The Israeli Comfort Food That's Keeping Me Sane – Kveller
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The Israeli Comfort Food That’s Keeping Me Sane

This simple meal reminds me of the love of a mother, of my childhood home, and my new home all at once.


Design by Mollie Suss

Between high school graduation and the army, I had a gig that I loved: taking care of a sweet toddler in the hours between daycare and the time his single mom got home from work. Both little E and his mother felt like kindred spirits, and I loved these simple afternoons in sun-dappled playgrounds and blowing bubbles into the street from the front of their building as street cats would sometimes meander by.

I was charged with making snacks, sometimes dinner, which would often be child-friendly sandwiches. Their pantry was what you’d expect from a first time mom — full of foods from the local health store and components for quick meals. But this was Israel, so instead of Skippy peanut butter and jelly, they had organic peanut butter or raw tahini and either regular honey or date honey for a sweet topping. The combinations weren’t anything I had grown up with or had before. My mom would usually stick with the Israeli standards for school sandwiches — Simphonia cheese (a brand of Israeli cream cheese) with chopped olives or “pastrama,” which was usually turkey or chicken cold cuts. But E’s mother had spent years in America, and I feel like that’s maybe where the idea for these mixes came from.

I would sometimes partake in the snack, and it was a revelation for me — an easy meal, which on multigrain bread or rice cake accompanied by some fruit and veg still felt balanced and substantial. I still love it.

The other night I was feeling hungry after dinner, which to be fair, mostly consisted of the rejected, half-eaten morsels my own kids left behind. I took two slices of Dave’s Killer Bread and spread some peanut butter and sticky silan (date honey) on the top. Usually, I would add sliced banana for perfect balance, but unfortunately, we were all out.

Still, saying the sandwich “hit the spot” almost feels like an understatement (and the expression always kind of gives me the ick). I was barely done with it before I felt comfortably full, and every bite was joyful and transporting. The combination of flavors almost tasted like Bamba to me. How can a simple, easy to make evening meal remind you of the love of a mother, of your childhood home (Israel) and your new home (here in America) all at once? I gave the last quarter of the sandwich to my husband, and he echoed my feelings: “This is so good.”

In the days since October 7, I’ve looked for small, uncomplicated comforts. Yes, I’ve spent hours perusing complex recipes (Ruhama is my new love) but at a time when so many are going hungry, when the news feels so heavy, quick and easy is more my jam.

If it is yours too, I invite you to join me in my sandwich making. All you need is two minutes and two simple slices of bread, peanut butter (or sun butter, or raw tahini) and some sweet tangy date honey. A banana if you’re fancy (I want you to be fancy!). It’s a little slice of heaven.

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