Occasionally a shopping trip provides proof that Israeli consumer culture is moving in a positive direction.
Readers with good memories might recall a July 2001 column in which I related how my local supermarket had charged me the full price for a matching oven mitt and pot holder even though they were advertised as being on sale.
"That offer was valid during Pessah only," the snooty enquiries clerk retorted when I complained.
"But the sale ticket is still posted," I replied, "so you have to honor it."
Just a few shekels were at stake, but I was standing on principle - and was vindicated by the manager, who issued an immediate refund.
I am happy to report that appeals to a higher authority were unnecessary recently when (in a different establishment) I picked up a jar of Jacob's superlative instant coffee, normally priced at over NIS 40, after seeing a ticket proclaiming it on sale for NIS 34.59.
Again, on scrutinizing my bill I found that I had been charged the full price. But this time there was no facing-off with a supercilious bureaucracy. The earnest and very efficient clerk at the enquiries desk told me that "the offer actually ended last month, but of course I'll give you the difference back."
To which I could only comment: Vive la difference.
I DON'T often recommend products, but sometimes I can't resist it. I was recently introduced to two light and creamy 5% fat spreading cheeses, and they were delightful.
One is a goat's cheese (gvinat izim); the other is a sheep's milk Bulgarian cheese (gvina bulgarit). Note: Both contain sorbate as a preservative.
They are made by Meshek Tzuriel (regrettably, there's no English on the packaging) and come in distinctive dark green plastic boxes.
I've found these cheeses very versatile: Apart from being spread, they can be blobbed on top of salads, hot vegetables and even baked beans. Their distinctive taste adds real character.
When a friend remarked that she found the goat's cheese a trifle strong, I mixed it half-and-half with 5% fat Ricotta cheese, which is extremely mild and delicate (and very high in calcium). The result was wonderful.
HERE'S A sweet thought for afternoon tea. It comes from the L'Chayim cookbook published by the Friends of Maon Le-Nechim, a nonprofit residential home for severely disabled young adults in Netanya.
CARROT & WALNUT CAKE
3 cups all-purpose flour
11â„2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 cup grated carrots
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. cinnamon
1â„2 tsp. ground cardamom (hel)
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup crushed walnuts
1 cup milk
1 tsp. baking soda
3 tsp. baking powder
1â„2 tsp. ground nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 180 . Grease and flour a 225-250 mm. tube pan.
Sift the flour, baking soda and baking powder together and set aside. Beat the eggs with the cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom for 5 minutes. Stir in the sugar and mix well. Beat in the oil and continue beating for 5 minutes.
Alternately add the flour mixture and the milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, to the egg mixture. Using a spoon, stir in the carrots and walnuts. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 1 hour.
GROCERY shopping overflows with dilemmas. Ought one to try that new, much-touted yogurt or stick to the old familiar one? Get a load of eggplant because it's going cheap and risk having to throw some of it out? Decide in advance to pay with cash (cautious spending), or by credit card (license to splurge)? The list is endless, and it's exhausting.
However, one of my dilemmas recently vanished.
The supermarket sells a medium-sized package of "baby" salad leaves for NIS 8, and a "family" bag almost double the size for not very much more. It goes without saying that the larger one is far better value - the only trouble was, half of it went funny before we could eat it; or it acquired a plasticky taste that made me dump whatever was left (usually quite a lot) in the garbage.
Recently in a small experiment I divided the leaves immediately after purchase into two equal lots, and put each into a thin, medium-sized plastic food bag. I then tore off one paper towel per bag, crumpled it lightly into a ball, sprinkled it liberally (but didn't soak it) with cold water and put it in with the leaves. I closed the bag and stored it in the fridge.
Result: The leaves stayed fresh and sweet-smelling to the last.