Sunday, February 06, 2005

What's Italian for "Plus ça change"?

My wife and I met on a drizzly, cold Jerusalem winter evening some eleven years ago. Our first date was at a dairy Italian restaurant, long since gone, a short walk from the central bus station.

That night, the restaurant was full of American girls - sorry, women - studying at Jerusalem's one-year seminary programs. Many parents visit their younguns during the year abroad, and the winter has the twin advantages of being halfway through the year and allowing off-peak airfares. The students, for their part, try to exploit the visit to finagle a dinner out for their flock of friends.

We managed to get acquainted despite the noisy tables of young women surrounding us, enthusiastically tucking into pasta and salad at the expense of someone's parents.

Recently, as part of our ongoing commemoration of our tenth anniversary, we headed back to Jerusalem to reprise our first date, at a different dairy Italian restaurant.

As we entered on a cold midweek evening, we were surprised to find the restaurant full. We burst out laughing, though, on realizing it was full of American seminary girls.

Our table for two this time was located next to a long table with some twenty young ladies, presided over by (presumably) the mother of one of them in her blond sheitel. The girls were impeccably dressed and made up, as if they were out on a collective shidduch date. At least one of them clutched a Prada handbag. (So much for eschewing materialism.) We hadn't dressed up like that even when we were dating!

If, on a winter night, Jerusalem's Italian dairy restaurants are all packed with seminary girls, where, you might ask, are all the yeshiva bochurim? The explanation is simple. Offered a restaurant meal on someone else's tab, what self-respecting yeshiva guys would choose pasta? Nothing less than steak will do! While the females, one presumes, either find beef unfeminine, are disproportionately vegetarian, or just fear there will be too few diet salads on offer.

Sometimes it's the strangest things which are the ones that never change.


Batya said...

Recently I met with a friend for a Friday lunch at Village Green (salads by the weight) in Jerusalem. She admitted that it was probably her first time there, though her daughters have eaten there. The reason, when she eats out with her husband, he won't go there, since it's "not real food." If he's going to eat out, meat only.

Zman Biur said...

I neglected to mention that my wife was vegetarian when we met. So at least I had an excuse for eating there.