There I was on a kibbutz nestled in the lush greenery of the Galilee and all I could think about was food.
Maybe it’s because my idea of a good time is to go to a raw food spa. And when I say “raw food SPA” what I mean is, I was starving, people. Seriously.
I was so hungry, I was almost in tears.
I was so hungry that I was wasting away, on account of something dreadful called a “juice fast.”
“And you paid top shekel to starve to death?” asked my sympathetic friends.
Yes. I. Did.
You see, I’m always scheming to be a Temple of Absolute Health.
Before I signed up for this starvation diet, I did an ancient Indian cleanse. For a whole week. This didn’t involve travel, fortunately, only limiting myself to rice, cooked veggies and ghee (clarified butter).
I even had a partner in crime: The fellow I had started dating was going to join me. He even appeared at my home one evening bearing beautiful dishes that he had hand-picked — two by two, just like Noah’s ark.
“This is for us to use on the cleanse, but they’re for you to keep,” he told me, by which I understood to mean that we were doing this together. Maybe because he used the word “us,” which always gets me hopeful.
But, alas, God in the heavens had other plans and so, too, did the boy, who bailed before we could even ghee-a-deux, and so in the end, after cleansing alone and still feeling rotten, I fixated on the raw spa that a food writer I know had gushed about. What better way to console my bruised heart and fill my time since I had just, um, quit a job?
Which is how I found myself cast together with a group of mostly older Israelis for an intense program that began in the wee hours of the morning with quigong, followed by a steady stream of lectures all to the tune of: Everything you eat is bad for you, and an enema a day keeps the doctor away.
Wheatgrass enemas, if you want to be specific.
“Believe me, by the time you go home, you’re going to be completely rejuvenated,” the owner of the spa told us. He assured us that the two-day juice fast, in which we consume nothing but lettuce and sprouts in liquid form, would be more nourishing than manna from heaven. “You won’t even feel hungry. Some people like it so much they choose to keep going past two days.”
I don’t know who those people are, but they aren’t me.
“I feel sorry for you, coming all this way and being hungry,” an older fella, a former seaman, told me over a “meal” of “smoodies,” Israeli speak for “smoothie,” which was a nice way of describing the lettuce, sprouts and an apple thrown into a blender.
He, himself wasn’t hungry in the least, and so fortified with the kind of righteousness that can only come from imbibing alfalfa sprouts for days, he went on to chastise me for not knowing what a “sea lock” is. A sailor for over 30 years, he had travelled the world and had even visited my birthplace of Waukegan, Ill.
What are the chances, I thought, dreaming of a cheese sandwich (with hummus!) while gagging on swill masquerading as a “smoodie.” Here I was, far away from my native land, and I happened to meet a man who had been to the small city outside Chicago where at one time, everyone knew my family name.
And what a surprising contrast to that “stranger in a strange land” feeling I’d had ever since moving to Israel two years ago.
Because for me, living in a new country means that everything is at once strange and wonderful. The way the woman with the long, gray braid suddenly broke out at “dinner” in a mournful tune about Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav and was immediately answered by all the other gray beards at the table.
I mean, I can walk into a room in America and know instinctively who the Jews are, but it’s taken me a while to differentiate Arab from Jew here. And the cultural nuances are even harder.
Which is probably why I figured I was the only one hating the spa.
“Really, mommi [sweetie], like anyone can eat this stuff and survive. It isn’t food!” complained the woman seated next to me as we downed some hot water with flora.
She whispered that she was going outside, near the gas station, for a cigarette.
“There’s a gas station within walking distance?” I asked, astonished.
As I rushed to retrieve my wallet, I salivated thinking of all the poisonous delights that would soon be mine.
Abigail Pickus’ column appears the first week of the month.