"The greatest Indian cook in Britain"Jay Rayner "The Observer"
"Cook with love. Love your cooking" Gita Mistry

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Oranges are the Only Fruit for me - representing England in Israel

The Olympic Games put me in mind of the time I represented my country in the World Schools Championship Volleyball in Israel in 1984.  I say "my country" because the ranking refers to us as "England/GB" but in actual fact we represented Yorkshire.  When we were introduced at the opening ceremony everyone expected us to sing along to a recorded version  "God save the Queen".  They were in for right treat when we actually belted out "On Ilkley Moor Bar T'at" (On Ilkley Moor Without Your Hat") it  was very proud moment indeed and somehow appropriate for a team consisting of girls of Afro-Caribbean, Chinese, Indian, Pakistani and Anglo-Saxon heritage. Although it was hard for us to identify with England or Great Britain we had a common identity in Yorkshire.

I was 15 at the time - one of the youngest players ever to have been selected. It was my first time on an aeroplane and my first trip abroad. It was the start of my Wanderlust.  We had to work very hard to get to Israel.   Not only did we have to be the best at volleyball (which meant training 15 to 20 hours a week in all weathers including trudging through the snow when the buses were off) but we had to raise the cash for our fares and expenses.  My contribution came from teaching dinner ladies how to make a good curry from which we took a royalty, setting up a tuck shop in competition with the school shop buying our goodies from a cash and carry in Leeds. A sponsored silence (which nearly killed me because I am right talkative) and sponsorship. Almost every shop in Bradford city centre gave us something.  The company  Ring was particularly generous as was HRH the Prince of Wales who said "It would be shame if the girls could not go."  We invited him to afternoon tea and he actually sent an equerry with a very generous cheque.

After such generosity from the heir to the throne some might think that we were a little churlish substituting the Yorkshire anthem for the national one but I am a Bradford lass of Indian heritage and London is a long way off. I had only been there twice - once to play at Crystal Palace and the American school (whom we beat) on another occasion. 

I remember a deadly silence when we had finished, and then applause and cheers. In a huge auditorium with lights so bright and cameras and TV/press intrigued by our squad. And then being accepted in as the England team at the opening ceremony as we exchanged tokens of goodwill with the other teams.

We ate sweet Israeli bread and ate fresh oranges picked from the tree on most days.   My favourite fruit .It was warm and I felt free. The tournament dinning hall was circular.   Food was served from the central reservation and each team had its own quarter. Food galore and the joy of sharing and eating with so many different nationalities and cultures was a feast in itself ...It beat any school dinner.

Israel offers it fair share food delights including humus and ample conversations about hummus. Wars began in conversation  about it as heated debates would be had as to who makes the best and where it originated Israel, Lebanon or. Palestine. 

We got through to the final stages and came 7th in the tournament and  gave Austria which eventually won the competition their best game. We were awarded the fair play award of the whole tournament which was an honour.  All credit to our great coach and manager..

On rest days we were able to see quite a lot of Israel during that contest - MasadaBethlehem, Jerusalem
 the Wailing Wall and the Dead Sea stick in my memory particularly.

Here are some of things I learned about oranges.

  1. Oranges are most succulent at room temperature. Sometimes you can squeeze some extra juice by putting them in the microwave for 30 to 60 seconds.
  2. It is good to roll them on the work surface before extracting the juice.
  3. If you want the kitchen to smell of orange blossom just prick the skin with a fork and return them to the fruit bowl.
I really loved the sweet bread and wish I could bake it. Do any of my readers have a recipe?  Is it a specifically Israeli delicacy or Jewish? If you happen to know, do let us know.


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