I will offer to do many things to help my family out when it comes to preparing for Jewish celebrations but going to “Jewish stores” is not one of them, especially near the Sabbath or holiday beginnings. Having said that, my bark is often far worse than my bite. Admittedly, I did in fact go, the day before Passover no less, to Toronto Kosher to buy myself some fixings and surprisingly the store was not too crazy (mashugana). What is not well known to my relatives and peers, is that I have been secretly visiting Toronto Kosher for some time now, buying chicken carcasses and various other chic parts in order to make my virginal chicken soups, a new quest on my cooking endeavors list. I have actually been enjoying talking to the staff and patrons alike, getting more advice on how to make the perfect chicken soup. I'm determined to make one just right. Often, I feel like a gentile amidst their company who are mostly of the Jewish orthodox and ultra-orthodox persuasion but there are still those conservative Jews who buy their meat there even if they eat unkoshered flesh outside of their homes. Thus the contradictions begin and never end.Their eyes politely hide their dismay that a nice Jewish girl such as myself still doesn't know how to make a decent chicken soup. I know, I know. Even I'm surprised.Fortunately for me thus far, everyone from the employees to the clientele have been very friendly, helpful and most courteous. That was not the scene however, at Tov-Li's Kosher eatery just down the street where I had stopped by (and have done so quite often lately) for what I believe to be one of the best falafel sandwiches in town.
Talk about a culture shock and I don't mean the menu.
The staff was most helpful and accommodating and the procedure for giving your order and having it completed worked like a well-oiled machine but something was different. I felt like I was in another country based on the ultra-orthodox clientele. Was it being around ready-to-eat food that made it seem so different from that of the butcher store down the street?
I found a twelve-year-old girl taking care of her 5 siblings, 2 of them crying constantly as they were under the age of 3. I asked where her mother was. No answer. Just that glazed stare of "Why would someone ask me that and I don't have to answer this strange woman." Rightly so little girl,rightly so. This prepubescent child was so dutiful and skilled at keeping her family in order, that if she had more mammary glands, I have no doubt that she would have breast fed the younger ones if asked to do so.
Then came the onslaught parade of "women-with-wigs" as I like to call them, complete with their fake hairs elaborately set by their hairdressers along with their perfectly painted on makeup, (according to their modesty-rule NOT) pushing and shoving into line, along with their ultra-orthodox hubbys, dressed in their black garb, huge hats and trailing tzit tzits, pushing me aside so that they don't touch me (according to Jewish law) but in fact had no problem pushing me aside, thereby touching me...with no apologies,and absolutely no behavioral social instructions in place for the multitudes of unruly children (6 to a family) who had the run of the joint. Oy Vey. It was a megillah of mayhem but still a mechaiyeh. Now get out your Yiddish dictionaries to find out what I just said. If you never get a chance to go to Israel's religious quarter, no problem. Just stop by Tov-Li's for a great falafel and a culture shock for sure.
If you do decide to give this place a try, (located on Bathurst St. north of Lawrence and south of Wilson on the east side) keep in mind it's a dangerous area to be traveling in. Why? Because there are lots of ultra-orthodox people driving in that area, and whether it's because of their belief in God's will or bashert (destiny), they (for the most part and I realize this is a massive generalization) don't seem to follow the rules of the road in general, running thru red lights, stop signs, and rarely signaling during their travels. If you see a crooked-wigged or big black-hatted driver in front of you, change lanes quickly and get the hell out of their way. Then head over to Tov-Li for some delicious foods amidst the chaos. It's a cornucopia of culinary delights.