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When I think of Yom Yerushalayim, I think of the Jerusalem hotel buffet. That is what I celebrate when I am in the Holy City. And that is how to celebrate Jerusalem Day.
I must get personal here. Growing up in Rochester, New York, with its limited kosher options, I didn’t even know what an all you can eat buffet was. An excellent childhood nonetheless (not knowing it could've been better, if I had choices other than cereal for breakfast. Then, I moved to Israel and found out the exciting news that the Holy Land is full of all you can eat buffets. Called hotels. Sometimes, we get emotional at the Kibbitzer magazine. If you have a little tear now, it's understandable. Redemption can do that to people.
Be it Shabbat, Pesach or any day of the week, I’ve learned to master the art of the Israeli hotel buffet and I would like to share some of these skills with you. If you haven’t been to Israel, don’t worry, you can apply these techniques to your local kosher buffet. Not in Rochester.
Some hotels only give you two hours. That is not enough time to eat everything there, and to reach your goal of eating twice the 250nis entrance fee. You must focus and eat fast.
The enjoyment of the buffet is dependent on getting more than the 250 shekels out of it. Then, there are family and friends that eat very slow, and some diet (the kind of people that can ruin a buffet). I've tried giving them nasty looks for being thin, but they still eat too slow. Some of them even chew. I have to eat for them. Hence, I eat faster.
I for one know that two hours isn't enough to eat 1,500nis worth, if I am having to eat for the weak ones who talk during buffet hours, thinking it's biscuits and tea time. Hence, no conversation. I eat fast and I don't converse. Unless if I need to find out where the shakshuka is.
Use Two Plates
Plates can only carry so much. Thus, always bring back two plates to the table. Gd gave you two hands for a reason. And that reason is so that you can save a trip to the buffet tables.
All Courses Are Meat
Any non-breakfast buffet, you fill your plate with meat.
Appetizers, entrees, mains, dessert, soup. All of them should be meat. Rarely, have I seen a fish plate brought back to the table by a good religious Jew. Let me just say that I have met many heavy Jewish people in my life, and not one of them wastes calories. They go straight for the meat.
Bring Dessert for the Table
I learned this from my aunt. This is a misdirection technique.
You pick it up for yourself, but you realize that you look like a disgusting animal with a loaded plate of rugulach, eclairs, chocolate cakes, six different mousses, after telling everybody you’ve been watching yourself. When you get to the table and realize how disgusting you look with a platter in your hands, you say, 'This is for the table.' And then you leave the platter right in front of your seat. If it's not right in front of you, other people at the table might take some of it.
Don’t pass it around. You did the right thing. The platter is at the table. That makes it easier to take down more food.
Remember: You load up, as you should, and take doubles just in case somebody else at the hotel is hungry and wants mousse as well.
There Are Other People
They’re allowed to eat too. Be warned. I thought that all of this the food was mine. I paid for the buffet. I didn’t realize other people were going to be here. Apparently, the hotel takes money from other people as well. You can't yell at them and grab burekas off their plates. Security frowns at that. It would have been good to have known this.
Learn the rules of the buffet. Most hotels don't have them written. If they did, I would never order a Coke. They charge extra for that.
Take Food with You
You ate breakfast. Yet, you have to eat lunch and dinner too.
You want to smuggle out as much food as possible. For this, you bring a baby carriage. The carriage is a great smuggling mechanism. This is why you leave the toddler in the room. With the blankie, nobody will know that the challah rolls for the family is not a child.
For those without baby carriages on them, such as soldiers, use your duffel.
That is how you enjoy an Israeli buffet, and meals for the rest of the day. It is not the company. It is the food.
It is the buffets that make Jerusalem great. And as such, on this Yom Yerusahalayim, we pray for the Third Temple to have a decent spread. I am getting emotional just thinking about the Geulah (redemption) and pizza burekas right now.
Along with a violent approach to the Kichel, you can also use these techniques at Kiddish. Note, at the Israeli hotel buffet, security might kick you out if you elbow the elderly to get to the choolante.
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The Falafel of Etan
Israelis are very possessive of their falafel. Even when they have a shop, they don't like to share it… That's Etan. Standing over them while they eat. Making sure they don't run away with his falafel.