Bintel Blog

Carrots (for Israel's Cabinet) and a Sticks (for the Rest of the Country)

By Nathan Jeffay

So they say that an army marches on its stomach. Is the success of the Israeli cabinet also based on its nourishment?

There are clear similarities between feeding an army and feeding the Israeli cabinet, most obviously the sheer quantity of food required. In Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s panic to pull together a coalition, he doled out ministerial posts left right and center, meaning that the country has the largest cabinet ever.

But it seems that Cabinet Secretary Tzvi Hauser has also taken on the ethos of an army commander, namely that it is his job to keep the troops healthy, even if that means controlling their food intake. As a result, at the weekly cabinet meeting this week, for the second time in a row, ministers were denied their normal snacks. There were no bourekas (savory pastries) or rugelach or even sandwiches, but rather muesli, yogurt and vegetables. Hauser reportedly put a political spin on the decision, saying that “unlike its predecessors this government will serve a full term of four years and I want the ministers to still be capable of standing on their feet.”

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‘Thin Mints, the Rabbi Said, Are His Favorite Girl Scout Cookie’

By Daniel Treiman

News flash: The kosher-certification symbol was inadvertently omitted from boxes for Thin Mints Girl Scout cookies, leading to at least a little bit of confusion. This morsel of news comes to my attention not via Kosher Today, but rather from this Sunday’s New York Times, which devoted a whole news article to the tasty tidbit. And, yes, the text in the title of this post is taken verbatim from this odd little article in the newspaper of record.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Kashrut, Food, Girl Scouts

Lebanon to Israel: Hands Off Our Falafel Balls

By Daniel Treiman

From DPA via Ha’aretz’s Web site:

The president of the Lebanese Industrialists Association Fadi Abboud, said he is preparing to file an international lawsuit against Israel for allegedly “taking the identity of some Lebanese foods” and thus violating a food copyright.

“In a way the Jewish state is trying to claim ownership of traditional Lebanese delicacies like falafel, tabouleh and hummus” Abboud said.

According to Abboud, the Lebanese are losing “tens of millions of dollars annually” because Israel is selling and marketing traditional Lebanese dishes.

“The Israelis are marketing our main food dishes as if they were Israeli dishes,” he charged.

Though it might be tempting, one should not dismiss Abboud’s threats as mere bluster. He’s serious, and he’s citing legal precedent — the “feta cheese precedent.” (I kid you not.)

And while we’re on the topic of lawsuits, I wonder what ever happened with that Egyptian fellow who was threatening to sue the Jewish people for making off with Egypt’s gold during the Exodus. I, for one, have yet to be served with papers.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Falafel, Food, Lebanon

Jennifer 8. Lee Auditions for the Jews

By Daniel Treiman

Jennifer 8. Lee, the New York Times reporter famous for having a number for a name, is promoting her new book, “The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food.” Given the Jewish predilection for a certain East Asian cuisine, Lee decided that she wanted to hit the Jewish book fair circuit.

But first she had to pass muster.

Lee relates on her blog:

So I recently went to Los Angeles for a two-minute audition held by the Jewish Book Council, which coordinates the Jewish Book Network of some 100 Jewish book fairs and events around the country.

It is a combination of speed dating and the gong show or “JDate and a camel auction“, as Rachel Donadio wrote in The New York Times last year. You have two minutes (and they will stand up and pull you off if you exceed that) to charm them. They get a book with your picture and bio in it. (It really is like JDate! One woman even asked me if I were single)

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Food, Jennifer 8. Lee, Sino-Judaica

America’s Biggest Kosher Plant and Largest-Ever Immigration Raid

By Daniel Treiman

Agriprocessors is racking up the records. Its Postville, Iowa, facility was already America’s biggest kosher meat plant. Now, it also can claim to be the site of what federal officials say is the largest immigration raid in U.S. history.

The JTA has some more on the raid. Also, check out the extensive coverage from the Des Moines Register.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Immigration, Food, Agriprocessors, Kashrut

Spitzer on Rye

By Marissa Brostoff

Out-saucing the sauciest New York Post headlines, Eisenberg’s Sandwich Shop, an age-old establishment across Fifth Avenue from the Flatiron Building, brings us…


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Food, Eliot Spitzer

Inflicting the 10 Plagues on Marshmallow Bunnies

By Daniel Treiman

Easter may have come incredibly early this year, and Passover is still nearly four weeks away, but I can thank a clever Flickr user, operating under the moniker “stylecouncil1,” for reminding me of the traditional connection between these two springtime holidays.

A year ago, “stylecouncil1” posted a set of photos — which was only brought to my attention today — reenacting the 10 Plagues using the popular Easter-time marshmallow bunny treats known as “Peeps.” My personal favorite is the reenactment of the plague of frogs.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Food, Passover

N.Y. Magazine Imagines a Warsaw Full of Zaydes, Bagel Innovators

By Alana Newhouse

The normally excellent bloggers over at New York Magazine’s Grub Street reach too quickly for ethnic cutesiness in a post about the everything bagel: “Are we really to believe that the world waited until 1977 for the invention of the everything bagel? Somebody’s zayde in Warsaw is going to be getting a phone call soon.” Not to get too maudlin, but how many American Jews have grandparents still in Warsaw?


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Bagels, Food

Jackie Mason Has Cow Over ‘Kosher Cheeseburger’

By Aram David

Talia’s Steakhouse on New York’s Upper East Side has started serving a “Kosher Parve Cheeseburger,” made with a beef patty and tofu cheese, but according to the New York Post, some observant Jews aren’t salivating over the prospect — including Jackie Mason.

“I would never entertain the thought of eating cheese — real or fake — with meat… It makes me nauseous just thinking about it,” the comedian said.

Rabbi Basil Herring, executive vice president of the Rabbinical Council of America, gave a more serious assessment to the Post:

Jewish law is very concerned for appearances. Not only should you always do the right thing, but it should be seen as the right thing.

Any Jew who keeps kosher knows a cheeseburger is not permissible. But … what happens if a young kid, a 10-year-old, goes in there and says, hmm, maybe cheese on a burger is OK?

Detractors aside, there is apparently a constituency for a kosher cheeseburger. Talia’s owner, Ephraim Nagar, claims he has sold at least 20 of these $5-$8 burgers a night.

Note: Cheeseburger pictured above is not actual “Kosher Parve Cheeseburger” from Talia’s Steakhouse.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Kosher, Food, Cheeseburger

When Sushi Chefs Strike

By Daniel Treiman

First came the day without spring rolls. Now things have escalated into a sushi strike.

Have Israel’s woes no end?

Listen to the BBC’s great audio report here.

Once again, hat tip to Jewschool’s “Rooftopper Rav” for keeping an eye on Israel’s Asian food crisis.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Food

What’s Missing From Jewish Life in Israel? Decent Chinese Food

By Daniel Treiman

Reuters reports:

Asian restaurants across the country went on a one-day spring roll strike on Tuesday in protest over government plans to rid kitchens of foreign chefs, and said sushi and noodles would be the next items off the menu.

The restaurants are angry at the state’s plans to purge Japanese, Chinese and Thai eateries of Asian cooks and replace them with Israelis as part of a broader program to cut the number of foreigners working in Israel.

The Ethnic Restaurant Organization said the country’s 300 Asian restaurants refused to serve spring or egg rolls - among their most popular dishes — on Tuesday, and planned a follow-up strike in two weeks for sushi and noodles.

“Today there is no egg roll and in two weeks time there will be no sushi and noodles,” Arnon Volosky, head of the organization, told Reuters.

But Jewschool’s “Rooftopper Rav” rants that Asian food in Israel already sucks:

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Forget ‘Kosher Cheeseburgers,’ Let’s Focus on Rebuilding the Temple

By Daniel Treiman

Rabbi David Bar-Hayim thinks Israel’s Orthodox Jews are debating the wrong things. By way of example, the rabbi points to a few silly questions that have been posed to him about food:

Whether religious Jews should eat anything that looks non-kosher

Whether the desire for kosher cheeseburgers indicated a character or spiritual flaw

Whether one should eat in a restaurant at all

Whether one should stick to eating “Jewish food”

He points to these narrow arguments about diet as evidence of an “Exilic” mentality that is hostile to innovation and “incapable of providing the intellectual and spiritual leadership necessary for the flowering and growth of Jewish life in Erets Yisrael today.”

So what should Jews be debating? The rabbi has some suggestions:

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Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Temple, Food, Sanhedrin, Orthodoxy

There Goes the Neighborhood: Streit's Looks To Leave Lower East Side

By Daniel Treiman

The recent news that the Streit’s matzo factory is looking to move from its longtime Lower East Side home has received plenty of media attention. After all, it has been a constant presence on the Lower East Side for… Well, it’s not at all clear, from reading press coverage, exactly how long it’s been there.

Intrepid Judaic media watcher Arieh Lebowitz pointed out that various media outlets have offered wildly disparate accounts of when matzo-maker Aron Streit set up shop:

The Canadian Press: “Aron Streit started the business in 1916 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and has expanded it over the years.”

New York Daily News: “”Personally, it’s sad, because these are the halls my grandfather walked,” said Alan Adler, whose great-grandfather, Aron Streit, founded the firm in 1925.”

Gothamist: “Aron Streit founded the matzoh company in 1914, revived it in 1923, and moved it into a red brick building on Rivington St. in Manhattan in 1925.”

New York Sun: “The company was founded in the 1890s by Aron Streit and his wife, Nettie, who emigrated to America from Europe, according to a history of the company on its Web site.”

So which is correct?

This is what the Streit’s Web site has to say:

In the 1890’s, Aron Streit and his wife, Nettie, left Europe and came to America. In 1916, Aron opened his first matzo factory. There, on Pitt Street on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Aron and his first partner Rabbi Weinberger made all their matzo by hand. In 1925, Aron and one of his sons opened up a modern bakery in the same building on Rivington Street where Streit’s stands today. A few years later, Aron’s other son joined the business. With the family working together, the Streit matzo bakery prospered and Aron bought three adjoining buildings to handle the growing business.

Incidentally, the official company logo says: “Streit’s Since 1925.”


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Food, Streit's, Lower East Side, Matzo

The Snack Food That’s Seen Israel Through Trying Times

By Daniel Treiman

The Jerusalem Post tells the story of a typically Israeli munchie:

The year was 2003, and in Israel, the Homefront Command worked to prepare Israelis for Iraqi missiles. Gas masks were issued, and all over the country, people bought heavy plastic sheeting to seal up a room. Everyone shopped for emergency supplies - flashlights, bottled water, milk, sugar, flour, bread - and Bamba.

Bamba, the peanut-flavored snack food, wartime essential? Indeed - on March 27, 2003, the Knesset declared Bamba a vital staple food, meaning that workers at the Bamba factory in Holon would receive call-up orders to produce Bamba, just like soldiers. “We see the Bamba factory as vital, just like a bakery,” said then-Labor Ministry official Nahum Eido.

See the full story, for the full story of Bamba.


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New York's Collective Mouth Watering, Stomach Growling — We Want Our 2nd Ave. Deli!

By Daniel Treiman

The Big Apple has been in a funk ever since the famed 2nd Avenue Deli closed its doors two years ago. Now, as the Forward just reported, it’s set to reopen, on 33rd Street between Lexington and Third Avenue. (It may be a slightly ridiculous location for the 2nd Avenue Deli, but I’m not complaining, since it’s only a block from the Forward’s offices.)

New York Magazine chats with the 25-year-old owner of the altneu restaurant, Jeremy Lebewohl, a nephew of murdered 2nd Avenue Deli founder Abe Lebewohl.

We learn that Jeremy likes gribenes and kishkes and prefers sours to half-sours and pastrami to corn beef. He keeps kosher, so when he wants to check out the competition over at Katz’s, he has to send in his staff to sample the rival pastrami.

Read the full interview here if you want your stomach to be growling in eager anticipation until next week.

Hat tip: Gawker via Aimee Friedman.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Food, 2nd Avenue Deli

Something Rotten in Denmark

By Daniel Treiman

First, there was the violent outrage sparked by a Danish newspaper’s publication of cartoons of the Muhammad. Now, there’s a new Danish target of Muslim discontent: cookies — “Jewish cookies.” Aside from their name, the traditional Danish cookies actually have nothing to do with Jews, but that apparently hasn’t stopped some elements of the Muslim community from hating them, according to this report in the European Jewish Press.

The head of the public food consumer department reportedly said that changing the name of the cinnamon and hazelnut treat is a possible response to the problem.

Denmark’s chief rabbi, Bent Lexner, said he wouldn’t particularly care if the non-kosher cookies had a name change, but added he would prefer that the views of the cookies’ detractors change instead: “There is nothing Jewish in it and I wouldn’t mind another name, but I think that it would be better to educate Muslims to respect the culture of the majority in Denmark, if they want the majority to respect their culture”.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Food, Denmark




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