Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bete' Avon! by blogger of the month Nicole Magpayo

Joel Robuchon's Restaurant L'Atelier in Paris, France
Hello again! Since we’re nearing the end of Endocrinology and Caroline House (which for you incoming first years will get to know a little too well J ) starts to get more packed- the studying continues and is starting to get more intense as the exam approaches. Unfortunately, that means I really have nothing exciting to share. No random trips to Tel Aviv, no outdoor excursions to Jordan- sorry, all those cool adventures are put on hold since we only have about 8 days left (*containing hand-waving up in the air excitement*).  However, I realized the other day a big part of the everyday cultural experience being in Israel and being in medical school is food.

Brunch for 6 people - yes, we're hungry :)
I’m a HUGE foodie. I love trying new things- whether it’s a run down place on the corner, a family place on a quiet street or even a super fancy restaurant filled with tourists. I want to and will try it all. I think I started to become a huge foodie after living in Italy for a year (really, how could you not?!). Food, in my opinion, is probably one of the best parts of life (insert fat kid joke here) and insanely creative.

As students, especially medical students, who constantly are either in class or studying or usually both- I think food becomes even more important and difficult to find. First, we’re in a foreign country, so accessibility to the usual things you eat in the States is hard enough (my bit of advice: bring the things you can’t live without!). Second, as students who are stressed out, snacking, especially during exams can be a bit of a dangerous habit. Third, finding the time to cook an amazing dinner in itself is difficult.

In Israel, you’ll find a mix of falafel, hummus and shawarma (wait, is there more? Jk!). But I’ve realized that part of actually LIVING here or anywhere for that matter is learning how to use what’s available to create something of your own. For me, I love to cook! When I was living in Boston, I used to cook these fancy, elaborate meals after work. But nowadays, finding the time to a. go grocery shopping (Tiv Tam aka our Americanized grocery store haven) or b. to actually sit and cook something that could take hours, is just difficult. However, even with all of these limitations, I actually do cook everyday. I find it both healthier (since I know what’s going into my food- thanks, but no thanks for the pound of butter) and relaxing. Cooking is a relaxing activity for me, mostly because I enjoy it and after making something yummy I can say – wow, I just made that!
My first gluten-free cake!

Baking, on the other hand, is quiet a challenge- especially when you don’t have an oven. Yes, most apartments here in Israel don’t have ovens. Don’t panic though- they have huge toaster ovens, and yes they work just as well! Just take a look at the picture below, this year I made my first gluten-free cake! It was also my first double layered cake with homemade frosting J. Birthdays are pretty big in our class- just this past week people brought watermelon, salad, cookies, cupcakes (yes, usually in our class, we have 3 cakes for ONE birthday, but that’s just because we’re awesome like that).
Homemade strawberry scones!
Anyway, the point is that even if things are limited here- it’s easy to find a way to use what you have to make something satisfying. The fruit stand in Bet is one of my favorite spots to visit on a weekly basis as it has all the basics at a good price- bananas, apples, zucchini, lemons, mushrooms, avocados – I even found fresh coconut! I also think that’s the fun of moving somewhere culturally different and whenever I visit a place- I always want to try what’s local there. Food is a huge part of the culture and very unique in any country you visit.

Mexican themed birthday party!
As corny as it is- food also brings everyone together. I’ve been to a few Shabbat dinners and I think it’s a wonderful tradition. A family gathering over food with several courses- why not?! Just a few weeks ago, we had a dinner for a classmate’s birthday (Hi Kiki) which was nice, since she is an amazing baker and usually bakes for everyone else, so it was a great day to treat her! We had a Mexican “themed” party with enchiladas, homemade guacamole and homemade salsa! See, even if we’re not in States- we still make it work! Ok, all this writing about food is making me hungry – happy eating!

Challah French Toast made by Chef Tony!

Fruit stand in Bet.

P.S. If you ever happen to go to Paris, this is probably THE BEST MEAL I’ve ever had in my life- it’s not cheap, but trust me, your mouth won’t care J   - Nicole Magpayo, blogger of the month