Tel Aviv went rapidly from (1) a place that was (stupidly) not even on my travel radar, to (2) I'm so grateful and satisfied to have gotten to go once, to (3) WE HAVE TO GO BACK, full Lost-style.
This time, on the flight over, I wondered if it was really all the flavors my brain remembered, or was it just because it was my first real hummus? Was it fantasy hummus? I had previously claimed the 12 hour flight was absolutely worth it, but would it be worth leaving the dogs for (a bar that most activities don't meet, obviously)? Food aside, would it look and feel like I remembered? Sometimes I think I accidentally set a trap for myself with my own pictures. Self destructive much? If I take pictures I'm really happy with that remind me of the place and how it felt, then I later convince myself it can't possibly feel that way.
After thoroughly tainting my own brain, I landed, shuffled to the train, annoyed that I would have to wait and get to the airbnb after dark, sweating and bumping my suitcase over cobbled streets and through a spice market (future reference, don't go that way), and pulled up in front of a beautiful bauhaus building. A wide, slightly crazy smile spread across my face. My mood completely turned around. I was finally here, and I was so close to the falafel of my dreams. Oh and Dan would get out of work soon and join me. But also the falafel.
I'm starting to really prize and look for places like this with no-bullshit attitudes about food. To get a truly bad meal I'm not sure what you'd have to do, eat at an american chain? You would have to go out of your way. During one of the best meals I've probably ever had (at Dok), my two favorite things were cabbage and kohlrabi, followed closely by artichoke. Dan said the steak tartare was the best one he'd ever had and it was still the worst thing we ate there. We said things like that to each other a lot in those couple of days. The most amazing flavors were coaxed from mundane ingredients. Little pots of milk pudding should be disgusting, but no, I dragged Dan all over Jaffa looking for more variations. It doesn't seem to matter if places are trying to be cool or not. Giant bowls of lemony hummus were served up at Abu Hassan for $5 in a faux wood paneled room with elementary school chairs and onion wedges for scoops and zero hipster irony. I could tell you about everything I ate in excruciating detail (and will, if you want to talk dirty) but when I really think about this trip, it shook me to my culinary core. I've been in a serious funk since we've been back about what I'm even supposed to be cooking and eating. "Because it's not the SAME, Dan, it's not as GOOD". Since Dan is great he just moves away and lets me sulk and eventually orders me Indian food. My diet has included too many parts cherry pie and rice krispie treats because I know those are good. But yikes.
This time I left knowing that the flight was most certainly worth it, but a few new questions - am I supposed to be able to eat another meal after I eat that whole bowl of hummus? And when can I come back?