Wild fennel, a taste of yellow

by Sarah on July 23, 2012

fennel pollen with bread and butter

A cool breeze on a warm day, a smile from a stranger, the hiccuping laugher of a baby.

Too many times it passes unnoticed. There are bills to pay, milestones to reach, personal struggles to overcome and a lifetime of responsibilities. It’s hard to step aside as everyone else seems to be gaining momentum and the competitive edge. But if you do, these moments will be remembered forever.

fennel flowers

This is a lesson I was taught when a friend, Dina, succumbed to cancer. She was my age, with three young children. It could have been me.  This experience was a deciding factor on how I would live my life. Recently Barbara Harris, a fellow food blogger, lost her fight after an 8 year struggle with this same omnipresent disease. I never met her in person but followed her loosely on twitter and occasionally visited her blog. Despite this very small connection I had the deepest respect for her. She reminded me so much of Dina who never complained even when her prognosis was dim, even when she was in pain. Damn it, she would enjoy every minute in this world and not waste her precious time in self-pity. It was the same with Barbara.

outdoors in Israel playing guitar

Barbara not only continued her daily battles but contributed to the Lance Armstrong’s LiveStrong Foundation with the Taste of Yellow, an online community event to raise cancer awareness. To pay tribute to Barbara, Meeta and Jeanne have dedicated July’s Monthly Mingle to this important cause.

When the little annoyances get to me- the heat, a messy house, a car in the garage, a dog that won’t stop barking, I remember that my life isn’t so rough. Last weekend we ignored the sink full of dishes and the piles of laundry. Instead we spent the day outdoors to enjoy the simple things. Everything else could wait.

sarig spring near jerusalem, summer in israel


fennel pollen with bread and butter

Bread and butter dusted with fennel pollen


The truth is, it is way too hot to do any baking in the summer so I bought a lovely loaf of French bread at Dallal Bakery in Tel Aviv’s Neve Tzedek neighborhood. They also have wonderful croissants and other pastries. If you do feel like making it from scratch you can use the recipe here.

The flora of Israel is reduced to a few core plants during Israel’s hot months with fennel, za’atar and capers the rare species that flower during this period. These plants play an important role in the local ecology, being one of the only sources of food for bees and other insects.  On our hike to the Ein Sapir and Ein Sarig springs near Jerusalem we passed large patches of fennel in full bloom. While I had many ideas to use this wild edible in elaborate ways-from Hollandaise sauce to elegant creams -at the end I simply dusted it over buttered bread for the essence of summer. It’s wonderful like that.

fennel, wild fennel

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Eha July 23, 2012 at 7:59 pm

Thank you for the heartwarming affirmation of what is really important in life. Thank you for the beautiful photos of simple yellow blossoms to be the background to your post . . . Often I’m afraid it does take something like getting cancer to make one re-evaluate one’s journey thru’ this life. I know I changed some nine years ago when I discovered I too had joined the ones who had to find the strength to believe that cancer is a word and not necessarily the sentence. I too am still trying, and tho’ abysmally difficult, life has somehow never been as sweet . . . day by day . . .


Sarah July 23, 2012 at 9:02 pm

I know several people who live with cancer and fortunately with new treatments and technology there are so many oppurtunities yet too happen. If the fear that comes with diagnosis can be tamed life can be truly enjoyed. For everyone on this earth it’s day by day, even if it doesn’t feel like that. Keep well.


Mairi @ Toast July 23, 2012 at 8:47 pm

A lovely tribute :) And I love the simplicity….bread & butter one of life’s great simple pleasures.


Zack July 23, 2012 at 11:48 pm

Hi Sara: Just a little comment. In the third line second parag. it should read “the local ecosystem” rather than “the local ecology”. It is more scientific. Learned this from reading one of the late Prof. F.S. Bodenheimer’s publications.


Meeta July 24, 2012 at 12:02 am

Oh how I love your sentiment – yes everything else can wait – for us to take a moment to enjoy the the very vital simple things in life. Love this Sarah and thank you for joining us at A Taste of Yellow!


Yael (the Finnish one) July 24, 2012 at 12:25 pm

A beautiful tribute Sarah.Cancer is such a horrid disease;lost my parents to it and my sister.
Regards from Helsinki,I have been picking a lots of blueberries.


Sarah July 24, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Thanks Yael, Yes, you are right about cancer (or any other disease in my opinion). Enjoy the cool Helsinki air for me, its been sizzling here.


Angelo July 25, 2012 at 5:23 am

Only a note about the Fennel,
I think using olive oil would be a good alternative,bread with a little of oil was usual as kids snack.
I anyway find your posts encouraging and filled with great ideas about food and life itself.


Sarah July 25, 2012 at 8:15 am

Angelo, Agree. I use olive oil liberally and I think pairing it with fennel pollen would be a tasty alternative to butter.


Gayle Squires July 25, 2012 at 6:21 pm

I’m so sorry to learn about your friend and your fellow blogger. I am proud that you left all the dishes behind and enjoyed the day. To dirty dishes!


Krista July 25, 2012 at 8:05 pm

I’m so glad you got to know Dina. She sounds like a beautiful and wonderful woman.


usha July 27, 2012 at 3:23 am

I am grieved to hear about your friend Dina. I have seen the dreaded disease from up close, having lost my mother,both my grandparents and a whole host of relatives . But the wonderful thing is that I also know many who have fought it and survived and I salute them.


Yael July 27, 2012 at 6:48 am

Beautifully written post about what’s really important in life. We need to remind ourselves daily of our blessings. I try to whine less though sometimes it’s hard when the outside temp.37 centigrade and 70% humidity.


Lori July 27, 2012 at 6:47 pm

What a touching story, and beautiful photos. Thank you for putting this thoughtfulness in my day.


Jamie July 31, 2012 at 10:24 am

A beautiful post and a lovely, heartfelt tribute to Dina and Barbara. Yes, when times seem to be so difficult and we get upset and stressed out I just think of my brother and it does put things in perspective. Thank you.


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