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Israeli breakfast: The origins of the ubiquitous meal

SC 05/08/2021

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“Breakfast is everything. The beginning, the first thing. It is the mouthful that is the commitment to a new day, a continuing life.”– A. A. Gill.
Did A. A. Gill work on a kibbutz?!
Documented in the annals of the City of David archaeological finds are 2,600-plus-year-old olive seeds in a toilet. This might be exciting for historians and it sure gives kids on tour something to tell their friends and family, but what’s more incredible is that we continue this tradition of eating pickled olives at breakfast to this day.

And don’t worry if olives just aren’t your thing, there are dozens of other goodies to choose from as Israelis thrive on the famous Israeli Breakfast Bonanza.
As was previously noted by Zev Stub in July 23 In Jerusalem, Israeli breakfasts are known all over the world. And yet, very few restaurants in other countries compete with this delicious way of starting the day.
It is unknown when Israel started serving their beloved breakfasts but the sheer simplicity and focus on health and wellbeing as Israel was being established is the topic of many conversations among foodies and modern-day Israel historians. The most basic foods had to sustain the First Aliyah: 1881-1903, also known as the Agricultural Aliyah. Immigrants from Europe came with a whole lot of idealism and absolutely no money and were working in the fields. There was help from philanthropists such as the Rothschild family – establishing Israel was a huge project for them.
Israeli breakfasts in the early days consisted of coffee, milk products, bread, tomatoes, cucumbers and eggs. These provisions were meant to last well into the workday until they came home exhausted and ready for dinner. Sadly, half the immigrants of that early stage either went back to Europe or died.
The advent of kibbutz life – communal dwellings, focusing on one or other form of building the state of Israel, all for one and one for all – also promoted a healthful breakfast. British Mandate Palestine was growing and the kibbutz operative was recognized and partially funded by foreign money. Expanding on the above offerings, plus some more adventurous goodies such as pickled vegetables, fish, cheese and different types of cooked eggs, burekas and sweet pastries made the stomachs of these hard-working pioneers a little more settled.
When Israel became a sovereign country in 1948, the kibbutz operation was in full swing and had its own government legislation, making for an even more exciting breakfast buffet.
Fast forward to 2020… I was in a hotel for two weeks after a trip to New York in the first month of the COVID-19 pandemic. The mandatory two-week quarantine was paid for by the Israeli government under the IDF framework. It was the first and likely only time I will ever serve in the army. To that end, all food was provided. And the best meal was breakfast. The meals were army issued so I was eating what soldiers on the front were eating. The front in this instance was the Coronavirus Pandemic War. It is still unclear if I was ‘on the frontlines.’ But that’s another story.
As I was not allowed to communicate with anyone, a food package was thrown at my door for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The morning spread was always the same: pita bread, butter, a cheese slice, milk, yogurt, labaneh, chocolate pudding, cereal, pastry, mini tomatoes, sliced cucumber, apple or orange, tea and coffee and of course, olives. Now, to be sure, I was not going out to any kind of agricultural field to work the land or build the country. And yet, every morning I received this royal breakfast. I have had my fair share of the fanciest Israeli breakfasts known to humankind, but in total isolation, this lovely little package thrown at my door every morning transported me back in time to my ancestors working the field, toiling to plant and build, subsisting on the bare minimum.
And I was sitting pretty reading/watching the news on my laptop eating my ancestors’ dreams… they would be proud.
We say in Grace After Meals – “We have eaten, we are satisfied and now we bless God”… indeed we must, the beautiful food which our ancestors struggled to provide us with and now we get so easily.
It is truly a blessing to sit in style and eat the bounty with friends and family, or alone in isolation.
Israeli breakfasts aren’t going anywhere!


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Co-Host for Coffee Mouth Scarecrow Show. Retired NAVY Chief/Flag Writer Psalms 118:24 This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

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