Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Getting by the Ministries
Readers may have noticed that I have not posted to my blog in a while. During my absence, there have been several blog-worthy happenings: my trip to America, my Birthright trip, the Pride Parade and beaching in Tel Aviv, Memorial and Independence Days and others. Unfortunately, the boat has sailed on these and I won’t be sharing much on them. I do however want to recount to y’all two events (in two posts) that were fun and off the beaten track.
When I was living in New York, my friend Hadar sent me a New York Times article about a berry called miracle fruit. In short, when a miracle fruit berry is sucked on for a minute, it alters taste buds for approximately 30 minutes. During the “flavor trip”, sour and bitter tastes sweet and sweet taste really sweet. After reading the article, I planned “The Snozzberies Taste Like Snozzberries Miracle Fruit Party.” The event was a potluck held in my apartment building’s party room. Every guest was asked to sign up to bring a different food to taste during the flavor trip. I ordered the berries online at http://www.miraclefruitman.com, and they were delivered frozen on dry ice the day before the party. It was a really awesome experience; the berry affected nearly everyone at the party (I think 2 out of 40 people’s didn’t work).
A few months ago, I decided that since it was such a fun time in New York, I would once again host a berry party. There was only one hitch. I had to figure out how to get the berries to Israel. I started with a search within Israel, but quickly realized that there were no miracle fruit vendors in the country. So, I turned to the internet. As I mentioned, the berries are shipped frozen – they are most potent when fresh, i.e. not dried/preserved. I contacted several companies and ended up returning to the Miracle Fruit Man. For a somewhat pricey FedEx charge, the company was willing to ship express to Israel. I would receive the package in 2 days. All was set, I ordered the berries to be shipped to my office (so someone could sign for the package).
The day before the package was to be delivered, I received an email saying that FedEx needed certain documentation regarding the commercial purpose of the package and its contents. After explaining that the package was for personal use, I was transferred to another department. It was there that I was reminded that nothing in Israel is simple.
It turns out that importing fruit of any kind is a big deal here. I was told that the box would be held at the sorting facility until it was cleared by the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Health. When ministries in Israel need to clear anything, it means things are not going to happen quickly. I told the FedEx folks that the package contained frozen produce and would go bad it if was not kept cold. Luckily, they had a package freezer and told me the package would be stored in the cold room until things were resolved. I was then told I needed to draft a letter to the Ministries explaining the contents and purpose of my package (not a good sign). I explained in the letter that the berries were for a party being held Saturday night and that the contents would be consumed within a week. I also explained in what must have been an interesting read, that the berries were for a “flavor tripping” party.
Not surprisingly, the government was not so into the idea of facilitating my request, and a few days later, I received word from FedEx that the berries had been denied entry to Israel and that the package would be sent back to the US. This was disappointing on so many levels. I had planned an event that I would now need to postpone indefinitely, I had sunk over $100 into the berries (they are ~$2 a piece plus shipping), and I had put in a lot of time, effort and coordination into nothing. When I called the Miracle Fruit Man, the company was more than understanding. They told me they would send me new berries to a US address at no additional cost!
I had them ship the berries to a friend coming to Israel in two weeks and asked the friend to keep the berries frozen until they came here – on the flight, they carried the berries on with ice and was able to keep them frozen throughout the trip. Thanks to their help, the party was back on. Here is a pic of the buffet at the party. Sorry there are not more pictures.
The Snozzberries Still Taste Like Snozzberries was a great, albeit delayed success. Again, almost all flavor trippers tasted the effect of the berry, and a good time was had by all. As a side note, due to cancelations, scheduling issues as a result of the postponement, and my concern that there would not be enough berries, I have some leftover berries. If you are in Israel and are interested in giving it a shot, let me know. The berries are 10 shekel a piece and definitely worthwhile experience.