by Terry Gorman
1512 West Foster
Mon thru Sat 9:30 am to 8:00 pm
Sun 11:00 to 5:00 pm
Not a restaurant, true, but a place to find delicious food and, in the author’s opinion, “a place that could change your life! “
You’ve heard the expression, “Cruise like a Norwegian,” calling to mind lavish cruises to Alaska, the Caribbean, and the Mediterranean?
Well, I have some Norwegian blood in me — about 3/8 according to my mother. Which is good news. I know of a Norwegian woman over 100 years old – alert, perky, smart – who recently gave a talk to a large audience without a microphone!
But I wish to put forward another expression that suggests long life and good health, “Eat like a Middle Easterner.” Or substitute Jordanian, Syrian, Turk, Israeli, Palestinian, Lebanese.
All this is by way of launching into a discussion of “One of My Favorite Things.” Seriously, there are features of our Andersonville-Edgewater neighborhood I would dearly miss were I to leave this area. And one of them is Hisham Khalifeh’s Middle East Bakery and Grocery, located on the north side of Foster — that short block between Clark and Ashland.
A little history. Hisham Khalifeh started his store in 1981. Despite its small size, the aisles – today as then – brim with nuts, seeds, olive oils, savory pies, sweets, and so many more foods that provide healthful and modestly-priced lunches to vegetarians and carnivores alike.
The deli’s savory pies are made fresh every day and include my favorite, spinach and cheese. Other tantalizing varieties are chicken, mushroom, green/red pepper, parsley, olives/cheese, and lamb/potato. Dip them into tzatziki or another of the mouth-watering, summer-evoking spreads. My partner, Sheldon’s, and my own favorite is the fresh garlic hummus.
Yelp mentions with appreciation that the store lists ingredients clearly, so you never have to wonder what you’re putting into your body.
Yelp’s overall rating for Middle East Bakery and Grocery (MEBG) is 4.5 stars out of 5. Seems it would have been 5 out of 5 except for the few who downgraded it because the store is small (which it is), crowded (which it isn’t), or a little dusty (which it also isn’t). On the other hand, reviewers praise MEBG’s extensive variety of olive oils, hummus, olives, tapenades, cheeses and sweets.
Let me mention how offerings from MEBG inform the meals Sheldon and I often share. First, breakfast.
We top our morning cereal with crunchy roasted, unsalted almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, pistachios, pecans, and prunes – these six among the best sources for antioxidants, fiber, and sorbitol (a natural laxative) – and sometimes also whole-grain toast with sour-cherry jam from Turkey.
I grew up in a home where bowls of M&Ms were readily at hand, but let’s be honest, this isn’t really adult food. So, after lunch and for snacks, we’re likely to savor a date or fig. I’m partial to the Medjool date and often pop one after a bike ride.
Also for supper, we often include foods from MEBG. One favorite is salmon with Aleppo Red Crushed Pepper or Arabian Gulf Spice Mix. Another is simply a salad of greens, tomatoes, peppers and cheese. On the side, a piece of Barbari (sesame) bread (featured in photo) or a dish of toasted garlic pita chips, either plain or smothered with hummus. And for dessert, how about four dark, chocolate-covered almonds with fresh fruit? Yum!!
Allow me an aside. My former employer, Uncle Sam, tracks the health of its retirees, partly by means of annual surveys. My score these last two years was 96 out of 100, where the average for people my age (67) is in the mid 60’s.
These enviable numbers are no doubt due to a) my Norwegian genes, b) a year of workouts with personal trainer, Arthur Velazquez, c) bike riding with Sheldon .. AND .. d) healthful food sold by Hisham and his family at Middle East Bakery and Grocery.
By the way, here is my exact breakfast recipe:
Half cup oatmeal or cereal of your choice .. 9 almonds, 4 hazelnuts, small fistful of walnuts .. 9 pistachios .. 3 pecan halves .. 4 dried cranberries .. 3 unsweetened dried cherries .. 1 prune .. fresh fruit of the season .. and skim milk. You may not want to eat again until evening!