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Zev Farber
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Standing up to Big Pita in the holy land

In search of a good explanation for why my local shawarma place won't plate my meat with veg and hold the bread
Illustrative. Shawarma from Shauli's. (Facebook)
Illustrative. Shawarma from Shauli's. (Facebook)

We’ve all heard of “Big Pharma” and “Big Sugar,” but these are not the only large conglomerates throwing their weight around in this world. I’ve uncovered another, sinister market-power giant, at least in Israel. I will call it, “Big Pita.”

Let me give you some context. Recently, I adjusted my eating habits, and that includes going low on carbs. As part of this, I needed to find sources of nourishment that are not of the sandwich, pasta, or french-fry variety (OK, I still eat french-fries, but I’m on the “chill” post-diet part of the diet now).

One day, I enter Shauli’s, the local shawarma joint in Zikhron Yaakov, right by the midrechov, where I live.

“How much for a plate of shawarma?” I ask.

Shauli’s guy: “70 shekels.”

Me: “How much is a pita with shawarma?”

Shauli’s guy: “43 shekels.”

Me: “So you are charging me for not eating a pita?”

Shauli’s guy: “Well, we put more meat on the plate than in the pita.”

Me: “Fair enough. So how about you just give me the amount of shawarma that goes in a pita, but on the plate.”

Shauli’s guy: “I don’t understand.”

Me: “I am asking for a pita of shawarma, hold the pita.”

Shauli’s guy: “I don’t think I can do that.”

At this point, the manager comes out and asks what is going on. The cash-register/order-taking guy tries to explain, and the manager says: “Sure, no problem.” (Little did he know.)

This situation lasts about a week or two, but one day, Big Pita put his giant, high-carb/low nutrient foot down.

Me: “I’ll have the usual pita-amount-of-meat, hold the pita.”

“I’m sorry, chabibi (=buddy),” says Shauli’s guy, ashen-faced. “Word came from Higher Up. They know about your orders. They say we can’t do that anymore. It’s against policy.”

Me: “I see.”

So I leave in a huff and go to the local 20-flavor schnitzel store down the block, believing that my non-order of shawarma for lunch will bring the whole chain of Shauli’s shawarma stores to its knees before I even finish my chicken.

Me (at schnitzel store): “How much for a plate of schnitzel?”

Schnitzel guy: “45 shekels.”

Me: “But a schnitzel sandwich is only 35 shekels.”

Schnitzel guy: “Right.”

Me: “So it costs me 10 shekels to reject the baguette?”

Schnitzel guy: “No, but the schnitzels that go on the plate are bigger.”

Me: “You’re saying that you carry the exact same 17 (not 20 as advertised, mind you) flavors of schnitzel, but they come in small sandwich-type schnitzel and jumbo-plate schnitzel?”

Schnitzel guy: “Exactly.”

I give him a skeptical look, but give in. I’m hungry, after all, and already made a scene in Shauli’s, so I’m running out of options. He brings out my plate with what looks to me to be the same sized chicken I always get, though maybe the lack of bread makes them look smaller? I don’t know. Anyway, I suspect Big Pita is behind this no-bread penalty payment.

Now that I know what I am up against, I’m smarter the next time I go out for shawarma.

“How much was that shawarma with pita again?” I say with a shrewd smile.

Shauli’s guy: “43 shekels.” He is sweating; where am I going with this he wonders (maybe he wasn’t that invested in my process, but I’m the one telling the story).

Me: “43 shekels is fine. Can I get a pita with shawarma, but only the meat in the pita.”

Shauli’s guy: “Do you want salads and chips [=fries]?”

Me: “Yes, but on the side.”

Shauli’s guy: “What about the humus?”

Me: “Can you also put that on the side, please?”

Shauli’s guy smiles. “Ah,” he says, as the lightbulb flashes in his mind. He can see it all now, the scheming on my part, sticking it to the Big Pita Man. He smiles at my brilliant connivance, respecting me for standing up to Big Pita.

So, he fills my pita with meat to the brim (do pitas have brims?), and gives me a bunch of little bowls for salad, and a gollolop of humus in its own bowl.

I thank him, head to my usual table, dump the meat on the tray, chuck the pita (though I wrap it first, so as not to set off any in-trash alarm bells installed by Big Pita LLC.) and proceed to enjoy my meal.

They’ll never take me alive.

About the Author
Dr. Rabbi Zev Farber is a research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute's Kogod Center. He is also the senior editor of TheTorah.com and a novelist (writing as Z. I. Farber).
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