A Food Competition in the Desert
Meet One of Our Past Culinary Israel Participants
Claire Cox, a Denver, Colorado resident, graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in Gender Studies and Modern Dance. Claire is currently a yoga teacher and enjoys traveling the world, so it is no wonder why visiting Israel was such a moving experience for her! Read Claire's blog below about her adventures on Birthright Israel's Culinary Israel trip to learn how it only takes 10 days to make an everlasting impact
How do I sum up my experience on Birthright's Culinary trip? It was a ten-day whirlwind of adventure. I felt constantly overwhelmed by taste, smell, laughter, emotion, and even pain in some unexpected places in the Dead Sea. Every day was so jam packed with experiences; it is hard to isolate a single moment that stood out the most. There are two things that I have thought most about since I’ve been home however. The first being a tangible experience and the second being an emotion left over.
Going to the Salad Trail (Shvil HaSalat), a farm in the Negev Desert was my favorite activity by far while in Israel. We spent the day wandering around the farm with the owners tasting fruits, vegetables, and herbs. We learned about the unique and innovative growing techniques they are using to grow such amazing produce in the middle of the desert. Everything we ate was so good it was almost shocking. We ate tomatoes, strawberries, carrots, lavender, cabbage, kumquats, and so many more things. It was overwhelming in the most delicious way possible.
After wandering the farm we were split into three teams to do a cooking competition, which was so fun! Even though the whole group was passionate about food (after all we were on a Culinary trip), we were not all cooks. Each group was given a leader who had experience with cooking. They led us through using the ingredients at the farm to cooking a three-course meal. We ran around the farm grabbing everything we needed and tried to follow instructions from our leaders. My group ended up making amazing food! Our appetizer was a citrus infused pita. The main course was a salad with edible flowers, scallions, cabbage, spinach, roasted carrots, and a lavender honey dressing. For dessert we used chocolate tomatoes and mint with sugar syrup on top. Yum! I was so amazed and so proud of the final product. With 45 minutes, limited cooking experience, and mostly raw ingredients we were able to make a delicious meal together as a group. It was so fun and helped us all get closer through some lighthearted competition. My group got second place, which was a big mistake in my opinion, but you can’t win em all!
The second thing that resonated with me the most was the new connection I felt to Judaism. I grew up going to Hebrew school, I had a bat-mitzvah, I celebrate the high holidays, but I’ve never considered myself an extremely religious person. Going to Israel really opened me up to what it means to be Jewish. Going to the Holocaust museum (Yad Vashem), meeting the Israeli soldiers, learning about Jewish history, doing Shabbat, and so many other things made me proud to be Jewish all over again. Wandering around a country we have fought and are still fighting for was emotional. Israel always has open arms to any Jew that wants to move there. That is so beautiful. I am so lucky to be Jewish. I am so lucky to have gotten to experience Israel on this trip. I am so lucky to have a new perspective on Jewish history. I am so lucky to continue on Jewish tradition.
These two things are a small portion of everything that happened in Israel. It would take a book to even touch on the emotional rollercoaster that was Birthright. I ate so much. I laughed until it hurt. I cried multiple times. I got nowhere enough sleep. I learned more than I can comprehend. I met some of the best people I’ve ever encountered. Every moment was memorable; some good and some bad. One thing that I am certain about is that I would have not wanted to see Israel for the first time any other way with any other people and with any less food!