The first breakfast in Israel at the kibbutz was an eye-opening experience, and not because it was in a large L-shaped dining hall where kids were not sitting with their parents and parents were not sitting with their children, but everyone was sitting with their peers. What was eye-opening was the food: all I need to say are two words: matzo and cucumber.
In the center part, where the two sides of the L met was a buffet area. There was a wide variety of foods available, many of which I did not associate with breakfast. There were whole cucumbers. There were whole tomatoes (or what was left of them after I had operated on them). There were big bowls of cottage cheese. There were what seemed to be containers of yoghurt but I was to learn that they were different kinds of white cheeses; in Israel the selection of white cheeses extends beyond the cottage cheese, sour cream, and cream cheese triumvirate that we have in the US. Not only were there kinds I had ever seen, but people were drinking them, they were so liquid. Speaking of drinking, there were little plastic bags of chocolate milk that the kids were drinking out of. They tore off a corner (yes, with their teeth, and since their parents were at the other end of the room, there was no one to tell them to use the scissors).
There were also green olives although they were unrecognizable at first. I was used to round khaki-green olives with pimentos in their mouths, I hadn’t realized up till then that they were born with pits and they were not of a uniform shape and were a bright green. There were also green peppers and hard boiled eggs (sigh of relief there) and then there was the bread section. I know this will sound incredibly naïve, but I didn’t know that you could eat matzo except at Passover. In my family, we would eat the five one-pound boxes of matzo during the week of Passover and then not have them again until the next year. I was sure that someone had said that you can’t eat them other than at Passover, apparently it was a “should not” rule and more applicable to the weeks leading up to Passover rather than an all year ban. But this was, I guess, my first understanding that Judaism kibbutz-style was another movement altogether.
The choices paralyzed me, I didn’t know what to do with the cucumbers and cheeses and tomatoes for breakfast, so I just took a slice of bread and yellow cheese and sat down. Yes, “yellow cheese” was what it was referred to. It wasn’t American, it wasn’t Swiss, it wasn’t cheddar, it was much milder, I guess more Muenstery, and it was good.
Well, sitting down wasn’t such an easy task because it was like being in a high school cafeteria, and I had not fared well there. But I did see a group of people from my ulpan, so I sat there. Everyone seemed to be sitting with his or her group, and so I was relieved that I had a group to join and was not an outsider, even though that’s certainly how I felt with my bread and slice of cheese.
In the middle of the table was a metal pail about a foot high. Hmm, what’s a pail for I thought and then watched as the people in the tables near me were peeling eggs and putting the shell in the pail. And people were peeling the cucumbers or cutting the ends off and putting them in the pail. Ah, a garbage pail on the table, what a lovely idea. I swore I would never use it. But, as I warmed to the idea of having a salad for breakfast the appeal of using the kolboynic became obvious. So not only did I eventually become a convert to salad in the morning (I never could break the matzo rule) but I used a slopdish too.
Recipe for a great breakfast salad: using a dinner plate as both your cutting board and your eventual plate, cut into very small pieces a tomato and a cucumber, cut up a few green olives and a hard-boiled egg, add a big dollop of white cheese (5%, that was the low-fat version as opposed to the 9%), add some ground pepper, a dash of salt and swirl all around. Enjoy.