Dec 3, 2010

If you can't buy it at the Shuk, don't eat it By Andrea Mann

While enjoying some time to myself, I decided to mix a little business with a little pleasure and read Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. Firstly, this book is definitely not a beach read. (Who wants to be in a bikini while reading about why you shouldn’t devour a box of Kraft Mac n Cheese?) And secondly, this is not a book to read the day after you stuff your self silly at a delicious Thanksgiving feast.  Or maybe it is because, after a third helping of stuffing, it made me seriously start to consider what it is we put into our bodies everyday.

Throughout the entirety of the book Pollan strongly criticizes the Western diet while heavily complimenting the diets of people in Mediterranean regions. So what is it that makes Mediterranean food so superior to food consumed in the Western diet? Well, Pollan imposes a few new food rules that he believes everyone should follow, such as: only shop in the outskirts of a supermarket and avoid the overly processed food piled ceiling high in the middle aisles, and, if possible, avoid the supermarket altogether and shop at the local farmers markets. Sure, in some places this may be difficult, but here in Israel this may be the easiest task ever assigned.

Shuk HaCaramel
In Tel Aviv I find it is easier (and a lot more fun) to buy all of your groceries from one of the several fruit/veggie stands that line the streets or from the huge Shuk HaCaramel at the Allenby and King George junction. As you follow the narrow and crowded center aisle South through Shuk HaCaramel you will be amazed by the abundance of stalls boasting a rainbow display of produce. Within the maze of food stalls you will be able to find any vegetable and fruit that you could possibly want (as long as it is in season), more types of cheese then you can even imagine, displays of meat that may make you quickly turn your head away, and so many bags of spices filled to the brim that your nose will likely begin to tickle. Seeing as all of the food is fresh and bright and all of the vendors are proudly rattling off cheap prices in deafening decibels, the only difficult task is deciding with which vendor to do business.

Shuk Ha Caramel
Shuk HaNamal
Although the Shuk HaCaramel is mostly under cover, there is also an Indoor Food Market that just opened its doors for the Tel Aviv winter. Even though it is 80 degrees in December, people are still trying to convince me that there is winter in Tel Aviv... I’ll believe it when I see it. But either way, the Indoor Food Market is located at the Tel Aviv Port in a brown building that reads “Shuk HaNamal”. Although it is much smaller then I had anticipated it is definitely adequate. I found the products, displays, and the indoor atmosphere to be much more gourmet than that of the Shuk. With an olive bar, a fresh pasta selection that was almost as colorful as the pepper variety, a butcher, which proudly hung its sausages from the ceiling, tasty fruit smoothies, and an impeccable spice collection, the Shuk HaNamal definitely had some delicious smells wafting through the enclosed building. On Tuesdays and Friday evenings an additional farmers market sets up right outside of the building, so you can buy your fresh produce while enjoying the crisp Mediterranean air or step inside for a little coverage.

Now this is real food. It's fresh and its in season. There is no middle man (giant supermarkets).You can ask the vendors as many detailed and perplexing questions about their products and they will surely provide you with an answer. To paraphrase Pollan’s “avoid supermarket” rule, “If you can’t buy it at the Shuk, don’t eat it”.

After finishing the book, I realized it was time to change my ways a little bit. So, I set out to pick up some fresh fruit and veggies for the week. The only downside of shopping outdoors in a big city? The bags weigh me down and very quickly begin to cut off all circulation in my wrists. I think it’s time to invest in one of those handy little shopping bag trolleys.

No comments:

Post a Comment