It is more than a little overwhelming to sit down and write about being back in Jerusalem, but I have to start with something, so I’m just going to dive right in.
We arrived at our apartment in Jersalem’s Nachlaot neighborhood on Monday evening, after a very long journey involving two plane rides, a layover and a taxi ride that made my little one supremely car sick. Our small but clean apartment awaited us, as did our quirky and friendly landlords who endured our smelling of Auralee’s vomit as they kindly gave s cold drinks, explained where everything was and how to operate the water heater and air conditioning.
We chose Nachlaot for a few reasons, one is its proximity to the outdoor food market, Machane Yehudah, which I have missed terribly and I had already frequented two or three times within the our first 24 hours of being here. Also, we are a very short walk from the place where Jeff is studying for the summer, and really from just about everything we could possible need during our stay here, with the exception of peace and quiet.
Although I always remembered this city as bustling and full when I was a child and teenager, and also having more than its fair share of Americans and religious jews of all styles, shapes, and colors, I cannot emphasize to you the extreme to which I feel these things now. It may be partly because I have become used to the relative calm of Boston with its very long, shut-in winters and overly polite (read: cold) and reserved culture, that Jerusalem feels even more alive and insane than it did to me years ago.
The neighborhood of Nachlaot is a rather extreme example of the city’s character. It is one of the oldest and mostly tightly-packed parts of Jerusalem, with small alleys that should not be passable by car, but are used as cut-throughs nonetheless. Shops selling every imaginable household necessity line the streets, their wares spilling onto the sidewalk. One needn’t walk more than a block to find a radio, fan, sponge, tupperware, ice tray, leather wallet, sandals, a shoemaker, candy shop, masking tape, mop, head scarves, curtains, area rugs, lightbulbs, or discount shampoo. The moment I realize we need something (i.e. dish towels, hand lotion, batteries), it is there in front of me.
Of course, there is also the food. THE FOOD, PEOPLE. oh. my.
Enormous, red, juicy, sweet watermelon
Tiny, fragrant, sugary, bizarrely golden pinapples
Adorable, small, crispy cucumbers
Eggplants that look like gigantic bell peppers
Just-baked, soft, pillow-y pita (10 for a buck something)
Tender, juicy nectarines
Lemons that smell…. like they should
I am still working on getting a few odds and ends for the kitchen before I start cooking in earnest. In the mean time, it’s been a lot of hummus, salads and easy-to-eat temptations that I cannot resist as I pass by the produce stalls. This morning for example, I went out to grab a couple of items to get us through the weekend and came home with this random assortment.
Stay tuned for more thorough cooking efforts….