This J-Dub Eats Caak

I’m not sure how one spells caak (rhymes with snack). Basically it’s a Middle Eastern treat. It’s made up of wheat flour, water, soybean oil, sesame seeds and yeast. It’s a tasty, crunchy, savory bread snack that I first was introduced to in high-school, but never ate it. Why? Well that was THEIR food. I grew up eating potato chips and pretzels, well my brother did mostly, Chubby got apple slices and carrot sticks, but occasionally snuck in a Ring Ding…or 2…or 3.

Now, when I said THEIR food, I was referring to my Sephardic classmates. I went to a private Jewish high-school predominantly made up students of Syrian descent. It made life interesting for the few Ashkenazi kids in each class but we were taught both customs and a new vernacular.

It was the first time I was referred to as a J-Dub, which is kind of derogatory. Syrians called themselves, SYs (ess-why) and the Ashkenazi kids were called J-Dubs {which stood for Jewish, White (dub as in ‘W’)}. We were used to it and it was never said in a derogatory way.

Girls were known as ‘G’ s (gees), one girl being a ‘G’ (gee) and if you were nutty people called you ‘mejnun’. There was a lot of pig latin mixed with Arabic words and initials as well. If you were cute, you were called ‘aboose’, something gross was ‘ert’. When they wanted to say how something was so absolutely amazing, they’d say it was ‘not normal’ and when they couldn’t deal with something they finished the sentence with ‘I can’t’. Some of the girls get married at a really young age (18 or 19) and what we normally call a bridal shower for them is called a ‘swanee’ (swaa-knee)- which I think is like a Henna Party. I was invited once to a Brit Milah (circumcision for a Jewish boy on the 8th day of life) of a “Syrian” friend. There was an assortment of food (really just appetizers that she called mazza (rhymes with plaza – which mean small bite). I’d heard of this word but never really tasted this food, much like caak.

There was yebre (stuffed grape leaves)

and kibbeh (deep-fried, shaped mostly like little footballs (or meatballs) made of bulgur and stuffed with meat, minced onions and usually spiced with cumin) 

and lachmajin (little meat pies – chopped meat with tamarind)! Platter of Homemade Lachmagine by Lauryn Weiser

Now that I live in Israel, these foods are not as foreign to me and we eat them every once in a while. We still very much stick to our shnitzel (breaded fried chicken cutlets) & cholent (stew) on shabbos (the Sabbath – day of rest) but since blending with our new culture more and more these foods are ‘normal’ and often exciting for the kids to eat.

עוגיות עבאדי (צילום: יחסי ציבור ,יחסי ציבור)So last week I was in the supermarket looking for a snack that wasn’t the same old boring repetitive treat for my children. Now that camp is over and they are hanging out in the house and hungry ALL THE TIME, I need to keep the pantry constantly stocked! I mean, I expected the 13-year-old boy to act this way, but it’s everyone. They are bored. I know this and while even though I want them eating healthy snacks they are right, that food is bo-ring and not always filling! I suggested making peanut butter cracker sandwiches and came home to a really sticky counter, lines of ants, and crumbs galore. When I saw this product feature on the right, I was reminded of my high-school days and decided to buy it. Translated they are called ‘western cookies which sounds weird in English but is much more normal in Hebrew. Now, my children want it all the time. Part of me wants to learn how to make them, of course, nothing like a challenge! Instead this week I decided to make funnel cakes. Totally NOT a middle eastern snack but while I was thinking of my childhood there was always that booth at the beach, down the shore, selling them, and they looked amazing. Of course keeping strictly kosher my parents would never buy them for us, and truthfully, I don’t think we ever even thought to ask for them.

Browsing through one of my cookbooks (its a vice, I LOVE cookbooks) I saw a picture and decided I was going to make my own funnel cakes. Owning a funnel is a key factor and not having one is a sure way to fail this endeavor. However, I am resourceful and decided to use a turkey baster! Suffice it to say I made a disaster of my kitchen until I got the hang of it. Deep fried these pretty web like pancakes (in way too much oil) and sprinkled them with powdered sugar. Some of them came out stunning, ‘legit’. I stacked them in paper towels just like the directions said. What the directions didn’t tell me was that these treats get real soggy and it’s best to eat them right away. Of course there were some takers immediately, there usually is, and the recipe said it would make 10 pieces and I ended up with about 20…which no one ate, naturally because they got soggy.

As experiences go, I’d say I overall enjoyed it. Trying something new gave me a sense of adventure, and I highly recommend it. I was sticky and it was messy, but it was fun, educational and the kids loved it. Now onto baklava!

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