The Jew And The Carrot

An Expat Thanksgiving in Israel

By Katherine Martinelli

  • Print
  • Share Share
Katherine Martinelli
For her first Thanksgiving in Israel, Katherine Martinelli prepared family favorites for a massive potluck dinner.

This will be my third Thanksgiving in Israel, marking yet another year that has slipped by. It’s the day when I miss America and my family most, but also the time when I realize the extent to which the foods of the Mediterranean and the Middle East have seeped into my cooking, making my life more flavorful.

The first year, I had been in Israel less than two months when Thanksgiving arrived and hadn’t found my sea legs at the grocery store yet. Tracking down all the fixings for a traditional Thanksgiving feast was daunting. Luckily, my in-laws came to the rescue by visiting just before the holiday, stocking us with essentials like canned pumpkin.

We had a huge potluck meal with close to 50 of my husband’s medical school classmates, all of whom brought their favorite Thanksgiving dishes to the table. It was a feast of epic proportions with traditions from every corner of my home-country represented. I contributed brisket and my mother-in-law’s famous pumpkin chocolate chip muffins, both favorites in my husband’s family.

By the second year I’d become a world wiser and knew where to find just about every specialty ingredient I could want. I learned that the big chunks of pumpkin they sell already cut in the markets make excellent homemade puree, but I also knew where I could find the canned stuff (oddly enough, at an Asian food market in Tel Aviv) should I feel lazy.

But I didn’t have to do much cooking, since a friend’s parents came and hosted a Thanksgiving meal in a rented apartment in Tel Aviv. They stocked their suitcases with American specialties like canned cranberries and instant stuffing. It felt as close to home as one can get so far away.

This year, as we plan our slightly more intimate gathering, I’m struck with the extent to which my friends here have become my family. Together, we’ve figured out how to navigate this crazy place, reminisced about home, suffered through rocket attacks and celebrated a birth.

And as I think about what to make to celebrate with them, the ingredients and flavors of my new home make themselves apparent. Instead of a sweet potato casserole, I’m thinking about harissa roasted butternut squash. Tabbouleh might replace a green salad, and no meal here is complete without a bowl of fresh hummus on the table. Pomegranates are at the market right now, so their seeds will likely garnish anything I can sprinkle them on. Fresh and dried herbs — parsley, mint, coriander, cumin, and more — will undoubtedly be in abundance. And, of course, there will be plenty of Israeli wine.

I suspect that when I return to the States I’ll go back to many of my old ways, roasting a whole turkey and serving it with all the trimmings. But I also have no doubt that more than a few Israeli flavors will show up on my holiday table, no matter where in the world I am.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Israel, Thanksgiving

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • "Dear Diaspora Jews, I’m sorry to break it to you, but you can’t have it both ways. You can’t insist that every Jew is intrinsically part of the Israeli state and that Jews are also intrinsically separate from, and therefore not responsible for, the actions of the Israeli state." Do you agree?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.