A taste of home: For Anglos, there's more to the mangal than meets the eye
To the untrained eye, Anglo assemblages around the fire are no more than predominantly American-style feasts with the requisite menu of hot dogs and hamburgers. But that's an oversimplification.
For many English-speaking immigrants, partaking in the traditional Independence Day mangal, or Israeli-style barbecue, is as much a celebration of homegrown, culinary custom as it is a feast celebrating the birth of a nation.
"Essentially, it's the ingathering of the carnivores," said one Anglo shopper - an American who preferred not to be identified - as he hoisted two six-packs of entrecote steaks from the frozen meat section of a Beit Shemesh supermarket.
Typically, the Israeli mangal - also known in the vernacular as al ha'esh, loosely meaning "on the grill" - consists of a range of skewered fare, from cooked chicken breasts and Middle Eastern kebabs, to chicken hearts, assorted livers and spicy sausages of varying shapes and sizes.
To the untrained eye, Anglo assemblages around the fire in parks and patios are no more than predominantly American-style feasts with the requisite menu of hot dogs and hamburgers. But that's an oversimplification, other native English-speakers assert, one that overlooks the very essence of the country's richly diverse Anglo palette, and preference, for poultry.
"Wherever I go, Israelis ask if we have barbecues in Australia, and I ask, 'Are you crazy?'" explains Paul Israel, executive director of the Israel Australia Chamber of Commerce. "I tell them Australia invented it. It's a constant source of debate."
The mangal of the Aussies is called a "barbie," he notes, and "the famous thing to have is bangers and mash," the Australian term for sausages and mashed potatoes. And then there is "Vegemite," the black, yeast-extract spread that is to an Aussie's toast what peanut butter is to white bread for others. "It looks like boot polish," adds Israel. "A real Aussie will put Vegemite on his steak. I do it. It guarantees no one will touch your steak, because everyone else hates it."
Israel insists no Australian barbecue would be complete without the ultimate utterance: "At some point during the barbecue in Australia, an Aussie will say, 'We should have thrown a shrimp on the barbie,'" says Israel, recalling the phrase made famous by Australian actor Paul Hogan. "Even the kosher-keeping Aussies in Israel just have to say it."
For Yitzhak Treister, a native of Wellington, New Zealand, his barbie consists of steaks and traditional snarlers (sausages ). "They are eaten with lots of ketchup - or as we say in New Zealand, 'tomato sauce,'" says Treister. "And of course, a beer."
"Then you're home and dry," he says, employing a colloquialism that denotes successful completion.
For South Africans, the barbecue is known as a braai. Its star attractions include biltong, or sun-dried meat, and boerewors, extra-thick farmer's sausage made of pure beef and South African spices.
South African immigrants have been known to import the spices to Israel in preparation for the delicacy, says Dorron Kline, the deputy director of Telfed - The South African Zionist Federation, which will hold a communal braai next week in Rishon Letzion.
"You just put it on the braai," says Mike Dubb, an immigrant from Pietersburg, who adds neither tomato sauce nor piccalilli sauce (a condiment made out of pickled vegetables ) to his boerewors. "It is to be eaten on its own. You would ruin the taste if you added ketchup," he says.
And, like his peers from New Zealand, Dubb says there is one added requirement. "You have to have a beer with it," he says.
With so many immigrants preparing traditional hometown cuisines, Israeli specialty stores catering to discriminating Anglo tastes say they have been encountering a spike in sales in the days leading up to next week's Independence Day. Meatland in Ra'anana, a 13-year-old supermarket that specializes in imported meats and beef cuts preferred by its traditional Anglo clientele, sees an 80 percent increase in sales this time of year, according to manager Geoff Mallach.
The Modi'in branch of the specialty store Shum, Pilpel, Shemen Zayit (Garlic, Pepper, Olive Oil ) experiences a 25 percent uptick in business before Independence Day, says manager Yoav Tal. Shelves at the specialty store this week were stocked with more than 12 brands of imported mustards and at least 10 types of imported sour pickles and pickled cucumbers. Other sections included popular American name brands for assorted barbecue sauces, salad dressings, and other condiments like relish.
For Dubb, the mother of all flames is ignited once the food has been served and his South African peers settle in for hours of impassioned discussion. "That's when we start complaining about the country," he quips.