Tamar Adler's Fried Jewish Artichokes
Save the Bubbes!
The Curious History of Kosher Salt
Shiva for Stage Deli
Berlin's Jewish Foodie Comeback
The Great Deli Rescue
Romping Through the Jewish Pumpkin Patch
Haimish to Haute, NYC Transforms Jewish Food
Bay Area's DIY Jewish Food Movement
Yid.Dish Recipe Box
'Inside the Jewish Bakery’
The Bacon Problem
Manischewitz Goes Sephardic
Jews and the Booze
Jews and Beer
Taking the Food Tour That Keeps on Feeding
At Kosher Feast, Fried Locusts for Dessert
Live Long and Super: Supermarket History
A Slice of Hebrew Pizza
Grow and Behold: A New Line of Kosher Chicken Launches A Conversation Around Jewish Food Ethics
When In Rome… Eat Like the Jews Do
A Letter to Our Readers
JCarrot Archives: 2006-August 2010
Shabbat Dinner, With Panache
Over the course of my few months of farm life, I’ve thought about “The Little Red Hen” more times than I have since early childhood, and each recurrence leaves me with a new lesson. In the story, the hen decides to bake a loaf of bread from scratch, starting with planting wheat. At each step she asks her friends and neighbors for help, but nobody wants to offer assistance until the time comes to eat the bread, at which point the Little Red Hen dismisses her compatriots and keeps everything for herself. Jewish lessons abound from this text on all levels — the story could be the starting point for a discussion on blessings or how to treat others, and I could even see it as the basis for a Talmud class: Does it matter if the hen harvested her wheat before or after Passover? If the hen is Jewish and her friends are not, was it appropriate for her to ask them to complete steps of the bread making process? But I digress.
I claimed in my last post that the Jewish community has little room for low-wage earners, and hence no room for farmers. In other words, most of American society looks and acts a lot like the Hen’s friends, and my experience with the modern Jewish community has been no exception. We expect to be served. We assume that bread will appear on our supermarket shelves, in our cupboards, and on our plates. We do not care how it got there, and moreover, we want no part of the process. Feeding ourselves is not our problem; it is the job of others. But we have no regard for farmers or farming, or for baristas, bakers, or line cooks. We do not understand their lifestyles and therefore have no appreciation for their inherent richness or for the value of producing food and sustenance oneself.
But what if things looked different?
I suppose I am one of those weird people who enjoy grocery shopping. I like wandering through them, relishing the produce, ogling the olives. I find it relaxing to plan meals as I stroll the store. So before my husband I moved to Israel from Brownstone Brooklyn nearly two years ago, one of the big questions on my mind was where I would shop. Would I be able to find my staples like miso, rice paper, and quinoa? And what about organic? Despite the fact that we weren’t the classic new immigrants — confused, languageless, with almost no one to turn to — Israel was still half a world away from the familiarity of our beloved Park Slope Food Coop where we did most of our shopping, and Trader Joes, where we did most of the rest.
I’d visited Israel before and had been in the standard supermarkets. These options are pretty comparable to any grocery store in the USA, with the major difference being that they’re stocked with Israeli favorites instead of American favorites — things like tahini, hummus, shachar (chocolate spread), and the ubiquitous frozen corn schnitzel. Also, since Israel tends to be a more traditional society, there are fewer pre-made and frozen meals floating around.
These grocery stores are sufficient. I can find brown rice, plenty of packaged legumes, maybe even some miso; I can get by. But there is also a lack of aesthetic in them, a grittiness brought on by linoleum tiles, fluorescent lighting, and the sickly sweet smell of cleaning products. They offer a sort of lobotomized shopping experience.
I’ve been fressing in the Midwest more or less continuously since 1958. I grew up in a kosher home in Manitowoc, WI, population 33,000, with an active Orthodox-ish congregation of about 50 families. When I was a preschooler, my Grandma Mamie Muchin used to shlep me to visit the local shochet, who kept chickens in his backyard. (Little did I know their fate.)
Otherwise, Grandma always seemed to be preparing kosher delicacies from scratch: cheese blintzes, gefilte fish, chicken soup with matzo balls, brisket, chopped liver, a crusty bread and a sort of cholent. In the ensuing decades, I’ve attended my share of Passover seders and Shabbat dinners. So I was quite surprised to discover recently that I had been missing out on some terrific heartland Jewish delicacies.
They’re chronicled and analyzed in the new book “From the Jewish Heartland: Two Centuries of Midwest Foodways” by Ellen F. Steinberg and Jack H. Prost. The co-authors discover recipes for borekas filled with dried Michigan cherries, a pie loaded with Minnesota huckleberries and “Minnesota-style” gefilte fish made with northern pike caught in one of the 10,000 lakes.
MyJewishLearning.com has served up a new Jewish food blog, A recent post features a Jewish takes on Thanksgiving food in the form of a turkey shaped challah. Festive. [The Nosher]
Which food magazine has the best Thanksgiving issue? Eater weighs in. Who has the best round-up of glossy Thanksgiving food coverage? Eater wins. [Eater]
Say goodbye to Sabra and give this three-step recipe for homemade hummus a whirl. [Serious Eats]
Marge becomes a food blogger in this week’s episode of the Simpsons. Simpsons executive producer Max Selman gives us a preview of what to expect. [Grub Street]
Convincing ten straight men to talk seriously about an artisanal product for half an hour is like pulling teeth: Convincing 2,000 straight men to pay over $100 each to discuss nuances in its process and product for three or four hours on a Tuesday night, is marketing gold. And that’s the genius of WhiskyFest New York (and Chicago and San Francisco) — getting a crowd of men to approach a premium, gourmet product as if it were baseball.
And, despite this year’s WhiskyFest New York on November 1 being held inside the Marriott Marquis hotel, a sprinkling of baseball caps were indeed in evidence. They were, however, not being worn out of respect for America’s secular religion, but worn by some individualistic members of the Modern Orthodox population who were extremely well represented at the event. Largely, though, black kippahs were de rigeur for those sipping the smooth, honeyed grass flavors of the 30-year-old Old Pulteney or the beautifully rounded peaty tones of the 17-year-old Balvennie.
Some good news for hungry Jewish Capitol Hill staffers, lobbyists and politicos.
The Senate cafeteria will soon begin offering kosher food alongside its regular specialties (which include the famous ham-and-bean soup). As first reported this week in The Washington Post, the cafeteria has reached an agreement with a local kosher deli to provide pre-packed sandwiches and meals at the Senate.
“I am thrilled that the Senate cafeteria is providing kosher food for Senators, staff and visitors,” said William Daroff, who heads the Washington office of the Jewish Federations of North America and frequently visits Capitol Hill when lobbying for Jewish causes, “It is truly a much-needed accommodation to ensure that all Americans are able to break bread in our halls of power.”
It was after Rabbi Ari Weiss bumped into and spoke with Rabbi Steve Gutow of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs on Rosh Hashanah, that he decided to take the Food Stamp Challenge. This means he would have to get by on no more than $31.50 worth of groceries (the average amount of food stamps granted to a qualifying individual) for an entire week. That’s just $1.50 per meal, without snacks. He knew it wouldn’t be easy, especially since he keeps strictly kosher.
“There were bottles of wine that cost more than $31.50 on the table at holiday meals I had just attended,” Weiss, the director of the Orthodox social justice organization Uri L’Tzedek, told the Jew and the Carrot prior to beginning the challenge, which took place October 27 through November 3. Nonetheless, Weiss was determined — despite the extra difficulty kashrut would pose — to join the many others around the country, including many members of Congress and Jewish community leaders, in experiencing what it is like to be one of the 45.7 million Americans who receive Food Stamp benefits and the one in six American households living in hunger.
When I walked into Roxbury Park’s Community Center this past Sunday night, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve been involved with the New Jewish Food Movement for a number of years, and one of the many questions I keep asking is, “What exactly is the landscape of the Food Movement?” In my work as a community rabbi both within a congregation and outside of it, I know that community needs definition, even in the broadest possible sense. Without definitions, a community can fail, especially one that describes itself as a “Movement.” So when my food-based organization, Netiya, co-sponsored a food justice event, Harvesting Justice, along with JFSJ/PJA and IKAR, I walked in with a number of questions in my pocket: what is the message of this “movement,” who makes up its committed core, and what can we learn from each other? In short, my questions could be surmised into a single query: “Who are we, really?”
Harvesting Justice brought together a large swath of organizations and individuals who self-associate with the word “food.” In the courtyard of the community center, a number of invited groups put on a foodie fair with booths with everything from making vegan-raw chocolate pudding, to “shopping” (read: taking for free) from a selection of fallen fruits and vegetables from around Los Angeles, to advocates for restaurant worker justice. One would need a very wide-angle lens to capture the panorama of issues, programs, and initiatives associated with the Food Justice Movement, let alone the entire Food Movement.
It happens the same way each year. Just as the leaves begin to turn colors and the crisp fall air fills my lungs, I get a frantic phone call from my mother.
I hear the desperation in her voice, and I know it can be about only one thing: pareve ginger snaps. These little trinkets of goodness are the heart and soul of my mother’s beloved stuffed cabbage recipe, and each year, we go on the same wild goose chase to find the cookies. We’ve had a series of very funny experiences: Once we found the cookies in Texas (we’re from Boston), and another time we found them online but didn’t realize they were available only by the case (yes, that’s 12 boxes). After hours of googling, the situation always ends in the same way: We are able to find the cookies, and we breathe a sigh of relief knowing that once again we’ll be able to enjoy the same stuffed cabbage of our childhood Shabbat dinners.
This week’s annual Sommelier Wine Expo in Tel Aviv brought dozens of Israeli wineries under one roof at the Nokia Arena. From tiny boutique producers to large companies, and from the northern Golan Heights to the Southern Negev, the mostly Israeli wines spanned a range of styles, offering something for everyone. After somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 wines were sampled, it was found that these five wines represent that spectrum, while standing out in the crowd with a distinctive product. All five are kosher, and most should be available in the United States.
Galil Mountain 2008 Avivim
One of only four white wines from Galil Mountain winery, Avivim is a blend of 25% Chardonnay and 75% Viognier. Although their straight Viognier is a pleasant wine, this blend offers more complexity in each sip. Viognier, which is a grape originally from the Rhone Valley in France, is a white wine varietal that has become quite popular in Israel. Aged for nine months in new French oak barrels, the dry white is golden in color and has notes of tropical fruits and honey with nice acidity. A joint venture between Kibbutz Yiron and the large Golan Heights Winery, Galil Mountain Winery has been producing wine in the Upper Galilee since 2000. It produces 1,000,000 bottles annually, only 10% of which are white. Galil wines are widely available in the United States.
Pair with: Fish or pasta.
With the next Presidential election a year away and the new Farm Bill scheduled to move through Congress in 2012, it is time to take stock of President Obama’s record on food policy, and to see what the Republican presidential candidates have said and done so far on the subject.
We are well passed those heady days for food progressives when Michael Pollan wrote an open letter to the “Farmer in Chief” (actually, the President Elect) about the interconnectedness of the environment, healthcare costs and the oil and food industries. It seems ages ago that Alice Waters put forth names of candidates for Secretary of Agriculture, and Ruth Reichel made suggestions for the White House chef. The excitement around Michelle Obama’s planting the White House’s organic vegetable garden with local school children is by now a long-forgotten memory. (Though she has a cookbook coming out soon.)
So how has the President lived up to expectations in the eyes of those who care about food policy, and what can we expect from the competition? Here’s what they have had to say about food so far.
I recently came upon a thoughtful piece from Dr. Janet Chrzan of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania and Founder of the Oakmont Farmers’ Market in Havertown, PA. Chrzan wrote about an experiment she did (as a mental break from her academic writing) about the cost of food. While trolling through old advertisements on the “Philadelphia Inquirer”, she found one from 1951 advertising Thanksgiving turkeys for 73 cents per pound. That caught her eye because it’s so much more than what they cost nowadays at the supermarkets. She assumed it was used as a “loss leader,” a retail term that depicts merchandise used to entice shoppers to step into the store and at a price that may not actually reflect the costs. She recalled that the price last Thanksgiving was 39 cents per pound, which she remembers because she tracks loss leaders, comparing them with the prices at the farmers’ market she runs.
Using an online calculator, she translated the old advertised price into 2011 dollars, arriving at $6.40 per pound, based on inflation of 3.68%. Conversely, 39 cents in 2011 translates into 4 cents per pound in 1951. “Wow,” she wrote, “that demonstrates just how much industrial farming has decreased the cost of food over 60 years…but it also puts into perspective the value of the turkeys that my turkey farmer produces, using methods similar to the methods used in 1951. He charges $3.50 a pound for pastured hormone-and-antibiotic — free birds, almost half the comparable price of the loss leader of 1951. And the turkeys taste really good.”
Chocolate balls are as iconic as falafel in Israel, yet most tourists have never heard of them. After all, nobody is hawking these colorful confections on street corners. Kadorei shokolad, as they are known in Hebrew, are part of the quintessential Israeli childhood but they’re rarely seen outside the home. They might be ignored by culinary aficionados but insiders know that the very best are made by enthusiastic kindergarteners.
It’s a one bowl wonder, made with cocoa, sugar, milk and biscuits, all mashed together into a dark brown goop. Preschoolers are usually relegated to bashing the biscuits with a rolling pin, a job they do with gleeful abandon. Little lopsided balls of the mixture are rolled into shredded coconut or colored candies and placed on a serving tray to set or popped straight into their mouths. It’s a plebian version of Belgium truffles.
Once erroneously thought to be a swampland, the university town of Ann Arbor, MI and surrounding Washtenaw County are actually ideal land for farm stock. Many German Jewish immigrants settled in the small town and became farmers, peddlers, fur and skin traders, and eventually business owners, many of which were grocers. Over 170 years after European Jews brought their families, foods, and traditions to Michigan, the Jewish duo and modern snack makers behind WholeHeart Group are bringing a unique vision to life in and around Ann Arbor. With underlying Jewish values and personal histories woven throughout their professional and personal endeavors, they are striving to create healthy, prepared foods and use all profits to help under-served populations gain the skills needed to succeed in the healthy food business.
WholeHeart’s Patti Aaron and Dena Jaffee are showing Ann Arbor and surrounding areas what happens when a love for cooking and helping others permeates food. The quality of ingredients in products like their Cherry Crunch granola speaks for itself; with Michigan-grown oats, ground flax, and dried cherries, the taste is hard to resist. Each ingredient tells a story too: Hungarian Jews once harvested an abundance of sour cherries during the fall months, which is linked to their prevalence in Shavuot dishes like sour cherry pies and soups. WholeHeart’s commitment to the small producer also mirrors days of old in Jewish Ann Arbor as peddlers and tradesmen sold directly to consumers and through select food merchants.
Jewish cook offs are sprouting around the country. But the mother of all of them is Manischewitz’s cook off. See if your recipe has what it takes to win the national competition. [Manischewitz]
Many Jews remember the day Oreos went kosher and Hydrox went out the window. But should we really be eating the sandwich cookie? [Tablet]
Costa Rica is known for its lush vegetation, beaches, exotic animals and rain forests. Located close to the equator, it’s tropical climate has plenty to offer for the adventurous traveler and the laid-back beach goer. Both the Pacific and Caribbean coastlines have spectacular beaches with great places to scuba, snorkel relax or take in the wildlife. In between the beaches, you will find mountains, volcanoes and pristine national parks all around the country. Costa Rican cuisine is fairly basic; black beans and rice are usually a part of any meal. You can easily stick to a vegetarian diet by adding salads, which are often a decent size and a typical fresh white cheese. The country also prides itself on grass fed cattle and fresh fish.
Like other Central and South American countries, Costa Rica is predominantly Catholic. However, there are pockets of Jewish communities throughout the country totally about 3,000, and some towns draw a sizable amount of Israelis tourists. Much of the country’s Jewish population are descendants of Jews that fled Europe in the 1920’s and ’30’s. While Jews make up a very small percentage of Costa Rica’s population, the current vice president, Luis Liberman and legislator Luis Fishman are both Jewish.
Imagine sitting down to an intimate community dinner with a smattering of neighbors and fellow city dwellers. The host directs you to a buffet table of simple spaghetti and offers you a can of soda. Perhaps you think nothing of the no-frills meal you’re about to enjoy, until you notice that your neighbor Jill, who works in finance, and is seated at the small table next to you, receives a steaming, full plate piled with lean meat, mashed potatoes, and vegetables and a healthful sparkling drink. Meanwhile the family of four that lives down the street, and whose head of household you know has recently been laid off from her job at the post office, has been ushered to a third table in the corner and is being served only small portions of white bread and water.
As your face boils at the indignity, and your pasta starts to leave a bitter taste in your mouth, you might question who would host such an uncomfortable and poorly distributed meal — and why.
I spent most of freshman year at Harvard threatening to transfer. I quickly realized college wasn’t going to be a delightful blur of Solo cups, but rather, a lot of solitary lunches. I was tired of the awkward icebreakers, and all I desired was the comfort and familiarity I had enjoyed at home.
Luckily, I discovered a reprieve from my loneliness once a week at Hillel Shabbats. While my family is not shomer Shabbat, we lit candles, said blessings, and enjoyed a meal to celebrate the end of a stressful week. I never expected to attend Hillel Shabbats regularly, but they allowed me to relive a ritual from home. As a result, they became a core part of my social life.
The quintessential Shabbat experience at college was the tisch, which literally means “table” in Yiddish. Traditionally, a tischinvolves Jews gathering around their Rebbe at a table, hearing sermons, singing songs and enjoying food. At our tisches, we strayed far from that tradition. Men and women sat together, and in addition to schnapps, there was Smirnoff Ice. It was an odd combination of traditional spiritual joy and collegial spirits-induced boisterousness.
The owner of a kosher restaurant in Manhattan’s Financial District is blaming Occupy Wall Street for his decision to fire almost a quarter of his staff.
The restaurateur made the comments after dismissing 21 workers, and told the website the entire business could go under if the protests don’t end within three weeks. Police barricades have diverted a large amount of foot traffic away from Wall Street since the demonstrations began six weeks ago, and the restaurant has also faced diminished business — a 30% drop, reportedly — due to marches, closed subway entrances and checkpoints.
The oldest bialys store in the country is still on a roll. The sweet smell of bread will continue to waft down Coney Island Avenue, as a landmark kosher bakery in Brooklyn gets a whole new lease on life.
Coney Island Bialys and Bagels, teetered and fell in September, after Steve Ross, whose grandfather began the company 91 years ago, called it quits. In a twist of history — and, one might say, a twist of bread as well — the store has been saved by two Muslim businessmen who leased the space and started a corporation under almost the identical name. They’ll keep the kosher shop’s offerings the same, preserving its history.
“It’s the same bialys…We are using the same recipe, too,” said Peerzada Shah, who now co-owns the business with Zafaryab Ali, who worked with Ross at the bialy shop for a decade. “We want to keep the place on track,” said Shah. And since re-opening in September, customers have regularly told the pair, “We appreciate that you’re keeping the store open,” according to Shah.
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