Sure there were no overflowing platters of couscous and vegetables or steaming bowls of koshari like the Moroccans and Egyptians feature at their respective national day celebrations. There weren’t piles of kabobs or pilafs or lentils. But the Israeli Embassy did take the food up a notch from previous years for the party it held Tuesday night in honor of the country’s 64th birthday.
Maybe they were worried that, in a twist on the Beatles song, the ambassadors, politicians and journalists crowding the Independence Day reception would begin to wonder, “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when you’re sixty-four?” Or that in Israel’s old age, it could begin losing the affections of its guests if the food didn’t come closer to matching what’s on offer at Arab embassy festivities.
This year there was quite a variety of fancy hors d''œuvres, ranging from smoked salmon pizza to tofu and eggplant satays to a tartare salad served in a mini cup with an accompanying fork. There were also tables arrayed with falafel, hummus, grape leaves and pita for those who really wanted to fill up. And at the end of the evening, cocktail waitresses nudged guests to sample the plethora of finger desserts – including tiramisu squares and chocolate-dipped fruit – that were pretty yummy.
Since Washington is so much about appearance, the stinginess of the Foreign Ministry budget for food and décor – which can seem like wasteful spending to the average Israeli taxpayer – can keep Israel from looking its best on the diplomatic circuit.
And having an adequate display of culinary treats is important to reward those who take the time to show up. After all, it’s the food and the free supply of alcohol that keep the crowd happy through the standard renditions of the US and Israeli national anthems, the ambassador’s words of welcome and the address of an administration representative (this year it was senior White House advisor Valerie Jarrett) reiterating the standard line about the unshakeable bond between the US and Israel.
- Hilary Leila Krieger