The Jew And The Carrot

Michelle Bernstein’s Watermelon Salad

By Michelle Bernstein

Michelle Bernstein’s Watermelon Salad

Adapted from ‘Fried & True’ by Lee Schrager With Adeena Sussman

Ingredients

1 1-3/4-pound wedge watermelon, rind removed and cut into medium dice (about 4 cups)

2 large beefsteak tomatoes (1 1/4 pounds), seeded and cut into small dice (about 2 cups)

1 large English hothouse cucumber (3/4 pound), peeled and cut into small dice

1 cup crumbled feta cheese

2 tbsp torn dill, uncut

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 pinch garlic powder

1 pinch onion powder

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. In a large bowl combine the watermelon, tomato, cucumber, feta, and dill

  2. In a small bowl whisk the oil, vinegar, garlic powder and onion powder; season with salt and pepper to taste

  3. Drizzle half the vinaigrette over the salad and toss very gently

  4. Add the remaining dressing to taste and gently toss again


Yotam Ottolenghi's Seeded Chicken Schnitzel

By Yotam Ottolenghi

Yotam Ottolenghi’s Seeded Chicken Schnitzel with Parsley-Caper Mayonnaise

Adapted from ‘Fried & True’ by Lee Schrager With Adeena Sussman

For the parsley and caper mayonnaise

1 large egg yolk

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

3/4 cup sunflower oil

1/2 teaspoon sugar

2 cups loosely packed parsley leaves, chopped

1 tablespoon salt-packed capers

For the chicken

4 skinless chicken breast halves (about 1 1/2 lbs. total), each piece cut into 3 long strips

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs

3 tablespoons white sesame seeds

2 tablespoons black sesame seeds (or extra white, if not available)

2 tablespoons flaxseed

2 tablespoons sunflower seeds, roughly chopped

1 1/2 tablespoons coriander seeds, roughly crushed

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1/3 cup sunflower oil

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Does Vegan Mean Healthy?

By Molly Oberstein-Allen

When I decided to go vegan this past February, I expected to feel healthier and to have a clearer conscience regarding my dietary and shopping choices. I found that while it was easier to eat food that technically fit the requirements of being vegan than I had imagined, it did not always mean more healthful or ethical food. While one can be mindfully vegan, it is also easy to eat a lot of unhealthy and unethical foods that don’t contain animal byproducts such as Oreos. I also found myself eating much more soy than I previously had, which made me bloated and gassy. Of course, I could have taken the time and effort to plan a more conscientious diet, as friends of mine have, but I most often found it easier to take the easy way out and go along enjoying my tofu-wrapped Oreos stuffed with Twizzlers.

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My First Real Fourth of July — and Plum Cobbler

By Nora Cohen

I am 23 years old but this year marks my first real Fourth of July.

You may be wondering what ‘real’ means. Well, in 2000 my family emigrated from my home country Venezuela to the United States. Fourteen years of paper work later, I am proud to say that I am celebrating my first Independence Day as an American citizen!

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Travel Channel Cancels Adam Richman's New Show

By Rachel X. Landes

Jewish Brooklynite and TV foodie, Adam Richman of “Man v. Food” may need to find a new network. His new show, Man Finds Food, was supposed to start July 2, but has since been indefinitely postponed by the Travel Channel in the wake of an instragram controversy over body image.

Earlier this month, Richman lost 70 lbs after struggling with his weight since the start of Man v. Food, and posed for Cosmopolitan UK. June 20th, he posted a picture on Instagram of himself in a pair of ill-fitting suit pants with the caption, “Had ordered this suit from a Saville Row tailor over a year ago. Think I’m gonna need to take it in a little… #thinspiration.”

The post has since been deleted, but not before the critical comments began. Here’s a screenshot, courtesy of Grubstreet:

Fellow Instagrammers quickly noted that “thinspiration” also was the favored hashtag on po-anorexia blogs and by others proud of eating disorders.

In response to the negative comments, Richman lashed back. “Grab a razor blade and draw a bath. I doubt anyone will miss you,” he told one commentator.

To another, he said, “Give me a f—king break. If anyone acts like a c—t I’ll call them one. It’s not misogyny, it’s calling a spade a spade… If my use of the hashtag offended you, it was unintentional & for that I’m sorry.”

Later that day, he responded via Twitter, “Yes. I’ve responded to the internet hate recently with vile words directed at those hating me. I am sorry, I should know better & will do better.”

This tweet was later deleted, but Richman later said in a written apology on Good Morning America, “I’ve long struggled with my body image and have worked very hard to achieve a healthy weight. I’m incredibly sorry to everyone I’ve hurt.”

So far, there is no premiere date for “Man Finds Food.”


Adam Fleischman's Chocolate Fried Chicken

By Rachel X. Landes

ChocoChicken’s chocolate fried chicken and duckfat fries. // Twitter/KristieHang

Looking for a new way to eat all-American food on Independence Day? Try any of Adam Fleischman’s restaurants.

Who is he, you ask? Why, the founder of the famous Umami Burger, of course!

In 2009, Umami Burger was a single burger joint on La Brea Avenue, in Los Angeles. Since then, the chain has exploded to more than 20 locations in New York, Florida and California. After his first year in business, he had four restaurants that garnered him about 1 million dollars a month.

When Umami Burger opened in New York City, the line curved around the block.

Known for its gourmet burgers like the Truffle Burger, with house-made truffle cheese and glaze, the Hatch Burger, with four types of green chilies and house cheese, and the Umami Burger, with Parmesan crisp, shiitake mushrooms and house ketchup, Umami Burger has revolutionized burgers. “When I created the Umami burger, I wanted a forward-looking burger,” Fleischman said in an interview. “I wanted a burger that was global and that had all sorts of modern influences.”

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Deer in the (Jewish) Headlights

By Ben Harris

Thinkstock

Countless anxieties attended the planning for my first season farming. Losing my entire crop to deer was not among them.

Neither of the Northeastern farms where I had worked previously worried much about these herbivores. One farm was large and could keep losses from deer to a minimum with a shotgun. The other was on a main street in a semi-suburban environment where the deer pressure was fairly low. In both cases, a sort of Cold War stalemate prevailed. There were occasional border skirmishes and the requisite resort to arms. Losses were incurred on both sides, but never at catastrophic levels. The balance of power always prevailed.

But from the moment I began working our fields, I’ve gotten hints that we shouldn’t be nearly so casual. Connecticut is deer country. One of our towns gave its name to a disease borne by deer ticks. Neighbors would shoot me dubious looks when I shrugged in response to questions about my deer control strategy. Nonspecific references were made to a lost pumpkin crop a few years back.

One farmer a few towns over advised me in May to stop my planting and focus all my energies on protecting what I already had. If I had to do it all over again, he told me, I would invest in some serious fencing. I ignored him.

Even the deer tracks I’d notice each morning in our freshly plowed beds weren’t enough to light a fire. The tracks would pass by beautiful, tender green leaves that were left entirely unmolested. They were toying with me, I would say, waiting for the moment of perfect delectability before they decimated the whole crop. I didn’t really believe it was so, but somewhere in back of my mind I feared it might be.

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Greens and God: Finding Judaism in a CSA

By Nora Cohen

Jenna Smith

White Russian kale, Swiss chard, bok choy, mustard greens, Chinese cabbage, cherriette radishes, and garlic chives fill my grocery bags. Delivered from the Northern Catskills to Lower Manhattan, this vegetable share is the beginning of my CSA experience in the city. I begin washing the bunches of greens, excited for the first flavors of the summer. Muddy water runs from the leaves into the sink.

Standing there in my studio in the middle of Manhattan, I can’t help but think about the farmer who planted these vegetables, the laborer who picked them, and their short journey from the farm to my counter. As an urbanite isolated from the food system that sustains me, and as a Jew with the Shmita year in the horizon, I cannot help but to draw connections between my participation in a CSA and my religion.

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Injured Fan Says Stadium Hot Dog Toss Not Kosher

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) — This lawsuit may cut the mustard.

A longtime baseball fan has persuaded the Missouri Supreme Court to revive his negligence lawsuit against the Kansas City Royals over a detached retina he claimed to suffer when a hot dog tossed by the baseball team’s mascot struck him in the face.

The court said the trial judge erred by letting jurors consider whether being struck by a hot dog was one of the inherent risks of attending a baseball game. It said this was a question of law that the judge should have decided.

John Coomer said he was struck during a hot dog launch, a regular feature of Royals games in which the mascot Sluggerrr either threw or used an air gun to shoot hot dogs to fans from the roof of the visiting team’s dugout.

Coomer claimed to have seen 175 Royals games before the Sept. 8, 2009, incident at Kauffman Stadium. He had moved near the dugout to get a better seat after rain thinned the crowd.

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Israel's 12 Sweetest Treats — And Where To Find Them

By Rotem Maimon

Photo by David Silverman

(Haaretz)— Israel has made great strides in the numbers of patisseries and boulangeries that have opened here, and many of the top pastry chefs have honed their craft abroad, but is there such a thing as a real Israeli dessert? We asked chefs from 12 leading restaurants to describe their most Israeli desserts. Taste and decide for yourself.

1) Catit

The dessert: olive oil sable, blood orange crème, ginger crème, tapioca tuile, buttermilk foam, rose petals and hibiscus dust, olive oil and white chocolate ice cream.

Pastry chef Hila Perry: “The olive oil is Israeli, as is the citrus – the blood orange – that surrounds it. And the buttermilk always reminds me of that childhood treat, Daniela whipped pudding, in its best form.”


2) Herbert Samuel in Herzliya (kosher):

The dessert: Mount Bracha tahini. Tahini sorbet, espresso granite, sesame tuile.

Pastry chef Shlomi Palensya: “We wanted something Israeli that would fit the rules of kashrut and also appeal to tourists. We started with a tahini sorbet then we thought ‘What would make it more interesting?’ So we made a sesame tuile and added coffee granite, and it immediately became one of our signature dishes.”

Photo by David Silverman


3) Kitchen Market:

The dessert: Israeli cheesecake with black olives, strawberries and yogurt sorbet

Pastry chef Yossi Sheetrit: “This cheesecake is something you can find in any Israeli household, except that we’ve added a little twist. The flavors are very Israeli: cheese, olives and olive oil.”

Photo by David Silverman


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Summer Camp Coffee Cake

By Jennifer Stempel

This recipe originally appeared on The Nosher. For weekly recipes, sign up here.

Like so many of my peers, Jewish summer camp played an integral role in my Jewish identity. It’s where I developed my appreciation for Israeli dancing, a deep respect for my surroundings in nature, and not to be outdone, my love of Shabbat breakfast.

Every Saturday morning, before all the campers joined for services, we’d convene in the dining hall for a plentiful feast of crumbly and perfectly spiced coffee cake. It wasn’t elaborate, but it sure was special, and it was certainly on the list of things I looked forward to year after year as I awaited summer’s arrival. If I ever longed for a little taste of home while I was at camp, I just had to wait until the end of the week, since the combination of cinnamon and sugar in the crumb topping would remind anyone of home. Because of this experience and because it only gets better the day after it is baked, to me, coffee cake is synonymous with Shabbat morning, summer vacation or not.

Of course, as an adult, summer camp is no longer really in the cards for me anymore. These days, when we get through hiking the trails of all the nearby national forests, my husband and I long for a more tropical getaway. Since our next vacation seems light years away, I came up with a recipe inspired by my Cuban heritage that will be sure to satisfy until we can get ourselves to the nearest island.

With its taste of the tropics, my Pineapple Coconut Coffee Cake hits the spot for a Shabbat morning treat. It has the cinnamon and sugar that I always remember from my camp days, but its layer of crushed pineapple adds a mild zing and just the touch needed to keep this cake moist for days. The coconut added to the crumb layer, suggested by my friend Dolly, acts as a tropical kiss and adds a nice crunch.

Next time you’re in the mood for a reminder of Shabbat mornings at camp, or you’re longing for a quick getaway, try a bite of this coffee cake, and you won’t be disappointed.

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Spreading the (Chocolate and Sesame) Love

By Shannon Sarna

(JTA) — I love all things that involve chocolate, sesame or taste like halva. Nevertheless I was skeptical when Soom Foods wanted to send me a jar of their Chocolate Sesame Butter. I have nutella already, and I like it just fine. But try it I did. And so did my two year old. Let me say: I am totally in love. It is rich, a little salty and I like to pretend its super healthful since sesame is supposedly so good for you.

I didn’t have a chance yet to bake it into anything yummy, but I am sure it would go great inside rugelach or make a fabulous frosting on cake. I did have time to try it out in a post-workout smoothie and it was divine. The result was a chocolatey, slightly savory smoothie that really satisfied my craving for a milk shake.

But perhaps our favorite way to eat it was right out of the jar on slices of apple or mini pretzels as an afternoon snack.

And now through June 30 Soom Foods is running a “From the Jar” contest to feature their fans’ photos eating the chocolate sesame spread straight from the jar. You can enter on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter by using the hashtag #fromthejar with a photo of yourself or someone you love eating Soom Chocolate Sesame Butter straight from the jar. So go ahead, get messy and have fun with those pics.

You can also check out Soom Foods’ full line of products and order straight from Amazon.

Chocolate Sesame Banana Smoothie

Ingredients

1 cup ice

1-2 Tbsp Soom Foods chocolate sesame spread

1/2 banana

1/2 cup lowfat milk

1 scoop chocolate protein powder (optional)

Directions

Place all ingredients in a blender. Pulse until desired smoothness.

Serve cold with a straw.


Caplansky's Serves Up Beer With Pickle on Rye

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Zane Caplansky shows off his new beer in his eponymous Toronto deli./Renee Ghert-Zand

Forget the lime wedge or orange slice. This beer comes with a pickle garnish.

Caplansky’s Delicatessen in Toronto has introduced its own brew, called Deli King Spiced Dark Rye Lager, and it really does taste better accompanied by a sour dill.

This is not only because the beer is brewed with rye (in addition to barley). It’s also because it is flavored by the proprietary brisket rub deli man Zane Caplansky uses to make his delicious smoked meat (sort of like a deli sandwich in a bottle).

“The vinegar of the pickle cuts across the hoppiness of the beer,” Caplansky told the Forward, referring to a lager’s bitter, tangy taste. “And in any case, garnishing a beer with a pickle just goes with the chutzpah and humor I’m known for.”

Although some diners might order a beer to go with their deli sandwich, most people do not usually associate Jewish delicatessens with alcoholic beverages. Many delis are not even licensed to sell them, and even at Caplansky’s, which has been licensed since its opening, most patrons ask for a dark cherry soda or gingerale.

“Newsflash: Jews don’t drink!” Caplansky, 46, said with tongue in cheek. In fact, two years after the deli opened, he moved the bar to the back of the restaurant so that the meat slicing station could be in a more prominent position.

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Sex, Violence — and Veggies

By Ben Harris

Thinkstock

Last night, the rubber finally met the road.

After months of work and worry, catastrophes averted and triumphs achieved, we took eight kinds of vegetables out of the ground, washed and packed them into boxes, loaded them onto a truck and delivered them to our 42 CSA members.

(JTA) — Just before 5 p.m. I pulled my hulking wreck of a truck into my parents’ driveway — the same truck that two days earlier had adamantly refused to start unless I sank another hundred bucks into its rusting pile — and unloaded. Over the next three hours, a procession of folks I had never met arrived, signed their names to a sheet of paper and took home lettuce heads, cilantro, radishes, kale, collards, swiss chard and kohlrabi. This is the end to which all that backbreaking work was intended.

It was awesome, and I felt like a conquering hero. I had spent most of the afternoon sweating like a pig in the greenhouse trellising tomatoes, some of them neglected for so long they were nearly prone. My hands were covered with sticky black-green tomato resin, and I must have stank something terrible, though truth to be told I was too far past the boundary of socially acceptable cleanliness to even know. I must have looked like a man returning home from war with arms full of bounty — if that war was fought on a battlefield of stalks and suckers.

As I noted last week, the war metaphor isn’t too far off. We love to imagine our farms and gardens are these serene venues of communion with the ephemeral, and under the right circumstances, of course, they can be. But look closer and you’ll see arenas of sex and death, everything struggling to perpetuate its genes before the short window of Northeast heat ends or the farmer-executioner comes along with a stirrup hoe, at which point their decaying body becomes food for the survivors still in the fight. It’s a beautiful thing — you know, the circle of life and all — but there’s an undercurrent of violence.

The battle last week was focused on little flying insects. This week, I’m focused on something even more insidious: Grass.

Three months ago, our fields were covered in a thick carpet of sod. A half-dozen passes with heavy machinery did quick work of that. But grass is not an easily subdued foe. Leave a patch untended for too long and it comes roaring back — little snippets at first that aren’t hard to ignore, but then the tsunami comes. Some stretches of the field now look welcoming enough to take an afternoon nap in.

I imagine our 42 members will spend their weekend chopping salad greens and shredding kohlrabi in scenes worthy of Martha Stewart. I’ll be on my hands and knees battling. And smiling.

Veteran JTA journalist Ben Harris is chronicling his new life as a Connecticut farmer. Read more of his weekly dispatches here.


A Food Lover's Farewell To the Forward

By Devra Ferst

Martyna Starosta

Shabbat dinner was a staple of my childhood — complete with sweet kiddush wine, freshly baked challah and friends around the table. But instead of the traditional chicken, kugel and tzimmes, our dinner menu was grilled fish, roasted vegetables and melon. Classic Ashkenazi or “bubbe fare” rarely graced our table. Brisket was reserved for holidays and my grandmother’s ever so light gefilte fish was prepared once a year — on Passover.

I came to Jewish food through the Forward. For the past three plus years I have edited nearly every piece of food content that we have published. I learned how to make gefilte fish from the Gefilteria, the trade secrets of New York’s best matzo ball soups and how to fry a perfect Israeli-style schnitzel. Through our Shabbat Meals series, I was able to pull up a chair to countless Shabbat dinners hosted by our writers around the world, hear about their customs and learn their family recipes. I watched modern Jewish food flourish and Israeli food really start to come into its own. While I have loved many of the food articles in the Forward, below is a list of my all time favorites.

This week is my last at the Forward before I join Eater NY as the associate editor. It has been a delicious honor to work as the Forward’s food editor and one that surely would not have been possible without my exceptional colleagues and a passionate and talented team of freelancers. I hope you will stay in touch and send me your holiday cooking questions at @devraferst.

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A Letter to My Jewish Baby

By Leah Koenig

Kurt Hoffman

Sometime in early August, if all goes as expected, I will become a mom. Naturally, I am filled with excitement. But I also have my fears and doubts — particularly about becoming a stereotypical Jewish mother. As a food writer, the Jewish mom’s obsessive desire to push food onto loved ones cuts closest to the proverbial bone. Does my impending motherhood predestine me to start uttering phrases like: “Let me take your coat. Have some noodles!”?

Fortunately, the dynamics of parenthood and Jewish identity in America have changed significantly since, Philip Roth and Woody Allen vaulted the mythically overbearing Jewish mother into public consciousness. And while I hope to be a part of that change, I cannot deny that I have wants for my baby, particularly when it comes to food — in the kitchen, at the table and beyond. So, while I’m still eating for two, I wanted to set out a few of those hopes, intentions and promises.

May you have a positive relationship with food.

Child, you don’t know this yet, but I suspect you will learn that modern Jews have a complicated, relationship with food. The “Eat, eat, you’re wasting away!” mentality of your great-bubbe’s generation persists. But, when I was little, another approach to food arose: The Jewish mother who fixated on weight, who pushed her children to reach an ideal of thinness, who shamed, judged and controlled through food.

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The 4 Best Bagels in Oakland

By Hannah Rubin

Avocados and burritos be warned: bagels (yes, bagels) are hitting Oakland by storm. In just the past two years, Oakland has seen four independent bagelries open their doors, to much success. And demand is only growing (these are the people, may I remind you, who waited for hours in the balmy rain this past March for just a bite of a freshly fed-exed New York bagel).

At first, it seemed an unlikely pairing — breezy, light California cuisine with the dense, nutrient-deficient Jewish bread of my youth. But, after allowing the San Francisco sourdough starter dough to fully permeate my taste buds, and (begrudgingly) accepting the more compact (read: too small), I’ve started to get quite a kick out of these California not-quite-bagels.

It is quite amazing actually — these Cali bagels manage to be somehow both overwhelming in their density and mouth-feel, yet also underwhelming in their flavor and size. Which isn’t to say that they are explicitly bad, just somehow lacking something. The grittiness of New York, perhaps? But, I’ll take what I can get. Especially on those homesick weekend mornings, when the sun is shining a little too brightly and people are smiling a little too happily for the anxious New Yorker in me to bear. So I present you with the four best home-made bagel spots Oakland has to offer.

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Korean BBQ Meets Latkes at a Baltimore Pop-Up

By Michael Kaminer

Courtesy of Hersh’s

It must be a first for Baltimore: An Asian-Jewish culinary mashup, courtesy of an Italian joint and a hip local coffee shop.

Siblings Stephanie and Josh Hershkovitz, who own Hersh’s pizzeria in downtown Baltimore, are teaming with Phil Han, the Korean-American owner of sleek new cafe Dooby’s, on a June 19 Jew-sian Mashup pairing Han’s Korean barbecue with Hersh’s potato latkes. “It’s what happens when two Jews and a Japanese-influenced Korean walk into a bar,” enthuses Hersh’s web site.

“We started talking to Phil when he ate at our restaurant one night, and the idea was born,” said Stephanie Hershkovitz, a former lawyer who switched gears to food after decamping to her hometown from Brooklyn. “Phil’s place serves coffee, but with Asian influences. My brother and I are Jewish. And it just sounded like fun to put his Korean barbecue on our latkes,” which Hersh’s usually serves over Hanukkah.

Highlights of the evening’s menu will include pork-belly-stuffed Asian buns with house-made kimchi; corned beef sliders using Dooby’s brioche buns and Hersh’s meat, served with Japanese hot mustard; and noodle kugel topped with kimchi and spicy bean salad.

All of it will get washed down with brews from Union Craft Brewing, a Baltimore brand whose creators are Josh’s old Hebrew-school friends. Stephanie said she expects to sell all 40 seats for the event. “We have a fair amount of regular customers on the guest list, and I’d say most of them are not Jewish,” she said.

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Katz's Deli in Florida? Fuggedaboudit!

By Michael Kaminer

Katz’s Deli is going for seconds.

Three months after suing a New York City food truck called Katz & Dogz for allegedly infringing on its good name, Katz’s Deli is back in court, filing a suit against the other Katz’s Delicatessen — you know, the one in Deerfield Beach, Florida. Never heard of it? Neither had we until this week.

“This hadn’t happened in years, and now we’ve got two in three months,” lamented Jake Dell, the third-generation owner of the original — and true — Katz’s. “We’ve had a pretty well-protected trademark for a long time, and it covers just about all variations of Katz’s.”

Katz’s in Deerfield uses katzs-deli as its web address and its menu is a “total ripoff” of Katz’s in New York, Dell said. There’s “Katz’s Famous Salami” at $11.99 a pound, (though no mention about of whether you can send it to ‘Your Boy in the Army’ as Katz’s slogan has kibitzed since WWII). There’s also “Matzo brie” ($4.89) and sandwiches like the “Henney Youngman” — a straight-up Reuben — for $11.75. The Florida spot also offers baked ham and cheese hero sandwiches and a BLT — things you’d never find at Katz’s on Houston.

A lawsuit was a last resort, according to Dell, who told the Forward his pleas to Florida Katz’s went unanswered. “I told them, ‘Look, I’d rather not to go courts or pay a lawyer. I’ll give you the benefit of doubt and offer you a month to change the name’,” Dell said. “They never got back to me, and when they finally did, they just kept delaying.”

The name “has confused a lot of people,” said Dell, whose official Katz’s title is “Top Dog.” A local Fort Lauderdale website reported last month: “The bad news is that it’s not related to the original Katz’s Deli in New York; it’s owned by a dude named Bruce Falaski.”

Photo: Katz’s Deli, Deerfield Beach.


Bagels Are Jewish. But Schmear? Not So Much

By Dafna Arad

(Haaretz) — In the popular American imagination, cream cheese is inextricably linked to the old Jewish man selling it in a deli. But in fact, cream cheese is not an Eastern European product brought to America by Jewish immigrants, but a homegrown American product developed by a non-Jew. Oh, and Philadelphia cream cheese is really from New York.

Cream cheese’s non-Jewish past was uncovered by Rabbi Jeffrey Marx, leader of a Santa Monica synagogue for the past 28 years, and ever since his research was published, a sought-after speaker and radio interviewee whose infectious passion for the subject makes a listener hunger for a bite of New York cheesecake. “People laugh when they hear what I’m going to talk about,” says Marx. “’Cream cheese? What’s so interesting about that?’” But it’s a wonderful way to tell the story of Jewish immigration to America, he says. Although Jews didn’t bring cream cheese from Europe, they adopted it as soon as they could afford it. In a reverse cultural process, Jews took it from the Yankees and Protestants, made it Jewish and returned it to America, Marx explains.

For years, Jewish historians in America have been trying to answer the question of how Eastern European immigrants came off the boat penniless and within a generation had entered the comfortable middle class, Marx continues. How did they do this so quickly, or is that just a legend? He decided to investigate the story of two brothers who came from Lithuania, Joseph and Isaac Breakstone, distant relatives of his, who opened a dairy in America. In the course of Marx’s research, he was told by various descendants of the brothers that it was they who originally brought cream cheese to America. Inspired to look further, he investigated and found out that this was not correct. “So I decided to write a footnote about cream cheese to say where it actually was invented. Six years later, the footnote was a whole article. In the process, I learned about cheese-making, about factory design, about the cheese market in the nineteenth century and how cream cheese was considered a fancy product for the upper class.”

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