Day 75: Israel
Judaism has been a part of my life, in some form or another, since I was born. Born to a Jewish father and a Catholic mother, I was mostly raised as “nothing”, but still wound up around both religions a lot. My grandparents on my father’s side of the family were your basic, stereotypical Jews. Lived in New York for most of their lives, then retired to a Ft. Lauderdale life of golf, potato latkes, negative comments and perpetual air conditioning. I learned some prayers for family gatherings, but never went to Hebrew school and certainly never had a Bar Mitzvah. Once my grandparents passed on, Judaism had mostly fallen off my radar. But now, I’m dating “a nice Jewish girl” who actually taught religious school, which would make my grandmother particularly pleased. Religion is obviously a complicated topic, with GirlfriendBites and I mostly disagreeing about the difference between Jewish as a culture, versus as a religion. Am I Jewish? Well, that sure depends on your definition. For some people, my mom being a Catholic makes me pretty clearly not Jewish. But with a last name like Galuten and some decently sized ears, a lot of people would beg to differ. So where does the truth lie? Maybe somewhere in the middle, with me being Jewy, as opposed to Jewish.
In case we were wondering whether Habayit, a kosher, Israeli restaurant in West L.A., was going to answer our religion questions for us, the answer, it turns out, is “no”. Buried in the corner of a mini-mall with even its electric sign off (causing us to miss it on our first drive-by) is this small and immediately mood-sinking establishment. It’s seven o’clock in the evening, there are only three other people in the restaurant and two of them work here, while the third is a man who looks like he can’t decide whether to jump off a building or just be depressed for the rest of his life. A quiet, emotionless server takes our order, then a few minutes later the food comes. GFB has been craving matzo ball soup, and the restaurant serves an adequate version here. But in the end, all it does is get us talking about how great it would be if I used my old family recipe for perfect chicken soup and have GFB make some kick ass matzo balls. “Matzo ball soup is so rarely made as a delicate, elevated dish,” I say, “let’s make sure we do it this winter.” My falafel sandwich, meanwhile, is surprisingly good. Crispier than most other versions I come across, mixed with tomatoes and cucumbers, then tossed with their spicy green chili paste, I’ve become one happy camper. The pita is a little dry and breaks apart too easily, but that’s often, sadly, to be expected. We also decide to try magadra— rice and lentils with mushy sweet onions. It tastes exactly like it sounds and makes me feel a little like a mountain ascetic, living in humble silence somewhere in the Indian wilderness. Then, just like that, the dinner is over.
I probably will find myself going back there, if only because it’s a place to get a decent falafel on the west side. But it begs to be a lunch spot, where natural light makes an empty restaurant more comforting, rather than dinner, during which I wound up pinching my arm just to confirm that I actually exist. “We could talk about Judaism to make the post more interesting,” says GFB. “Another day,” I respond. “I’m tired. Let’s go home.”
11921 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064
Food Breakdown: 3 dishes
Distance From My House: 4.3 miles