS IN A MELT­ING POT

Seabourn Club Herald - - Cuisines Of The World - By Greta de la Mer

THE IS­RAELI PORT OF ASHDOD BRINGS TO­GETHER DI­VERSE BACK­GROUNDS AND UNIQUE, DE­LI­CIOUS DISHES.

Once mostly known as the gate­way to Jerusalem, the port city of Ashdod has be­come a des­ti­na­tion in its own right — not just for trav­el­ers, but for new Is­raelis as well. In 1955, the city didn’t ex­ist — merely a vil­lage called “Is­dud.” In 1983, Ashdod had a pop­u­la­tion of around 75,000. To­day, this im­mi­grant-rich city is Is­rael’s sixth largest, with 225,000 res­i­dents, a rep­u­ta­tion as a cen­ter for arts and one of the most com­plex, var­ied and de­lec­ta­ble food cul­tures in the Mid­dle East.

Of course, the chefs of Ashdod serve a wealth of tra­di­tional Is­raeli foods, in­clud­ing bourekas (se­same-sprin­kled cheese pas­tries), falafel (lus­cious deep-fried chick­pea balls) and the diced cu­cum­bers and toma­toes of a cus­tom­ary Is­raeli salad (driz­zled in lemon and olive oil, if you please). In fact, Ashdod’s shuk, or open-air mar­ket, is fa­mous through­out the coun­try. It opens ev­ery Wed­nes­day (or on Mon­day when there’s a Jewish hol­i­day on Wed­nes­day) on the wide board­walk of the Lido Beach. Here you can find loads of fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles that are fresher and more rea­son­ably priced than in the su­per­mar­kets. There are also baked goods, spices, nuts, seeds and dried fruits.

Ashdod’s olim (new im­mi­grants) en­joy all of these, but have also found ways to bring their own tra­di­tional cuisines into the city, us­ing lo­cal ingredients like egg­plant, olives, pomegranates, figs, dates, fresh fish and lamb to make dishes that are uniquely tayim — that’s He­brew for de­li­cious!

A FIRST TASTE

On the heels of the Holo­caust, many Ashke­nazi Jews from Europe had lo­cated to the Ashdod area, and in 1956 they wel­comed an­other group of new­com­ers. The Moroc­can Jewish olim at first stayed in prim­i­tive ma’abarot (camps) out­side the port town. Sur­rounded by sand dunes, these small plots of land were of­ten quite prim­i­tive, where a new im­mi­grant could keep an eye on roam­ing chick­ens and maybe one or two goats, and per­haps plant a gar­den. By the ‘70s, medium-

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