Israel Stories

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Sailor

I hate chatzilim (eggplant), I was probably attacked by one when I was a baby. It does not have a single redeeming feature. If I appeal to the artist in me, maybe an unblemished specimen has some aesthetic value. Despite the fact that Israelis have mastered the art of unlocking this most versatile of vegetable by cooking it, roasting it, mashing it and frying it, in fact turning into a billion types of dish, I cant bear any of them. It could be the look, the texture, the smell or just the fact that it’s purple. However the real reason, which I discovered recently, for my aversion hails from the ports of Odessa.

Igor, the name has changed to protect the innocent, stood by his stall in Machane Yehuda, a row of chatzilim lay immaculately polished before him. So highly polished were these chatzilim that in any other circumstance charedim would have banned them in case they fell at the feet of their daughters. I couldn’t help admiring them, Freud would have had a field day with them, and if it weren’t for the fact I can’t bare the thought of actually eating them, I would have spent every penny I had.

“Are you going to buy them or are you just lonely?” Igor’s gruff voice bellowed. I looked around and realized his comments were aimed at me. “Just, er, looking, I, er, don’t like chatzilim” Ok, so, in retrospect telling an Israeli chatzilim seller in Machane Yehuda, you just want to look at his chatzilim but not buy them, probably wasn’t a good idea.

And as the volcano came to a head ready to boil over into a rush of molten lava, hot ash and acid, Igor, red as a heifer, began his angry rhetoric. I didn’t really understand all of it and I knew certain words I couldn’t repeat so all I can say is he was most displeased with as a time waster, something about my mother, some form of accident and something else about my lineage. Nice man, good customer service. I told him what he could do with his chatzilim and left him

Now the reason why I chose a Russian name for our chatzilim seller, before I get accused of racism, was because tattooed on his arm was a word written in what I assume was Russian and a picture of an anchor. I presume, but will never know, that once, in a previous life, Igor was a Russian sailor. Oh and he had a large purple black stain on his arm as well.

My obsessive hatred with chatzilim was nearly compromised when I recently attended a wedding. I am one of the many that stuffs themselves at the reception forgetting about the meal ahead. Sort of carpe diem (canapés diem), seize the day, eat drink and be merry, (not Shakespeare version but Kohelet) make the most of it, never save that expensive bottle etc, etc.

During my canapés frenzy I got talking to some friends and horror of horrors before I could say ‘no thank you I can’t eat chatzilim’, I had popped a piece into my mouth but instead of spiting it out in disgust I actually enjoyed it. It was chopped liver flavor and everybody loves chopped liver in Israel. Just like everybody loves cheese and onion crisps in the UK even if they never admit to eating them.

“You know what,” I said to my friend, “I actually enjoyed that, I’m going to find another one.” So off I went and when I returned to him I started to tell him the story of Igor.

“So what you’re saying”, my friend continued, after my story, “is that apart from the fact he was a Russian sailor, he sells chatzilim in the market and he has a chatzilim colored defect on his arm.”

“What you mean chatzilim?” I asked.

“You said he had a black and purple stain on his arm, well it sounds like a chatzilim”.

So from that day every time I look at a chatzilim I see a Russian sailor with a chatzilim colored skin defect selling vegetables in Machane Yehuda. Not even chopped liver flavor will console me now.

Did I tell you hate chatzilim.


  • "or just the fact that it’s purple"

    That's it - it is Barney whodunit to you.

    Now don't say you don't know from Barney, please...

    By Blogger SnoopyTheGoon, At 10:12 PM  

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