The Park Slope Food Coop is finally inching closer to a resolution in a debate that seems to rival only the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in its intractability.
On March 27th, members of the Brooklyn food coop will meet in a nearby high school auditorium to decide whether or not to bring a ban on Israeli goods to a vote, the Wall Street Journal reports.
I never thought that I would yearn for Andy Cohen, the host of Bravo TV’s surprisingly popular talk show, “Watch What Happens Live,” but that’s exactly what Gail Simmons’s new memoir, “Talking With My Mouth Full,” made me do.
Simmons, a frequent judge on “Top Chef”, and the host of “Top Chef: Just Desserts,” writes in a fluid conversational style that’s easy to approach. The subtitle promises “My Life as a Professional Eater” and that’s exactly what’s here: her early internships with Canadian magazines; time in a professional kitchen; how coincidence led to a personal assistantship with the legendary Vogue food writer Jeffrey Steingarten — which led to a job for Daniel Boulud, then onto Food + Wine, the “Top Chef” franchise, and, oh yes, a wedding catered by Daniel Boulud. If you are wondering whether Daniel Boulud is an excellent caterer, he is.
Simmons comes across as charming, likable (it’s hard to remember that she was once considered the ‘mean’ judge on “Top Chef”), and, if you’re Jewish and between the ages of 26 and 40, someone you probably met once at a friend’s wedding, or on a teen tour. The experience of the book is better described as listening to a casual friend tell you about her life than it is reading a serious, culinary memoir.
Through my study of anthropology, I have found one area particularly compelling: the relation of food and culture. For instance, the well-known anthropologist Sidney Mintz has devoted his research to find the cultural implications of certain foods, specifically the link between the taste of sweetness and the power divisions it inspires. Mintz argues, “The foods of different peoples, shaped by habitat and by our history, would become a vivid marker of difference, symbols both of belonging and of being excluded.” For me, my interest in food and culture began as an innocent observation of a particular phenomenon: the attraction of Jewish college students to any event that promised free meat. I witnessed friends flock to any event that offered kosher meat, and even celebrate the opportunity to eat meat on Shabbat. And although I first noticed this in college, in fact this phenomenon is deeply ingrained in every Jewish community to which I’ve belonged. My curiosity peaked. I wondered, what was the cultural connection between Jews and meat?
Come Purim, I know what my friends are expecting from me. They want to find a bottle of home-made limoncello or coffee liqueur nestled among the hamentaschen in their Mishlochei Manot, Purim care-packages and I’m happy to oblige. Limoncello’s bright lemon taste is true to the fruit, while the coffee liqueur releases a wonderful hit of intense coffee flavor in the mouth. Neither are over-sweet nor artificially cloying, which is one reason they’re so popular, but they are also simply a beautiful, flavorful and unique holiday gift to give to friends.
I’ve been an avid home-brewer for 15 years, but compared to making wine, making these liqueurs is child’s play. There’s no fermentation involved here, the base is vodka and all you have to do is infuse it — which is phenomenally simple. Well, you do have to strain the solids from the liquids, then bottle your liqueur. Which takes about 10 minutes. And of course, your bottles will need labels, which can be hand-written or worked out with some fancy font on your printer. My labels bear my name and a Happy Purim message.
My mother-in-law’s favorite restaurant is a deli called TooJay’s. Whenever I visit her in Florida from my home in Portland, Oregon, that is where she wants to eat. It is rarely where I want to eat. I’d much rather sit out on a sunny deck and drink a margarita than squish inside an unprepossessing diner and eat greasy meat. One day we tried to sate her craving by bringing Too Jay’s takeout back to the pool. Come dinnertime, I asked her if she had any restaurant suggestions.
“How about TooJay’s?”
This winter hasn’t been the coldest, but we’re still craving bowls of steaming delicious soups. Leah Koenig rounds up her nine favorite Jewish soups from around the globe. Spoons up! [Forward]
Chocolate Babka Bread Pudding. Need we say more? [Serious Eats]
A new fellowship in organic plant breeding is getting off the ground, thanks to the Clif Bar Family Foundation. [LA Times]
These might just be the most interesting rugelach we’ve ever heard of. Try out a recipe for pumpkin, sage and walnut rugelach. [Food 52]
A chance encounter last summer in the produce section of the vegetarian co-op Rainbow Grocery proved to be the catalyst for a rich culinary mentorship blossoming at 12 Tribes, a Bay Area kosher catering operation headed up by the legendary ‘Rabbi Chef’ Becky Joseph.
Jordon Daugherty, a transplant from the great Midwest, and at 24, the newest addition to the 12 Tribes team, remembers the meeting fondly: “She helped me understand a good green bean,” recalls Jordon. Standing amongst bins of deliciously greens, swollen figs, and tomatoes, Becky invited him to visit the 12 Tribes kitchen at the JCCSF, and soon thereafter, offered him a one of a kind apprenticeship.
Yael Krigman arrived at our interview with a bag of frozen chocolate rugelach in hand. Well, almost frozen. “People are always asking me if my products freeze well,” she explained. “I figured I should find out.”
This sort of diligence is the norm for Krigman, 30, who started Baked by Yael, which specializes in bagels and cake-pops as well as deli favorites like rugelach and black and white cookies, in Cleveland Park, a neighborhood in Northwest Washington, DC, about a year and half ago.
From time to time I like to dig into my past on the Internet, as many of us do. Sometimes I go digging for details from my old yeshiva in Baltimore, which is difficult, because it doesn’t have much of what you might call a web presence. But recently I came across a Twitter feed identifying itself with the yeshiva. I have no idea who’s behind it (though they did thank me for the follow), and their tweets are not that colorful. Mostly, they report to the Twitterverse the yeshiva’s schedule, and what’s on the menu that evening in the dining room.
Those details, though, did take me back some. In my yeshiva the food had a reputation for being pretty good, as yeshiva food goes. Well, good would be an overstatement. But it was edible and there was plenty of it and there was usually some kind of alternative to the main course, like tuna fish. Many guys lived on tuna fish, I believe.
Sometimes in Nashville, keeping kosher is about more than just the haksher (kosher symbol) on the packaging, it’s about finding the ingredients to begin with.
Last week, I was tasked with making a Tu B’Shvat treat with my Sunday School class. I had also promised the class that we’d make a dessert. I’m sure they had cake in mind, but I’m not one to settle for something as simple as cake. Besides, cake takes more than 40 minutes to make, and that’s all I get each week with the kids. That time is either spent in the kitchen, in the Shul’s garden (from which the mint for this recipe was picked), or doing crafts; next week we’re making decorations for the Shul’s fundraiser in March, “Shtetl Home Companion.” In and of itself, making a dessert is no big deal.
Generally, I give the Cantor my ingredient list, and he buys whatever is kosher and available. I frequently give him alternative ingredients, which is great, since I’m a “throw-a-little-of-this-or-that-in-there” kind of cook. Not being great at following recipes, it is fun to see what the Cantor is able to come up with on the fly. Barring that, it’s fun to get phone calls from him as he’s trying to describe what part of the grocery store he’s checking for my items.
I have often wondered what would happen if I was able to meet the matriarchs and patriarchs of Jewish food in one place. In my mind, I imagine a council of dignified cooks, cookbook authors, culinary historians and restaurant critics, some donning aprons and carrying wooden spoons, others carrying historic Jewish cookbooks, all passionately debating the best Jewish food. In this dream, there’s smorgasbord of global Jewish food.
In reality, when five of the major thinkers in Jewish food gathered to speak at the Roger Smith Hotel Cookbook Conference’s panel “Eat and Be Satisfied: Jewish Cookbooks, Past Present and Future” last Friday the situation wasn’t terribly different from what I had imagined — minus the smorgasbord and aprons. Cookbook authors Gil Marks and Joan Nathan were joined by historian Jenna Weissman Joselit and James Beard Foundation VP, Mitchell Davis for a series of mini-lectures moderated by food historian and writer Cara De Silva.
When I was growing up, southern food represented Gentile culture in my imagination. Movies and books depicted church lunches spread out on trestle tables under magnolia trees. Piles of hot biscuits, barbeque ribs, fried chicken, green beans cooked for hours with a lump of bacon, chicken and dumplings cooked in milk and butter. It all seemed mysterious and vaguely disquieting. So much pork!
When I was ten, a song came out on the radio: “Bread and Butter,” sung in a rough falsetto by a trio called The Newbeats. It was great rock and roll with quirky lyrics. A man who loves plain bread and butter comes home early one day to find “Baby” eating chicken and dumplings — with another man. I didn’t understand the implications when I was little, but now it still tickles me somehow. And the song made me curious about this chicken and dumplings dish. What’s so voluptuous about it that the faithless girl would naturally share it with her partner in crime?
On Thursday, Trader Joe’s signed a Fair Food Agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, guaranteeing that they will only buy from growers who have signed a Code of Conduct in their fields and ensuring a penny per pound wage increase for the tomato pickers. The Code of Conduct enshrines the rights of workers to shade and water, enforces zero-tolerance policies for violence, wage theft, and sexual harassment, and prevents the conditions that lead to slavery and human trafficking. Trader Joe’s becomes only the second grocery store chain to sign an Agreement, joining Whole Foods, many major fast food chains (such as Taco Bell and Burger King), and major food services companies like Aramark.
I wrote about the CIW for the Jew and the Carrot back in October, and as luck would have it, was in Immokalee last week, taking another group of “tomato rabbis” to meet with the workers and become inspired to take action along with their congregations. As trip participant Rabbi Robert Dobrusin described, “We saw the destitute conditions many of these workers live in. We heard the stories of the hard, backbreaking work and stood in the parking lot in the middle of the town at 6 a.m. as workers boarded old school buses to take them out to the fields. And, we learned of the efforts that are starting to make real changes in the lives of the workers because of the dedication of the leaders of the coalition and volunteers who have come to their aid.”
If you can imagine a Dean & Deluca for the kosher set, then you’ll get the gist of Prime Butcher Baker, the new marketplace from Joey Allaham — owner of Prime Grill, Prime KO and Solo — which opens on Manhattan’s Upper East Side this Wednesday.
The 3,000-square-foot gourmet food market has a sleek and modern décor and will sell both prepared foods and high quality artisanal ingredients.
Allaham — a trained butcher — is most excited about the meat, which will be front and center thanks to a dry-aged beef window that’s visible from the street. Much of the wide meat selection will be grass-fed, something that is still catching on in the kosher world. “People don’t realize that the quality of meat depends so much on how an animal was treated while it was alive. It’s important what they eat, how much they sleep, everything,” he said.
Taim, our favorite falafel shop in New York, is getting a second location. [Grubstreet
A how to guide for how to make Montreal-style smoked meat. Mmmm, our mouths are watering. [Serious Eats]
A restaurant in Lviv, Ukraine touts itself as a “Jewish themed” dinning experiences where hats with peyes are given to its guests, chopped liver is served and diners are asked to haggle over the price. This is perhaps the strangest and one of the more disturbing interpretations of Jewish food we’ve heard about. [Tablet]
The 10 best egg creams in New York. [The Daily Meal]
Jachnun is a show of human ingenuity — simple ingredients turned into a delicacy that can be served hot on Shabbat, given the limitations of poverty and Jewish religious law. It’s also an immigrant success story, but like many immigrants, it succeeded in its adopted homeland by coming far from its roots — a hearty meal that soared to popularity by transforming itself into a pastry.
For the uninitiated, jachnun is flaky, caramelized rolls of dough, baked for hours at a low temperature in a sealed container and served alongside hard-boiled eggs, grated tomato and spicy, cilantro-heavy skhug. This is traditional Yemenite Shabbat food. Stick it into the oven on a Friday afternoon, and the following day you have a warm, decadent meal that can be served without violating the prohibition against cooking on Shabbat. jachnun is immensely popular in Israel, where Jews of all stripes buy it premade and just do the final baking themselves, eat it as snacks at rest stops and order it around the clock at restaurants.
New York’s food world has been abuzz with the opening of Kutsher’s, an American Jewish bistro named for the iconic Borscht Belt resort. Can Jewish food “go gourmet”? And, should it? Both questions have been asked perhaps exhaustively amongst passionate foodies lately.
Yesterday, we got some answers from the powers that be, some of the city’s biggest food critics. In unison, The New York Times, New York magazine and Time Out New York dished out their opinions on the new restaurant. Here’s what they had to say:
In Israel, goulash has become one of the many adopted comfort foods that make up the patchwork quilt of Israeli cuisine. It can be found in Tel Aviv’s Yemenite quarter, at many of the workingman-style eateries surrounding Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market, and in people’s homes. But I have come to realize that in Israel goulash is simply the generic name for any manner of simple beef soup or stew, perfect for surviving the winter.
Goulash is typically associated with Hungary — and rightly so. “There is only one goulash soup and this is the Hungarian one,” explains Ofer Vardi author of “Going Paprikash”. Traditional Hungarian goulash is a simple but flavorful soup of beef, onions, tomatoes, peppers, beef broth, and paprika that is simmered until the beef is fall-apart tender. It is hearty and comforting, full of rich beef flavor.
It’s Saturday morning. OK, let’s be honest, it’s probably already early afternoon. My husband and I drag ourselves out of bed and head straight for the kitchen. It’s our Shabbat ritual — we wake up, spend hours preparing dish after dish and then sit down to a leisurely, luxurious lunch. Eggs of some sort, lots of salads, coffee, baked goods and good bread. Good bread is a must.
This is what we do on weekends. Friday mornings and afternoons are frenetic. The streets of Tel Aviv are full of people, and staying home — or worse, sleeping late — makes you feel left out of the action, like life is passing you by. It doesn’t really matter what you do outside the house — go to the corner hardware store, cram into the health food shop to buy last-minute ingredients for the Shabbat meal (even though enough grocery stores are open 24 hours), or sit at a restaurant, preferably over brunch at an outdoor table — the point is to get out. Sometimes we stay home and clean, but it’s a frenetic cleaning, in the spirit of the city’s energy; through our patio windows, we look out on the traffic jams and packed cafes.
In cities across the globe this month, Jewish communities are celebrating Tu B’Shvat. One of the types of celebrations is the mystical Tu B’Shvat seder. It started in the 16th century, by Rabbi Yitzchak Luria, who took the New Year of the Trees and gave it an other-worldly spin. Through the ritual of the Tu B’Shvat seder, the Jew celebrates the fecundity and blooming of the trees as a totem for spiritual perfection. Basically, the seder is a ritual that leads the Jew through four divine worlds culminating in the world of emanation—the world of the spirit which is perfect and holy. Here we eat fruits that are fleshy and without pits, teaching that in the world of emanation, all is perfect and sweet. It’s lovely and spiritual, and totally backwards. Let me explain.
The problem with the totemic thinking of Tu B’Shvat is that it ignores the underlying structure of the human-eco balance on which this day relies. Luria’s seder is a ritual journey that elevates the soul up and away from the physical to the metaphysical, from the body to the spirit, from this world to the world beyond. Notice, the subtext: the world we live in is nothing but a beginning—a way station to the real world of God’s essence felt in the undiminished mystical union. Understood this way, the purpose of the seder is to elevate ourselves away from the physical, turning our backs on this world, and on our responsibility for it, for a chance at a mystical union with God.