Cross posted from Jewess with Attitude.
One hundred and ten years ago today, something surprising happened. Jewish immigrant housewives in New York City — concerned and angry about a sharp rise in the price of kosher meat from 12 cents to 18 cents per pound — launched a kosher meat boycott that lasted nearly a month, spread to several other boroughs of New York, sparked violent riots and arrests, and attracted much media attention before ending with the successful lowering of meat prices.
Unlike most other immigrant activists of the period, these boycotters were not young workers—they were housewives with children. Their average age was 39, and most had four or more children at home. Though women had historically been involved in popular protests around issues like food prices, the kosher meat boycott of 1902 stands out as a pioneering example of women’s strategic political organizing and effective use of local networks.
In early May of 1902, small butchers had responded to the skyrocketing price of kosher meat by boycotting the wholesalers (known as the Meat Trust) in an attempt to lower prices. But when the butchers settled with the Meat Trust without achieving a price reduction, housewives of the Lower East Side decided to take matters into their own hands.
To read more, visit Jewess with Attitude, the blog of the Jewish Women’s Archive.
She delivers freshly-baked challahs to customers’ doorsteps (or their doormen), but she doesn’t use wings to get there… she drives a Honda Pilot.
The Challah Fairy, a.k.a. Chanalee Fischer Schlisser, sees her business almost as a calling, hoping her tasty challahs will encourage more Jews to enjoy Shabbat.
“People have a much better experience of Shabbos if they have a special challah and not some gross supermarket challah,” Schlisser said.
Schlisser’s challahs have garnered a following in the New York area, specifically specialty flavors like cinnamon and chocolate. Her “best-ever” chocolate babka is also popular.
This is the first of a series of a monthly column by Rabbi Noah Farkas called Turning the Tables.
This column is not about food. It’s about living with meaning and purpose, and there’s no better meeting point of the personal and communal, the mindful and the prophetic, the historical and the contemporary than in our food.
When I started thinking about my life, I realized that the most banal experience — putting a morsel of food in my mouth — is the common denominator for all religions, races, classes and cultures. Every person thinks about eating multiple times a day. Yet, thinking about eating and thinking about food are different things. Everyone gets hungry, but most people are asleep at the wheel when it comes to thinking about food. Most Americans have a vague idea where their food comes from, its ingredients, and whom it empowers or impoverishes along the way. Our epicurean narcolepsy is destroying our environment, making us sick and enslaving human beings to one another. How can we be so complacent? What we need is something that unsettles our souls. This column, Turning the Tables, will look at food from a spiritual and moral perspective in the hopes of inspiring and pushing ourselves to think deeper about our relationship to what eat.
As we opened the door of my Sephardic immigrant grandparents, Nonno David and Nonna Giulia’s Manhattan apartment, we might be greeted by the seductive sounds of Eartha Kitt singing Ushdakara, the Turkish lullaby, or perhaps Melina Mercouri’s Ta Pedia Tou Pirea. Nonno David, who had little formal schooling, spoke eight languages and often played some of his favorite music before Shabbat. I loved watching him happily dancing in the living room, getting in the mood for a splendid meal with family.
The smells of Nonna Giulia’s delectable cooking, which we all looked forward to, filled the apartment. There was usually a plate of Borekitas waiting for us — little pies filled with either spinach, eggplant or cheese, to wet our appetites before dinner. Of course, the house was immaculate, the table was set with her special Shabbat cloth and the candlesticks were ready to be lit on the living room coffee table.
In America, the traditional culinary practice of pickling and preserving foods has enjoyed a recent revival in restaurants and home kitchens alike. Now in England, Chef Jason Freedman at The Minnis — a farm (and sea) to table restaurant about an hour-and-a-half east of London in Birchington — is helping to re-introduce the joys of fermentation across the pond.
A 27-year veteran of professional kitchens, Freedman only recently started experimenting with fermenting and pickling foods. Luckily for diners, he quickly “caught the bug,” turning The Minnis’ menu into a playground of preservation — think: herring pickled with bay leaves and nutmeg, or cold smoked salmon served with horseradish aioli. Chef Freedman took some time to speak with The Jew & The Carrot about why pickles piqued his interest, his brand new smoker, and how he gets his regular fix of Jewish cooking.
For more on pickles and preserves, check out Leah Koenig’s article on Jewish pickling traditions from around the globe.
I grew up eating pickles. Every few months, my uncle would send me a half gallon of “Uncle Phil’s Dills” — a delicious, salty, garlicky, creation of his own full-dill pickles, and I would eat the entire jar on my own. As I’ve grown up, my love of pickles has never ceased; I love new-dill pickles, fried pickles, even dill pickle chips (McClure’s makes a great chip). In college, I spent a semester in Spain and spent a majority of my free time eating olives and people watching. Now that I’m living in New York City for the summer, I’m on a quest to find the best pickle in the world.
Jews have a history with pickling. My grandfather, who grew up here in the 1930’s, tells me stories about the pickle-sellers on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and the Jewish areas of Brooklyn. Hearing him talk about the barrels full of brine water, garlic, salt, dill, and other spices, I imagine it was a pickle-lovers dream. There were the traditional pickled cucumbers, of course, but there were also pickled green beans, tomatoes, and cabbage — there were even pickled apples and watermelons! Pickling was an affordable and convenient way of preserving vegetables without refrigeration for many Jewish and Eastern European immigrants. Many Jewish school children would often spend their pocket money on pickles and candy. Despite their pervasiveness in society, however, not everyone loved the pickle, and one author even went so far as to call it “a seething mass of rottenness.”
Cross-posted from JTA
As the minutes on the clock tick away, the chefs run about their kitchens furiously trying to complete their Taj Mahal-themed desserts.
“What have I got for you now?” booms the thickly accented master pastry chef Ron Ben-Israel as he overlooks the chefs’ workstations. “Another mandatory ingredient — tahini paste!”
This is “Sweet Genius,” the hit Food Network show that recently began its second season.
Chefs compete to earn the coveted title, win $10,000 and impress Ben-Israel, the show’s host, judge and original sweet genius, who often asks competitors to include ingredients not typically found in desserts.
Our family moved from Roslyn, Long Island to Portland, Oregon in 1993. That spring, while standing on the sidelines on a soggy soccer field another mother asked me: “Have you done your canning yet?”
No one had ever asked me this in Roslyn.
When I arrived in Roslyn from Chicago twelve years earlier, one thing became quickly clear to me about my new residence: nobody made anything that could be bought in the store. Friends expressed surprise that my potato salad didn’t come from the deli and my children’s birthday cakes didn’t come from the bakery. I drove half an hour to buy a spool of thread. In Roslyn I was Earth Mother Incarnate.
So it was humbling to learn that in Portland I was a DIY neophyte.
“Kosher,” it turns out, is kosher – at least in New York.
That’s the ruling from the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court, which has dismissed a lawsuit implying that labeling requirements of New York’s 2004 Kosher Law Protection Act interfered with religious freedom.
The plaintiff was a Long Island deli and butcher shop called — irony alert — Commack Self-Service Kosher Meats, Inc.
This wasn’t Commack’s first time at the kosher rodeo. According to Reuters, the same Circuit Court allowed a 1996 lawsuit by the shop which claimed the law at the time wrongly stepped into religious matters by defining kosher as “according to orthodox Hebrew religious requirements.”
Amid Buenos Aires’s Once-Abasto area — a tight knit urban oasis of kosher restaurants, stores, butcher shops and synagogues — sits the large but crowded flagship store of the wine producer Tariag 613. Fighting for shelf space are crates of matzo, kosher food stuffs and wines from the San Juan area, a lesser known wine region close to the more famous Mendoza region in the shadows of the Andes Mountains. The various crates are marked by their varietals — Malbec, Torrontes, various blends and sparkling wines. Here I met Ariel Hurtado, the young son of one of the owners of the wine company which launched in 2006. Hurtado tells me, “the whole idea of this enterprise, this business, is to introduce the Argentine culture of kosher wine to the whole world.”
Gail Simmons, Alan Richman, Melissa Clark, and Gabriella Gershenson will talk Jewish cuisine and the influence of their mother’s on their love of food in a program called “Like Mama Used to Make” this Sunday in Manhattan. [Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust]
Just incase you don’t already have enough apps on your phone, here are five kosher ones including one with kosher vacation suggestions. [JPost]
Part 2 of Zach Kutsher’s interview. This time he talks Borscht Belt and schmaltz. [Village Voice]
I’m counting the Omer and reflecting on my garden this year: What has been accomplished, and what remains unfinished? (the metaphors abound).
The winter here in southern California is enviable to gardeners everywhere. We can plant in December what others can only begin to plant — if they’re lucky — now. Lettuces, chards, carrots and beets, and peas to name a few. By now, early May, I can start to put in summer’s heavy hitters; tomato seedlings, sweet corn, cucumbers and green beans from seed. Nature makes it easy to garden here the year round, if you can keep yourself motivated.
Last summer, the rows of corn I’d sown in the spring towered over the rest of an abundant garden, and gave us more ears than we knew what to do with. We steamed, grilled, roasted, and gave it away. I sent my five year old out to the garden before dinner to pull off a few ears and she quickly learned to sit on the back stoop and shuck them, as expertly as any farm-raised kid. We had tomatoes and tomatoes and tomatoes, summer squash, okra, zinnias and cosmos for the butterflies and for cutting, cucumbers and Japanese eggplants, Hungarian and Thai peppers and so much butternut squash we had enough to eat through November.
After Israel’s tent protests of last summer dwindled, organizers Julian Feder and Yigal Rambam wondered how they could help the movement live on. They wanted to create a concept that would embody the ethos of the protests, which started in response to the high cost of living. So, in conjunction with entrepreneur Ofir Avigad they’ve launched Tel Aviv’s first cooperative bar and restaurant.
Although Bar Kayma, which means sustainable in Hebrew, was thought up by three people, everyone who purchases a share will own a bit of the restaurant and have a say in everything from how its run, to what food they will serve. The 80 people who have signed up in the three short weeks since the project started decided on making the spot vegan and committed to paying workers above average wages, both of which promote their sustainable ethos.
In addition to having the option to participate in the management of the restaurant, shareholders will also get all food and drink at the bar at cost (a significant discount), while regular customers will pay full price. Still, one of their biggest goals is that the space be affordable for everyone. They’re working on sourcing the best ingredients for the least amount of money, which is no small challenge.
Katherine Martinelli caught up with Avigad to talk about Bar Kayma, which is slated to open in June.
Shabbat happens every week. Twenty five hours of it. That means that over the course of a year, there are 1300 hours of Shabbat for relaxing, eating, and sharing with others. At least that’s how I usually spend those hours, and for all of 2011, I decided to document those experiences, especially the eating, in a blog I called 25×52. 2011 was a big year for me; I turned 30, I had a baby, and since I knew my life would never be the same again, I wanted to document the cooking, the hosting, the impending sleeplessness, and the incredible hospitality of my community. Plus, the year started on Shabbat; everything aligned.
My year of blogging came and went. It was fun and rewarding and challenging in many ways, and it felt only right to end the project with as much panache as I started. For most of the blog, I reported on what happened at Shabbat meals without going too far out of my way to find things to write about. But, in honor of the final Shabbat of 2011, I orchestrated two incredible meals (I also decided 2012 is not the time to be bashful). I cooked my heart out, and I encouraged my friends to do the same. The results transcended my expectations. And, while some may say I have a proclivity towards over-ambition when it comes to cooking and entertaining, especially with a baby around, somehow it all came together.
SEJNY, POLAND — The first time I visited Lithuania in 2006 I was overwhelmed by the extraordinary sensation that I was traveling through a giant Jewish deli that extended across the entire country. Blintzes! Latkes! Sour cream! Herring! Smoked fish! Black bread! And even — on the breakfast buffet of one hotel I stayed in — vodka, at 8 in the morning.
Recently I spent a week in the far northeast of Poland in the town of Sejny, so close to the border with Lithuania that my cell phone kept jumping back and forth between the two national networks.
I was there for a series of events hosted by Borderland Foundation, an organization that works toward inter-ethnic cultural and artistic interchange, along with promoting an understanding of Jewish culture, heritage and memory.
In New York City, it’s difficult to come up with a kosher food concept that’s truly novel. But chef Alexandre Petard seems to have done it with the recently opened Latin-fusion eatery Ladino Tapas Bar & Grill.
“I had been approached by people to open Kosher restaurants, but they’re always steak or sushi. I just don’t find that very interesting,” Petard said. “I realized that the kosher world didn’t have any Spanish-style tapas restaurants, and there’s been a huge explosion of those kinds of restaurants outside the Kosher world, so I started testing recipes. It just worked,” he said.
Petard, a third-generation chef, who worked with famed French restaurateur Jean-Georges Vongerichten. He also worked at upscale kosher restaurants like the now-shuttered Box Tree and Bistro Grill on Long Island.
With Shavuot around the corner, I’m thinking about milk chocolate and Israel, where there are several unique local options. As Janna Gur, Editor of Israel’s Al Hashulchan–The Israeli Gastronomic Monthly explained to me in a phone conversation, Israelis love chocolate and have a distinct preference for milk chocolate. The history of these chocolates tells us something about the growing years of the country itself.
The Elite brand developed several favorites in the milky realm. M’kupelet, bars of thinly folded milk chocolate similar to the Flake Bar of Cadbury from 1920, have been produced by Elite since 1935. The fondly remembered Hayal-Hayelet, a fifty-gram milk chocolate bar, was sold to Israeli soldiers at subsidized prices at canteens. Chocolate eating in the Tzava, the Israeli army, provided, as one person described to me, another means to klitah or absorption into Israeli society for what he called “exotic populations, immigrant groups from Morocco, Yemen, Ethiopia.”
This morning the Orthodox Jewish social justice organization Uri L’Tzedek announced a major victory in their 2-year campaign against Flaum Appetizing, a Queens-based hummus producer and food distributor that had repeated labor violations, including wage theft and overtime violations. Flaums has accepted a global settlement which will return over $500,000 to workers for these violations.
The victory comes after a long campaign fought by the workers’ group, Focus on the Food Chain, in partnership with Orthodox social justice organization, Uri L’Tzedek: The Orthodox Social Justice Movement. The campaign and its unlikely partnership spanned from street corners to corporate headquarters, college campuses to houses of worship across the United States. The campaign ultimately convinced 120 grocery stores, multinational corporations, spiritual leaders, and thousands of consumers to support the Flaums workers in their quest for justice.
Workers were subjected to wage theft including a failure to pay overtime and at times the minimum wage, for grueling work weeks as long as 80 hours. Workers from Latin America faced discrimination and abuse including anti-immigrant insults from senior management. When workers demanded payment in accordance with the law, 17 were illegally fired. Flaums lost a National Labor Relations Board trial and multiple appeals, but was still resisting compliance. This global settlement resolves both the NLRB retaliation litigation and a federal lawsuit over unpaid minimum wage and overtime.
At first glance, Irving Langer’s “The Kosher Grapevine” would seem to be just another wine primer. Langer guides the novice through the usual wine primer topics: Which grapes make what kind of wine, how it’s done, how to taste wine, what kind of stemware to pour it in, how to match wine with food, and even how to face down a snobby restaurant wine steward. And, of course, Langer explains what makes wine kosher. It’s the sort of “how-to” guide of which there seem to be a jillion on the shelves of Barnes & Noble — some worse, some better than this one.
But Langer, a retired real estate maven, is up to much more than plodding through the basics one more time. He’s got an agenda, and an unusual one at that. Langer wants to show that the traditional “sacramental” wines, loaded up with sugar, are not what observant Jews (like himself) should consume. It’s dry, modern wines that are called for, and the more nuanced the better. “I am convinced,” he says, “that the fine kosher wines being produced today provide us with an opportunity to relearn the skill that the sages of the Talmud certainly possessed: the ability to experience pleasure as uplifting and edifying.”
Brisket: It’s a staple on the Shabbat table and on the picnic tables of barbecue joints in the South. And self-proclaimed “Czar of Street Food,” Daniel Delaney is bringing it to New York City in a big way.
Delaney, 26, is the founder of Brisketlab, an “underground smoked meat guild” that will distribute pounds of barbecued brisket to its members this summer, with a side of booze and music. As a food writer and barbecue acolyte, Delaney was frustrated by the lack of craft barbecue experimentation in New York. So he bought an 18-foot-long smoker off a friend of his in Texas, hitched it to a trailer, and brought it back North with a truckload of indigenous Texas oak, what Delaney calls “the Rolls Royce of wood.”