Even before its planned July 17 launch in Phoenix, KC Kosher Co-op — which delivers bulk discount kosher goods in 17 cities — is ruffling feathers. Since its 2007 debut, the business has expanded into cities with limited kosher availability but significant Jewish populations, including Las Vegas, Columbus, Ann Arbor, Savannah, Raleigh, and Boca Raton. Though kosher co-ops of varying size have done business across the country for years, KC is the only national operation of its kind with a full-service online operation.
As the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix reported last week, Phoenix kosher consumers have hailed the co-op’s arrival. But the city’s kosher merchants are feeling threatened – and some local rabbis have even framed the co-op’s imminent arrival as an ethical issue. “This kind of enterprise… is at the expense of something else, which has long-term consequences,” Rabbi David Rebibo, head of the Greater Phoenix Vaad Hakashruth, told the Jewish News. “We have a certain moral obligation to be conscious of this potential damage that we can do to someone.”
It is commonly remarked that the best lies told are those that contain some truth. And so it often seems to be with the argument, which returns like the tides every few years, that shechitah, kosher ritual slaughter, is intrinsically inhumane. That it stands apart from the modern, civilized form of animal slaughter the rest of the world engages in and that this dark, antiquated and backwards practice must be brought into the light and abolished by right-thinking, morally upright persons of conscience.
The most recent foray into this field, by James McWilliams, makes some excellent arguments that seem simple and logical to the common man. This would seem to point to his overall conclusion, that kosher slaughter is “gruesome” being true. While it is certainly true, and sad, that kosher slaughter, like any slaughter can be gruesome, it is by no means inherent to the details of kashrut. McWilliam’s sullies his valid points by mixing them with half-truths and assumptions.
The beginning of June was busy in the Greater Boston area — garlic plants sent their scapes into the air, rainbow chard darkened their multi-color stalks and a whole slew of salad greens begged to be harvested. Intoxicated with the potential energy of fresh produce, New England provided an enchanting background to engage in matters of Jewish sustainability and food systems issues.
This is the environment in which the Jewish Farm School and Hebrew College hosted a one-week intensive course called “To Till and To Tend.” The course aimed to focus on sustainable agriculture, food justice and the Jewish tradition through a hands-on, skill-building week. In the mornings, we worked at the day’s chosen organic farm or urban garden and posed a number of questions to the farms’ managers: How did you become interested in farming? Why are we planting strawberry plants? Where are these lettuce heads being donated? What’s it like being a woman in a male-dominated field? What is this?!
Once upon a time in the 90’s, I pitted my first quart of sour cherries looking out on the woods. We were a shaggy group of New York artsy types: half in Birkenstocks, the others in boots. There on the back porch of a summer cottage named Ravina, I wondered about how those bright red cherries had traveled from an orchard in the Catskills to the Union Square Greenmarket in New York City then back up to the Catskills to this cabin to be among trees again.
I used a wine bottle for a rolling pin. My efforts to remove the pits with my Swiss army knife resulted in a bowl of muddled fruit and stained fingers. The antique oven only had two settings: “off” and “burn.” My friends used words like “rustic” and “charming” to describe that first pie, but truly it was a mess. One of us had left some wet paintings out near the bug zapper and that was cause for greater visual admiration than that first pie out of the oven. But when I scooped the warm chunks of pie onto our plates after dinner, the combination of the sweet juices, bitter-tart cherries, and the tender, buttery crust ceased all the banter and apologies. I saw my life in that bowl of mangled cherries.
A Dutch lawmaker resigned from his party in protest of its support for banning ritual slaughter, among other issues.
Wim Kortenoeven announced his resignation from the Party for Freedom at a news conference last week in The Hague. Founded in 2005 by Geert Wilders, the party follows an anti-Muslim, pro-Israel policy.
“Regarding ritual slaughter, I came under intense pressure from Wilders to vote against my conscious,” Kortenoeven said.
In 2011, the Party of Freedom voted in favor of a bill to ban ritual slaughter in The Netherlands. Kortenoeven voted against the bill. He was the only party member who defied party discipline. Though passed into law, the Dutch Senate scrapped the ban last month.
Warm up the defibrillator, the Instant Heart Attack Sandwich has life at New York’s 2nd Avenue Deli.
A U.S. District Court Judge in Manhattan ruled late last week that the sandwich cannot be confused with the Heart Attack Grill in Las Vegas and thus the deli can keep the sandwich — two latkes stuffed with corned beef, pastrami, salami or turkey — on the menu.
Judge Paul Engelmayer also said the deli can introduce the Triple Bypass sandwich — three stuffed latkes — noting that it would not be confused with one from the Heart Attack Grill, which sells giant cheeseburgers.
The fantastic Paris-based food writer David Lebovitz is in Israel and has taken us along for the ride on his blog. [David Lebovitz]
An introduction and an ode to the Israeli snack food Bamba. [Serious Eats]
New York’s newest hip kosher restaurant Jezebel is finally set to open. [Women’s Wear Daily]
One mother schlepps kosher meat to a Reform summer camp. Should the Reform movement’s camps offer kosher meat? [Huffington Post]
Food plays an important role in Judaism and in the First Narayever community. Food brings people together, connects us, and is an important part of holiday traditions and life cycles.
In 2006 the First Narayever Congregation launched the first Jewish Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program in Toronto in partnership with Everdale Organic Farm and Environmental Learning Centre. In 2008, we joined Hazon’s world-wide network of Jewish CSAs. This inspired us to look at what more we could do in our community.
In preparation for Passover each spring, Jews stock their cupboards with matzo, observing the Biblical injunction to abstain from leavened food for eight days.
And when the holiday ends, a box or two of matzo is usually pushed to the back of the pantry or tossed out with the trash. After all, it’s nearly impossible to end Passover without some extra matzo — and what use is there for the bread of affliction once you’re back to eating bagels?
Tom Kramer of Ambacht Brewery, a Belgian-inspired artisanal microbrewery in Hillsboro, Oregon, has the answer. Ambacht’s Matzobraü is a sweet, complex beer with a rare seasonal ingredient: leftover matzo from the local Jewish community.
As soon as the sun rose on Friday mornings over Harare, Zimbabwe, my husband, kids and I would pile into a small plane and fly to the crystal-clear waters and pristine sandy beaches of the idyllic island of Magaruque, off the coast of Mozambique.
There wasn’t much on this island, other than a charming lodge. Still, it was our Shabbat home when we lived in Harare in the mid-90’s. We’d set out having stocked the plane with the necessary ingredients and some pre-prepared foods, including roska (our sweet Sabbath bread), bourekitas (our beloved savory pies) and wine. We would also take our Sephardic Shabbat candles — a cork topped with a cotton wick floating in a glass filled with a thick layer of oil — which is the customary on Rhodes where my family is from.
Visitors to Budapest this summer will be out of luck if they hope to soak up Jewish cool at Siraly, the funky café in the heart of the old inner city Jewish quarter that became famous as the flagship of the city’s alternative Jewish youth scene.
Local authorities in the city’s Sixth District closed Siraly in May saying its three-floor building on Kiraly Street was unsafe. Since opening in 2006, Siraly had operated as a semi-squat, and the closure order came after years of wrangling with district and city authorities over its legal status. Siraly’s co-founder and program director Adam Schoenberger, the 32-year-old son of a rabbi, believes political motives were behind Siraly’s closure.
“Not necessarily anti-Semitism,” he told me as we sipped lemonade at another Jewish quarter cafe, around the corner. “But maybe part of a campaign by conservatives against liberal-leaning youth in general.”
At a training given by the People’s Institute on undoing institutionalized racism, I heard a story. It was about a group of friends headed on a picnic by a river. The first friend shows up, basket in tow, to see babies (!!) floating down the river. In astonishment, she drops her bag of baguettes and cheese and immediately grabs an infant. The second friend arrives, and the first shouts, “Drop your things! There are babies in the river!”
The rest of the party arrives and they too, forget their lunch plans and begin plucking babies out of the river, feeding and burping them in astonishment as they try to keep up with the flow of babies by the minute. Finally the last friend arrives. “What are you all doing?” she asks. “Come on! There are babies in the river!” the group replies. She looks at them, puzzled. “Haven’t you seen what is happening at the top of that hill? Someone’s throwing babies into the river…”
When Haaretz’s food and wine critic, the late Daniel Rogov, moved from Paris to Tel Aviv in the late 1970s, he discovered a cornucopia of Jewish foods from all over the world, stemming from the manifold cultures from which Jews had immigrated. What he missed was one of his favorite foods from his childhood in Brooklyn: a pastrami sandwich on rye.
Indeed, what is arguably the quintessential American Jewish dish has never played a major role in any other Jewish cuisine in the world. There is something irreducibly American about the deli sandwich, which bespeaks the unique history of American Jews.
Much of the Jewish deli sandwich’s popularity in America is tied to the evolution of the sandwich itself, which exploded in popularity after the First World War. Even before the advent of the mechanical bread slicer in Iowa in 1928, the sandwich (originally invented by Rabbi Hillel the Elder, as we commemorate each year during the Passover seder), became one of the most popular of all American foods, with more than 5,000 sandwich shops in New York by the mid 1920s. In a city defined by its manic energy, the sandwich became the perfect fuel for people on the go.
It’s not only the humble hot dog getting a grilling in the media these days: a much fancier Jewish food has been making headlines and igniting the passions of foodies and lawmakers alike. Is it a killer kugel? A rogue rugelach? Or a fiendish…foie gras?
Yes, the delicacy of pate made from fatty bird liver, which as of yesterday is banned California (after a seven-and-a-half year grace period passed after a 2004 law), is thoroughly Jewish, says Michael Ginor, acclaimed chef and author of “Foie Gras…A Passion.” “Duck and goose fat made a good substitute for pork,” says Ginor, who is also the president of Hudson Valley Foie Gras in Ferndale, New York.
The rich foodstuff is practically synonymous with luxury, a perennial favorite of gourmet chefs that’s singular in its sumptuousness. “It’s unlike any other animal product that I know of,” Jon Shook, owner of the Los Angeles restaurant Animal, told the New York Times. “We’re working on dishes to replace it, but you can never really replace foie gras.” Still, not everyone’s so eager to tuck in to the treat. To produce the highly-sought-after enlarged liver, geese or ducks must be force-fed for the last days of their lives leading up to slaughter. The process — called “gavage” — has long been a lightning rod for the ire of animal-rights activists, spurring California lawmakers to push for a statewide prohibition the on production and sale of foie gras.
Typical of crops that grow well in the late spring, is the Swiss Chard, which is making its first appearance in the local farmers markets and CSA’s. It contains a lot of fiber, and a host of antioxidant vitamins. It is a tall leafy green vegetable with a thick, crunchy stalk that comes in a fuchsia, white, organge or yellow stem with wide fan-like green leaves. Chard belongs to the same family as beets and spinach and shares a similar taste profile: it has the bitterness of beet greens and the slightly salty flavor of spinach leaves. Both the leaves and stalk of chard are edible. In fact, chard and beets formally share the same Hebrew name, selek.
It is uncertain how chard, a native of the eastern Mediterranean, moved to the west and grew plentifully. However because it grows best in coastal areas with plenty of rainfall, it’s easy to grow chard in the northeast. Their leaf regenerate after cutting, extending the life cycle of this hearty vegetable. It tolerates heat and cold, which is why it grows well on the eastern tip of Long Island, where my CSA is located.
The Nosher’s Shabbat recipe round-up includes a recipe for fig taleggio pizza and roasted peaches served with lavender ice cream. If you’re cooking this for Shabbat, we would love an invitation! [My Jewish Learning]
Take a tour of Jerusalem’s Machneh Yehudah market in photos. [The Kitchn]
If you were worried that the Hebrew National class action case had slipped by Jon Stewart, fear not!
After a clip from CNN about the controversy ran on “The Daily Show” last night, Stewart exclaimed “WHAT? Not 100% kosher! Or as it’s known to Jews: not kosher!” Impressing us with his Talmudic knowledge, he offered a few possibilities for how exactly the hot dog meat could indeed not be kosher. “Some of the rats that fell into the meat pulverizer have cloven hooves?” he quipped hitting on some of the fine points of kashrut, as well as the unappetizing shortcomings of the meat industry in general.
It was not until I married my late husband, 54 years ago, that I began to be seriously interested in the preparation and presentation of food. Until then I knew very little about food — almost nothing
I was born in Poland and when the war broke out I was only 4 1/2 years old. I have no recollection of what we ate at home before the war started. During the war we lived in Russian labor camps, moving from place to place where we hardly saw any vegetables, fruits, meat or fish, eggs or cheese. It was mostly a ration diet of subsistence level.
Coming to the United States as a teenager I still was not particularly interested in food. Just getting acclimatized to a new country, a new culture and a new lifestyle was challenging enough.
When is the last time a complete stranger asked you to tell your personal story explaining why you care about a political or social issue?
As part of my job as a community sales representative at Equal Exchange, I ask customers, who are, for the most part, strangers, to share their personal stories all the time. Why are they spending their limited time on Fair Trade, promoting the programs of our worker-owned co-operative? Why do they care so much about the farmers growing our food?
During phone calls, customers I’ve never met in person share stories of deeply humbling international trips to visit coffee farmers; stories about their grandfather, a small-scale tobacco farmer, being taken advantage of by a large agribusiness; and stories about the first time they heard a news report on the widespread use of child slaves in the cocoa industry.
These unique stories led to the same conclusion: The people who grow our food deserve higher wages and more humane treatment.
Before Rozanne Gold wrote 12 cookbooks, won four James Beard Awards, created the menus for three of New York’s three-star restaurants, inspired the New York Times’ “Minimalist” column and invented the concept of Hudson Valley Cuisine, she was the private chef to Mayor Ed Koch.
Gold, who was only 23 when she moved into Gracie Mansion in 1978, spent a year squeezing fresh grapefruit juice for the mayor’s breakfast and creating the sort of simple yet sophisticated dishes that would become a hallmark of her work. It was also here that Gold prepared her first Seder, even using the mayor’s personal tips for matzo balls.
The Gracie Mansion Conservancy recently announced that the residence’s kitchen would undergo a $1.4 million renovation, its first since 1985. Gold spoke with us about her time there, reminiscing about everything from the fern wallpaper to former New York City Mayor Abe Beame’s abandoned flanken.