Sunday, December 14, 2008

Cultural Differences

Mother in Israel once posted about cultural differences between Israelis and Americans. You can read the original post here which is about an Israeli women who seems snobbish but it's basically because of a difference in culture. It's worth it to read the comments. I've experienced this on more than one occassion. The Americans sit together in the park while the Israelis sit together on another bench. Why? Well the Israelis wouldn't know the first thing to say to the Americans. Like MiI said, we're not on their radar screen. Well I was hoping that I was different. Being an Israeli-born American I felt that I could easily be in both circles. I will admit that sometimes I'm the American in the Israeli circle and sometimes I'm the Israeli in the American circle.

This past Shabbat we invited the H. family to our house. L, the mother, babysat my kids last year on the days I worked late. We got very close with them since their kids were around our kids ages. Her husband is a soldier so he only comes home once a week. My husband always comes home after the kids are asleep. We had time to chat when I'd come pick the kids up. We were pregnant at the same time (although she hasn't given birth yet). She's in her ninth month and we thought it would be nice to have them over. We invited them over for Shabbos lunch. Now some background info on us and on their family. We are Ashkenazi Litvish American-quasi-charedi. They are Moroccan. What I know about Moroccans is that they like spicey food. I don't cook anything like her and probably never will. Her mother also came since she was at their house for Shabbos.

So here goes the experience. First, my hubby makes kiddush in his American Litvish accent. They really didn't go for the grape juice. Then we make hamotzei. I totally forgot that sfaradim don't say hamotzei on sweet challah. I should have been more sensitive and gotten water challah but I wasn't thinking (partially because I'd been sick with a cold all week but that's no excuse). So we were machshil them. Then we served the food. I didn't make gefilte fish because I didn't think they'd like it. We had salad as an appetizer. They loved the salad tongs. They also loved the craisins. Then we had chullent, potato kugel, yerushalmi kugel, rice with mushrooms, deli roll (which they requested), and fried shnitzel. They ate so little. I didn't really have time to be insulted because I wasn't really at the table much. They didn't like the yerushalmi kugel. The potato kugel somewhat went. Shnitzel went but we had a few leftover pieces (tonights dinner). Chullent was totally left over. Deli roll mostly went. We have so much left over. I froze the chullent and leftover potato kugel. I'll be throwing away the yerushalmi kugel I think-nobody is really gonna eat it. My son finished off the deli roll-his favorite. We ate the leftover shnitzel tonight. The rice was gone by shalosh sheudos. For dessert I made jumbo chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies and banana bread. They brought a cake and a pomella (sp?). The cookies were tasted but didn't go over well at all. I had forgotten that they don't like sweet things (the opposite of our family). The banana bread was well liked by all. Her cake was tasted. The pomella. Ah the pomella. So I asked if it was kedushat shviit and it wasn't. But I didn't ask if it was heter mechira. Ooops. I saw today in the makolet that the pomellas are heter mechira and we don't eat that. Well too late. We all ate the pomella on Shabbos but we have a whole one left over. Oh well. Too bad. We'll have to ask the hubs what to do about that one.

So overall I guess it was okay but it was definately an experience for them. I'm sure that it gave them a glimpse of how the other half lives. It was probably a real eye openner for them. Who knows if we'll ever do this again or if they're too scared of me and my cooking to come back. Now I understand all those comments about culture. Certain things are just a part of a person. Which American would think twice about salad tongs. Are they really so unusual to us? No. To the H family it was the coolest gadget ever. We're just so used to our ways and they're so used to their ways. It's hard when we venture into new territory.

I remember when I went to my dad's yeminite friend for Shabbos during my year in seminary. Here I was a white Ashkenazi American girl visiting a yeminite moshav. Everyone there was twenty shades of brown darker than I was. They made the most authentically Yeminite food but it was just too foreign for my taste buds. I didn't enjoy it. Truth is, I really do like all the dough items they make. The soup wasn't appealing. It was hard for me to enjoy the Shabbat. I know exactly how the H family felt. Now I think that maybe it's better to stick to what you know. We can have lots of American friends over and they will all enjoy that same old American Ashkenazi cooking that we're all used to. So the next time you want to invite a family over for Shabbos, think about the cultural differences long and hard before picking up the phone.


mother in israel said...

I think it's sad that you regret inviting them. Maybe next time you could ask them to bring a dish. Next time they come, you'll make less cholent and more of something else they ate. As for the pomelo, fruit that is heter mechira is much less of a problem than vegetables. I didn't know that about the sweet challah.

BB said...

Sfaradm make a mezonos on bread that is made with sugar, juice, or milk. Oh and by the way she gave birth to a boy on Tuesday night.

BB said...

MiI, why are fruits different than veggies when it comes to heter mechira?

mother in israel said...

I guess I knew that about sephardim but didn't make the connection with the sweet challah. They also make mezonot on matzah, except at the seder.
The simple answer is that you can assume that the fruit trees weren't planted during shmita.

BB said...

Maybe I'm missing something but what does it matter if they weren't planted on shmita. The problem is if the fruit grew on shmita.

mother in israel said...

BB-no problem.
You can eat things that are grown on shmitah, such as vegetables that were planted and started to grow in the sixth year. The vegetables picked during shmitah have kedushat sheviit. The rabbis even allowed weeds and such that grew on their own, but because people would falsely claim that things grew without intervention they forbade this as well-they are called "sfichin."
Fruits are by definition perennial. The trees will produce fruit each year without human intervention. Some types of intervention are forbidden during shmitah, such as planting or pruning, but they are not necessary to produce the fruit. If you don't sell the land you can still eat the fruit that grew during shmitah. This fruit also has kedushat sheviit. So there is room to be more lenient with heter mechirah fruit as well.