Banana Rye Bread / by Susie Lubell

Time to make banana bread
exhibit A

Tonight I'm participating in my first art exhibit in Israel.  Some local wineries are supplying the wine and the artists are bringing the rest. So this morning I set out to make two loaves of banana bread. After I converted 12 tablespoons of butter into grams (170!) I went to the cupboard to get out the flour. Alas, I only have rye flour.

Rye flour? Who the hell buys rye flour?

I do. And do you know why I buy rye flour? Because I have the Hebrew reading skills of a first grader. I go to the super market and invariably come home with things I don't want. And in many cases, like this, on the back of the package it actually says what it is in English. So now I am functionally illiterate in two languages. I have bought "sweetened" plain yogurt (if I wanted it sweet I would buy cherry pineapple or guava or any number of amazing flavors they have here). I have bought perfumed wipes (the ones that smell worse than any child's poop ever could). I have bought farina (cream of wheat) when I wanted flour (obviously my biggest problem is wheat derivatives. In my defense, all the packaging looks the same with a giant wheat stalk on the front). I have bought spicy tomato sauce and made lasagna my kids wouldn't eat. I have bought non-virgin olive oil (I like to call that slutty olive oil). I have bought cooking cream instead of whipping cream. I have bought what looks like a stick of dried salami but is actually all wet and bologna-like inside. I did that twice actually.

Last night I went shopping with a friend of mine, another American who moved here eight years ago. And she told me how her first year here she would have panic attacks at the cheese counter trying to figure out what to buy and how to order in grams. In Hebrew. That resonated in a big way. I'm getting better but I still mostly buy my deli meat and cheese pre-packaged.

Being an immigrant is rough going sometimes. Ending up with the wrong food is aggravating but mostly just funny. Ending up paying banking fees you didn't know about, or inadvertently signing up for the most expensive telephone service is both aggravating and costly. I'm lucky because I have a native husband and most people here speak some degree of English. A lot of people around the world are not as lucky and end up having to eat banana rye bread. Or worse. Banana farina bread.

Ever been tongue tied at a cheese counter in a foreign land? Brought home sour cream when you wanted cream cheese? I feel you.