Sandra McDonagh
Vegan / writer / blogger

Forever La Bamba!

Vegan Bamba Snacks (illustration by Sandra Mcdonagh)

IYKYK, meaning If you know you know, is a saying that is used a lot at the moment. It refers to something spoken or written about, being either a private joke or something only very few people know about.

Back in the day, living in the UK this saying would have very much applied to my perfectly formed bag of Bamba.

For those who still haven’t discovered the delights of Bamba, I will make it my mission to try and describe to you as accurately as I can what this blog is essentially all about.

Bamba was first produced in 1964 and manufactured by an Israeli company called Osem. They are little puffed maize/corn crisps, each one superbly covered in an ever so slightly moist layer of peanut butter, pillowy light yet crunchy and crispy all at the same time, they also happen to be vegan. Of course, to appreciate this delicacy you would have to start out as a lover of peanuts but the moorish taste left behind in one’s mouth after consuming just one, makes it virtually impossible not to finish the pack.

I personally associate these little heavenly snacks with fond memories of my maternal grandmother who I would visit and stay with at her home in Israel. Even all these years later I can recall the very first time she served me up my very first golden puff. I was young, maybe five or six, fresh faced and full of the joys that life had to offer and I loved my grandma, I mean truly loved her from the depths of my soul. She was my mother figure and I felt safe and happy in her company. She introduced me to many wonderful things over the years, Bamba being just one of them.

We were on a walk through Dizengoff  (named after Meir Dizengoff, the first mayor of Tel- Aviv), it is one of the most predominant streets in Tel Aviv, and it was very different back then. My grandmother was a very sociable woman who had a large group of friends. Every morning she would meet a few of her female pals at her favourite cafe. This particular morning we were heading to do just that.

Being so young, I didn’t find sitting at a cafe listening to my grandmother talking to her friends both in Polish and Hebrew enjoyable. To be frank it bored me to tears but grandma loved having me with her and being from a certain generation, felt it was a good thing to immerse me in cafe society from a young age.

She of course plied me with a few items she felt might make the whole affair less of an endurance test. I had with me a doll I had chosen from a toyshop the day before. She had silky red hair and I loved running her tresses through my fingers and feeling the synthetic strings glide gently down my hand, but it was her second offering of ‘hush money’ so to speak that really did the trick. Unbeknown to me, also residing in her oversized handbag, was a smaller bag of something that was about to change my life forever.

As I sat in my chair sipping on my glass of coke watching the world go by and stroking my dolls hair, grandma suddenly pulled out a packet from her bag like some sort of magician. She prized it open and gave it to me, my hands dipped in to retrieve what was inside and as I pulled out the peanut covered nugget and placed it in my mouth, savouring the unusual but delectable flavour, I realised I had just discovered my new favourite food.

I associate Bamba with happy days in Israel and time spent with my beloved grandma. Nowadays I don’t eat them very much at all, but the memories they evoke when I do allow a few of them back into my life are priceless. Fast forward many years later and I even remember first introducing my husband and then my children to these very special snacks.

The smell alone of a freshly cracked packet of these corn puffs  immediately takes me back to the sunny warm days I spent in 1970s Tel Aviv. Today these crisps are readily available in most UK supermarkets and there are even other brands mimicking them.

For me there will only ever be Bamba and I stay loyal to that, on those occasions when I miss my grandma I think to myself just how much I would love to bring back those Bamba days.

About the Author
Hi, I'm Sandra McDonagh (nee Schwarz), and i am a writer. Originally from London, I am now living in Brighton by the sea. Married with three children and vegan for the last twelve years. I have just written my debut book all about my great-grandmother Dora Schwarz, a pioneer and trailblazer of the vegan, vegetarian and raw food diet. Dora Schwarz ran a very successful health sanatorium in Zichron Yaakov, Israel in the 1930s through to the 1960s.
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