Word of the Day / Aruhat Eser

Forget three square meals a day. Israeli schoolchildren eat breakfast and then two mini-meals before they even make it home for a hot lunch.

Daily eating patterns in Israel are more influenced by Mediterranean (and to some extent British) standards than American ones. Especially for schoolchildren, the day’s meals typically include breakfast, a mid-morning sandwich, a snack, a heavy meat lunch, and a light dinner.

Possibly modeled on the morning snack known in the United Kingdom and Ireland as “elevenses,” Israelis’ mid-morning chow is called “aruhat eser,” which means “10:00 meal” and (rather unsurprisingly) is usually eaten at some point between 10 A.M. and 11 A.M. It often includes a sandwich as well as one or two vegetables; when my oldest daughter was in nursery school, she came home one day with pictures of a tomato and cucumber because they were learning about what we do in the morning. But it’s not all healthy; many an Israeli sandwich gets smeared with chocolate spread.

To keep the kids going before school gets out (it varies, but generally by 2 P.M.), they also eat an afternoon snack, like fruit or crackers. This is called a “te’ima,” which literally means “tasting” and has the same root as the word “ta’im,” meaning “tasty” or (in kidspeak) “yummy.”

The idea of aruhat eser goes along with the Israeli concept of eating a good solid lunch (aruhat tzohorayim, or “afternoon meal”) at home, not out of a lunchbox or in a cafeteria. Israeli schools don’t have lunch ladies; over here, the lunch lady is mom (or whoever’s in charge of after-school care). Chicken schnitzel with rice, couscous or pasta is pretty standard fare.

Guess it just goes to show that sometimes, even if it feels like you’re packing a lunch and it looks like you’re packing a lunch and it smells like you’re packing a lunch, it’s actually a 10:00 meal and a tasting.