Trader Joe's Update (Plus: What is Israeli Couscous?)

By Jeffrey Goldberg

Goldblog reader Guy Handelman writes:

I just came back from Trader Joes.  The manager told me that they only carry 2 Israeli products (couscous and feta cheese).  They already sold out of feta cheese, so I bought a box of couscous.  It looks like the anti-Israel folks picked the wrong store to boycott.

And this, from the Los Angeles Jewish Journal:

In Los Angeles... the only unusual activity reported was that of local patrons walking into the national food chain to ask to buy Israeli products in specific.

Since Trader Joe's only stocks two Israeli products, you'd think that the International Campaign to Scapegoat Israel would have picked a better target.

One other question has been raised in all this: Just what is Israeli couscous? As a friend once asked, isn't Israeli couscous Israeli the way that French toast is French? I'm not sure of the answer -- I suppose there could be an Israeli variant, developed in Israel's large community of Moroccan Jews -- but this question reminds me of the great hummus debate, as well as the periodic eruption of falafel fighting, described here in this Times article by Jodi Kantor:

It's nice to think that sharing a cherished food brings enemies together, easing tension and misunderstanding. But the world's rawest conflicts can include disagreements over common foodstuffs. Irish Catholics and Protestants have lightly bickered over whiskey. Turks and Greeks have feuded over coffee. And Jews and Arabs argue about falafel in a way that reflects the wider conflict, touching on debates over territory and history. ''Food always migrates according to immigration and commerce,'' said Yael Raviv, an Israeli student at New York University who wrote her Ph.D. thesis on Israeli nationalism and cuisine. ''But because of the political situation, falafel has taken on enormous significance.''

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2009/06/trader-joes-update-plus-what-is-israeli-couscous/19825/