Eating Standing Up

 The Cover Says •

Eating Standing Up binds together the Assaf Gavron’s fast-food columns that appeared in the Jerusalem local magazine Kol Ha’ir between 1995-1997. At the background to his shrewed and funny falafel and other fast-food-joint reviews, you feel the presence of suffocating peace process, the Rabin assassination, the terrorist attacks and the urban changes Jerusalem and its surroundings went through in the years of mayor Ehud Olmert.
Eating Standing Up does not speak about all these things,” writes Gavron in his introduction. “It speaks about eating standing up. The Rabin assassination is not even mentioned in the columns following November 4th 1995. Sometimes we forget we went on living, went on eating falafel. The period bubbles between the lines and words, trickles with the tehina, tell itself around the pizza sauce. Because put together, these texts whisper Jerusalem, the nineties, and something here is starting to collapse.”
Eating Standing Up is the definitive survival guide for the hungry Jerusalemite on the go. twelve years after they were first published, his stories of stomach aches and obscure falafel joints are as fresh and funny as ever.

 The Review Says •

“The juicy, wonderful descriptions of the food – including the side dishes, the salads and above all, the falafel – compensate for the many references to eateries long gone. The food, as Gavron sketches it, revels in its own colors, and even the worst meals are described with a sensuousness that only magnifies the sense of nausea, trickling not only into our brain cells but also into our nervous system.”
Chaim Baram, Haaretz >>>

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The following review, taken from the book, was published by the Associative Press magazine, Canada, in December 2010.

Self-service falafel
The Yovel Steak House, 6 Uruguay Street, Qiriat Hayovel, Jerusalem.

A lot of mud has been thrown at the 1980s, but, as a member of the generation who grew up on the music, the movies, the culture and lifestyle of that period, I object to the criticism and defend the ’80s at every opportunity. Nevertheless, there was one feature in the early years of that decade that I have always condemned and will continue to denounce: the phenomenon of self-service falafel.
Just in case anyone might have forgotten, along King George Street there were several falafel joints that had counters laden with dozens bowls of salads of all kinds and colors, behind which sat the vendor supplying the customers with empty pitas. The sad results remain indelibly inscribed on my memory: fat, clumsy boys filling up their pitas to the verge of explosion with all the salads and with numerous falafel balls, and then not managing to get their mouths around the resulting monster-snacks; middle-aged cheats eating from their pita and refilling it; girls getting entangled with the tongs, and making do with three balls and two slices of pickle, and so on.
Already then I knew that a falafel joint owner, who trusts his goods to the hands of the public, is a person who does not respect his profession or himself. When you sell falafel you sell a portion, and the professional preparation of a portion is at least as important as the quality of each of the individual ingredients-if not more. Anyone who claims that it is a challenge for the man in the street to prepare a good portion simply doesn’t respect this fine food and the dozens of decent and devoted people who prepare it properly. It’s like walking into a restaurant and being sent into the kitchen to cook, or going go watch Beitar play soccer at Teddy Stadium and being directed to the pitch to play yourself. The self-service falafel was always suspect and indeed, within months, such falafel stalls started disappearing from the city streets. I believe they officially passed away with the closure of the old central bus station in Tel Aviv, where they originated and whence they returned after their total failure.
Only apparently they didn’t completely disappear, and this long prologue on the 80s falafel finally brings us to this week’s review subject: Jerusalem’s Yovel Steak House. This restaurant, which was once infamous nationally thanks to certain secretions directed by some of its less polite workers into its hummus, somehow managed to survive and continue to dominate the center of Kiriyat Hayovel. Its success is especially surprising because it prevails despite being stuck in the “Falafel Middle-Ages.” When I asked for a portion recently, I received a pita with five measly balls and was told to fill up the salads on my own. The tahini bowl was empty, the vegetable salad was full of water, the pickles were from a can, but, as you have probably already realized, that isn’t the point. It was one of the lousiest portions I ate all year.
Bottom line: never buy a falafel from someone who lets you prepare your portion by yourself.