Sunday, July 24, 2011

Tel Aviv Tent City – A Tale of Two Steaks

Tents are springing up all along Rothschild Boulevard, in the centre on Tel Aviv. It is not as result of the relentless heat but rather as an act of protest. It seems Israel has entered an era of civil protest, whether against cottage cheese, fuel or housing prices the theme is the same and that is high prices. In an earlier post I commented that I was disappointed that civil protest was limp here, but I must start eating my hat as people are starting to wake-up to rip-off Israel.

For those who haven’t read the earlier posts – Israel is an excessively expensive country, particularly when compared to the low average salary. The gap in salary vs prices has mushroomed over the past few years and has now reached a level where many middle class Israeli families cannot make ends meet. There are multiple reasons for this situation (many quite ugly such as greed and corruption) but the question is what can be done to sort out the problem?

I am pleased that people are starting to take notice and peacefully protest for change. However, I am a pessimist (realist) and do not think it will make much of a difference as change here only occurs when government or business is under threat. Take for example the tent city on Rothschild Boulevard, which is mostly populated by students and young people. The cause, while just, is not one which will bring the country together to go out on the streets. Why? For one there is no simple solution to the housing prices and second the tent people do not have a list of demands. Even the cottage cheese protest may have brought short term prices changes but all it really showed is how ugly and corrupt business is in Israel.

The only way to reach an outcome is through mass popular revolution but here one needs a rallying cry and unifying cause. Take Egypt and Tahrir square there the youth wanted a change in the regime and many other felt the same. In Israel it is too fragmented, one needs a populist leader or encompassin cause - it exists the question is how to market it. Until then most if not all protests will just fizzle out and life will continue regardless of the financial hardships.

A Tale of Two Steaks

I recently had the opportunity to semi-scientifically confirm my viewpoint that Israeli beef has a different flavour than US beef (with the US being far superior in my opinion). A couple of friends bought back a selection of US steaks on a recent trip (from a butcher and froze it) and I bought a couple of Israeli steaks from a well-known Northern Israeli butcher (unfrozen).

Laying out the steaks on a platter and comparing, the first obvious difference was marbling. The US steaks had a far better and superior marbling (i.e. veins of fat running through the meat). The second difference was size, the US steaks were far larger and thicker, but here this is the style of butchering and cuts. From the US we had a strip loin and a porterhouse and from Israel a porterhouse (looked more like a t-bone) and fillet.

We cooked all the steaks to a level of medium rare and laid them all to rest for a few minutes. For some reason the US steaks oozed far more juices, that could be due to it having been frozen.

All steaks cut very easily even though the US steaks were thicker. The taste however was different – The US steaks had a juicier more gentle and smoother flavour while the Israeli beef was slightly chewier, less juicy and an overall less pleasant taste – though not bad.

Obviously this is a subjective tasting but everyone around the table agreed that the US steaks, which were frozen, had a far superior flavour and texture to the Israeli steaks.

For example, the brunette who is very fussy and doesn’t eat that much meat, must have eaten close to kilo of beef (the US variety) and was surprised to discover such a big difference in flavour between the two nations.

And what is the point or outcome of this experiment? Nothing really apart from that Israeli beef tastes different from US beef and a justification to us that we prefer US beef. And also to prove a point to my proud Israeli friends, who participated in the experiment, that Israel still has some way to go to reach international taste levels in meat.

Now if only they would change the law allowing the importation of beef maybe a new protest in the making?


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