Growing up in Upstate New York, my parents often took us to “pick-your-own” farms long before the locavore movement was coined. Sadly, I rarely take my own boys. There is a lot less open space in Israel and agriculture has become separated from everyday life. The majority of Israelis no longer grow their own food and those who do hire migrants to do the brunt of the work, mainly from Thailand and other parts of Asia.
The hoe and spade ideology which first generation Israelis were born into has faded. Getting dirt beneath your finger nails has lost its romantic appeal and often considered the misfortune of those who have no other options.
Passing through the food belt on the Israel trail illustrated just how great the dependence on foreign workers has grown. In Kibbutz Zofar in the Arava, for example, sawadee kap is used as often as shalom and Thai food fills entire shelves at the local grocery store- red curry, rambutan stuffed pineapple, pickled fish alongside dried figs and chickpeas. There was a time when high school students on vacation or discharged soldiers would have been happy to fill these jobs. Now? Work ethics have changed with the rise of affluence.
With this shift is the growing demand for social justice, much of it centered on the price of food. Throwing slogans in the air, the activists in Tel Aviv all want a revolution. Meanwhile, there’s a group of Thais in the vineyards in Lachich singing together as they toil for our food.
Summer fruit crumble
When I was about eleven I was invited to go strawberry picking at a local farm with our neighbors, whom had children about the same age. As we were tediously filling out plastic baskets, the eldest, also named Sarah, looked up mischievously and asked “Have you ever been in a strawberry war?” Even before I could answer she pelted me with the crimson fruit and shouted gaily “Now you have!” I returned fire with a vengeance and soon we were covered with aromatic pulp. Her mother, mortified, stopped the rampage and shuffled us all back to the car saying she would never, ever, in her entire life, ever take us strawberry picking again. She never did.
3/4 cup oats
3/4 cup flour
¾ cups brown sugar
125 grams (4.4 ounces or 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon) cold butter, cut into cubes
½ cup almonds, chopped
Castor sugar, optional
About 600 grams (21 ounces) strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, ripe nectarines or any fruit soft enough to be squashed between the fingers
For the crumble
Preheat the oven to 180⁰C (350⁰ F). In a bowl, mix the oats, flour, brown sugar, almonds and butter. Using your fingertips rub the butter into the dry ingredients to form a fine crumbly mixture, the texture of wet sand. It’s ok to have a few clumps- it doesn’t have to be uniform. The crumble mixture can be stored in the freezer in an airtight bag if it isn’t used on the same day (no need to defrost).
Wash the fruit and if necessary cut into small pieces. Spread the fruit in an oven proof dish (I used several individual ramekins) so it covers the bottom in a thick layer. If the fruit are not as sweet as desired add a tablespoon or more of castor sugar and mix well. Cover with the crumble mixture. Place in the oven until bubbly and golden brown, about 25 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream.
Variations: Sometimes I add cinnamon to the crumble mixture and a squeeze of lemon to the filling.