Caught in a rainstorm in Guatemala, with only chafing rain boots to tackle the wet, muddy miles ahead, Joe Gorin is about to give in to misery. Then he remembers a Buddhist practice: walking meditation. The scene begins to change as he uses this tool for enhanced awareness and thought to smooth the journey. This scene comes from Gorin’s memoir “Choose Love: A Jewish Buddhist Human Rights Activist in Central America,” and illustrates how well his spiritual practice entwined with his human rights work in 1980s Latin America. The author, who is a psychotherapist and I just call Joe, works the plot next to mine in a community garden in Northwest D.C. Joe gave me his book this spring, after I shared that I write.
Though I’ve never trudged around Central America in the rain, and am only a neophyte meditator, I have developed a similar penchant for spotting lessons — I’ll call it metaphor meditation. It is a similar concept to the one that made Robert Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” an international bestseller. Usually used for a variety of reasons in literature, from foreshadowing (gathering storm clouds) to character development (the corset of a restricted aristocrat), metaphor can lend insight for a sustainable life as well.
My latest metaphor for meditation is weeds, those uninvited guests who have become so familiar to me in the very garden I share with Joe.
This spicy, tangy and herbed sauce is dubbed “Magic Sauce.” It would certainly liven up any Shabbat chicken. [101 Cookbooks]
Changes in school lunches could take years to implements says Marion Nestle. [The Atlantic]
“The Hangover Cookbook” (come on, we’ve all been there) has a recipe for the Israeli dish shakshuka. [The Daily Meal]
There could be no better place for the garden at Oceana High School in Pacifica, Calif., than where it is located — just outside the cafeteria. The 8,400-square-foot garden is a concrete reminder to the 600 students and 35 faculty members of the unique opportunity they have to personally engage in sustainable agriculture and learn about environmentalism and healthy eating.
The garden is there thanks to the vision and initiative of Naftali Moed, one of the school’s students. The 17-year-old senior recently won a $36,000 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Award, given by the Helen Diller Family Foundation, a supporting foundation of San Francisco’s Jewish Community Endowment Fund, for his exceptional leadership in turning a gravel lot into a thriving mini-farm and site for environmental education.
The wiry, yarmulke-wearing Moed lives in Pacifica with his two mothers and his sister, Shoshana, who is a freshman at Oceana. The family are active members of the Coastside Jewish Community, an inclusive, nondenominational community of 80 families living in Pacifica, Half Moon Bay and the other coastal communities south of San Francisco.
This piece is cross-posted from JTA.
Daniel Rogov, who helped develop Israeli wine and food culture and thrust Israeli wine into the international spotlight through decades of sharply written critiques, died Sept. 7 in Tel Aviv. He was in his 70s, by several accounts, but his exact age has not been made public. In addition, the name Daniel Rogov was a pseudonym and few knew his real name.
Rogov, widely regarded as Israel’s leading food and wine critic, died a revered figure in the world he helped create. A week before his death, Rogov was treated to a celebratory tribute in his honor attended by hundreds of Israel’s leading food and wine professionals and fans at a Tel Aviv hotel.
In February of 2008 I was living in Nashville, finishing up graduate school at Vanderbilt University. One Friday morning in February I boarded a plane bound for Chicago, heading to my parents’ house to surprise them for Shabbat. My mother had just finished chemotherapy for breast cancer, and on the phone she sounded worn out and depressed. An automatic fare alert had notified me that I could get amazingly cheap tickets to Chicago for the weekend, and on a whim I decided to go.
In the days before my trip I made up an elaborate plan. My uncle would pick my up from the airport and drive me home. I planned the menu and coordinated with a family friend who went grocery shopping for me, and left the groceries at our next door neighbor’s house for me to retrieve when I arrived.
When you think of food – what comes to mind? Usually we think of tastes, smells – the sensual experiences of eating. If we dig a little deeper, we’ll get to issues of producing food (growing, raising, processing…) and preparing it – buying, cooking. If we really “unpack” the idea – we’ll think about the lack of it – hunger – and all the different social, economic, environmental, and political issues that are embedded in our food system that makes it the way it is…
The Israel Sustainable Food Tour, sponsored by Hazon and the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership will deal with all these issues and more. We will hit the ground picking, kicking off the week in the field, doing the age old activity of leket, gleaning, collecting agricultural produce straight from the fields, for distribution among disadvantaged populations. The organization that promotes food rescue, and other initiatives to combat nutritional insecurity is called Leket – Table to Table – a worthy beginning to a week focused on the sustainability of our food system – including issues of justice and fair access.
This week we bring you two stories about hummus around the globe. Tell us about your favorite hummus in the comments.
In just over a year, Ze’ev Avrahami, an Israeli reporter living in Berlin, turned a passionate quest for the perfect hummus into a thriving underground food business. This month, he’ll open Sababa, an Israeli bistro in the ‘It’ German capital — Berlin. “My mother taught me to love our Jewish Oriental food. She’s quite happy about my new career,” Avrahami told us.
Growing up in Tel Aviv where hummus is a 24/7 nosh and a must-have in every fridge, Avrahami felt deprived when he moved to Berlin in 2007 with Kirsten, his journalist wife. “I had trouble finding good food here in town, well let’s say the kind of food I like.”
“I am surprised that the only leafy item in my CSA box this week is lettuce,” began one Facebook post from a friend. Her pithy commentary summed up what seems to be the experience of many who open their kitchens to weekly mystery deliveries from the farm. Eating locally means eating a lot of greens. I’ve seen crowd-sourced requests for ways to cook amaranth leaves, escarole (that was me), tatsoi, purslane and various kinds of kale and chard. Not to mention the tasty looking yet delicate leaves that come attached to beets and turnips. Sturdier than spinach, yet delicate enough to require cooking within a day or two, greens inspire culinary creativity in my friends. But why so many greens?
For CSA farmers, I suspect the abundance of greens has a lot to do with flexibility. Greens such as chard and kale grow well in the cooler weather of the beginning and end of the growing season. They don’t require as sustained periods of heat to get them going (the way melons or peppers might), they grow quickly and in a difficult growing season, they can be started in a greenhouse and then transported. Greens aren’t as easily damaged in rains as lettuce or delicate greens. Part of a CSA membership is learning to eat what the land produces, rather than what we are used to, and greens have been an education.
This week we bring you two stories about hummus around the globe. Tell us about your favorite hummus in the comments.
“Everyone thinks they make it the best,” is what Abdul Lama said as he stood at the cash register under a portrait of Jordan’s King Abdullah and Queen Rania in his Mediterranean Wraps restaurant on California Avenue in Palo Alto, California. Lama was speaking of hummus, and it appears that his statement is correct — at least from the bit of research I did among the professional authentic hummus makers here in Silicon Valley.
“There’s only one way to make hummus,” Lama’s business partner Abraham Khalil told me emphatically as I sat with him at a table at Mediterranean Wraps’ second location, on busy University Avenue near the gates to Stanford University. The frustrating thing was that he was only willing to go so far in revealing just how he specifically makes his popular hummus.
Bagel and cream cheese — hold the lox! Vita Food Products recalls 8,000 packages of smoked salmon. [CNN Health]
What the locavore movement calls “local,” isn’t historically local. “The foods we consider local are results of a globalization process that has been in full swing for more than five centuries, ever since Columbus landed in the New World.” [The New York Times]
The Forward’s cartoon artist Eli Valley draws a cartoon about his mother’s cooking and gives a recipe for spaghetti. [Saveur]
My first trip to Japan, as a college student, had nothing to do with food — I was there to learn the language — but at the time, with a lifetime of the sort of picky eating that inspires Discovery Channel reality shows, I knew that something would have to give. Just about every movie, guide book and first hand account I encountered warned of servings of rotten beans, sour plums and vegetables dug out of the Pacific. They also warned of extreme social consequences for turning down a single bite. White rice alone does not a healthy diet make, and somehow, hot dogs and chicken as my much-needed protein just didn’t seem plausible. And so, as I got on the plane, I made a promise to myself that, at the very least, I would push through the basics, figure out how to fake it.
To this day, I have no idea how it happened, but this sketchy plan worked out too well, and two years later I found myself boarding another flight, with the sole intention of cooking and eating everything Japanese that I could find. Fermented, pickled and aqueous; I’d sample them all.
Elaine Benes was onto something when she declared “You can’t beat a babka” in a 1994 episode of “Seinfeld” (clip below). Next to brisket and latkes, babka may be the ultimate Jewish comfort food. (For those unfamiliar, babka is yeasty, risen dough that twists around a sweet filling to create striations, or, in laymen’s terms, layers of deliciousness.) Sometimes spelled bobke, recipes for this treat have been passed down by Eastern European grandmothers throughout the Diaspora. And while it may appear as though chocolate is the traditional babka (didn’t Elaine also declare cinnamon “the lesser babka”?), the truth is that it is a decadent, twentieth century American addition.
According to Gil Marks in “The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food”, babka originated in Poland or Ukraine where the word baba (similar to the Yiddish word bubbe) means grandmother. Babka is the diminutive, and the name arose either because grandmothers were the primary purveyors of this treat or because the tall, fluted pans originally used resembled folds in a grandmother’s skirt. Marks notes that the Jewish-style loaves probably came about in the mid-nineteenth century as a way to turn extra challah dough into a Shabbat treat.
Like many modern American families, the faces around my dinner table have changed as family members pass on, others leave for, and then return from, college and new members join our family through marriage. With each of those alterations, our religious and culinary traditions transformed, morphing to fit our new family. But, Shabbat dinner — the one sacrosanct observance in our family — remains.
When I was little, our Shabbat table was filled with singing and numerous sets of Shabbat candles. Each dinner started with the telling of a Jewish fable like those of the fools of Chelm. Despite being able to trace our Ashkenazi ancestry back generations into eastern Europe, our meal never included the chicken, tzimmes or kugel that my friends ate. Instead, each Shabbat was celebrated with a filet or whole fish that was picked up from the fishmonger that morning. Glistening pink salmon, pan-seared tuna topped with mango salsa, brilliant red snapper or shad doused with lemon juice and onions took center stage in our elaborate feasts. During high school, homemade challah that I baked after school graced the table each week, while seasonal vegetables and sliced melon with berries rounded out the meal.
One day out of seven, we have the opportunity to stop creating and start being. To enjoy the world around us, including friends and family, beautiful places, enjoyable activities. To rest and recharge. If sustainability is about meeting the needs of today without compromising the needs of future generations, Shabbat is a great place to start practicing this for ourselves—and for the world. Imagine if one day out of seven, the entire world stopped buying, producing, driving.
For thousands of years, Shabbat has sustained the Jewish people by providing a respite from the work of the week. Creating a sustainable Shabbat dinner, a meal that uses our natural resources wisely, means that Shabbat can continue to sustain us for thousands of years to come.
Hazon and Birthright Israel NEXT have partnered to create a guide on Hosting a Sustainable Shabbat Dinner. The guide will help you plan your meal, think about what to serve, how to set up and clean up, get the meal started, and bring some insightful Jewish learning to your Shabbat table.
It may be hard to believe that for some bagel lovers, New York bagels are not the be all and end all. Not everyone may know it, but Montreal is a big bagel town, too. And now some U.S. cities — New York, included — are serving Montreal bagels on their turf.
“My folks are from Montreal, so I always grew up with a sense of bagel superiority,” David Sax, Jewish food connoisseur and author of “Save the Deli,” told the Jew and the Carrot. He thinks a niche market for Montreal bagel has formed since word got out around the U.S. about them from ex-Montrealers and others who visited the French-speaking city, tasted the bagels there, and loved them.
I usually avoid a fight in which you’re bound to lose (because it is really hard to change a person’s opinion with your own opinion). However, I do get riled up when people make uneducated claims about farmers’ markets, and CSAs. I’ve heard plenty in my three years as a CSA host. Then a few weeks ago, I was a guest at a luncheon in which people disparaged the prices at our local farmers’ market, including the statement, “The prices at my daughter’s farmers’ market are cheaper.”
On my way to the Headhouse Square Farmers’ Market in Philadelphia on Sunday morning, I was still fuming about the conversation, so I decided to seek some knowledgeable answers.
There’s something about an egg cream that can bring out the debate in some people. “There is egg cream on your face,” wrote one reader, “if you fall for those explanations of the egg cream.” Another simply wrote “Hogwash!” Luckily these were letters not to us but the New York Times, throughout the 1970s, in response to articles making one claim or another about the correct way to mix the drink. No egg cream article comes without a slew of detractors. Luckily our readers were more polite in response to Leah Koenig’s recent article, “Egg Creams Make a Comeback”, but were no less contentious. When Koenig described the delicious drink re-imagined to include maple, coffee, and even olive oil, some readers cried foul.
Arguments over the correct way to make an egg cream are nothing new. Disagreements can arise about the ingredients (most traditionalists say nothing will do but Fox’s U-bet chocolate syrup, milk and seltzer), the order they’re placed in the glass, or the proper length of the mixing spoon. As a publication of record, the Forward might not be able to settle this historic debate, but we can at least contribute to the latest round. We want to hear from you on the new breed of egg creams, from the return to classic to the provocative nouveau. To get it started, we asked a range of experts for their take on the topic, inquiring, “What do you think of non-traditional egg creams?” Check out their positions below and add your own.
A new book reveals that Ikea — of lingonberry jam and cheap furniture fame — has a founder with a Nazi past. [Washington Post]
A Whole Foods spokesperson denies rumors that the high-end chain is boycotting Israeli products. She noted that Whole Foods carries thousands of kosher options and hundreds of kosher-for-Passover products. [Jewish Journal]
Mark your calendars, Texans: Houston will host a Kosher chili cookoff in October. Last year’s cookoff raised $10,000 for various Jewish organizations. [Houston Chronicle] Planning a trip to San Francisco? J., the Jewish news weekly of Northern California, has compiled a list of the best kosher restaurants in the Bay Area: [J. Weekly]
While headlines about the Farm Bill focus on the role of commodity subsidies in creating the ubiquity of processed foods in the U.S. (and increasingly in the global) food system, on the final day of the 2011 Hazon Food Conference, some of the most passionate and committed members of what some are calling the “new Jewish food movement” got a deeper look at the details of the policy landscape that shapes the way the U.S. food system functions and influences the rest of the globe.
At the “Farm Bill 2012: How the Jewish community and you can make a difference” workshop, presenters Oran Hesterman of the Fair Food Network and Dahlia Rockowitz of American Jewish World Service provided a background into why our policies look the way they do — the intentions with which they were designed, and how we can change them. Illustrating the critical role played by many of the Farm Bill’s sections other than the commodity payments, both presenters raised some serious questions for the audience, and pointed us in the direction to begin to use our voices as citizens and voters to answer them:
In Israel, Friday night dinner is an institution. Israelis of all backgrounds, from observant Jews of Jerusalem’s Mea Shearim neighborhood to members of the artsy Mitzpe Ramon community in the south, celebrate the Shabbat meal with a homemade festive dinner. Strong Jewish tradition, a deep national spirit and the geography of this small country ensure that Shabbat dinner is mandatory for all. And so, every Friday night, families gather at the homes of the elders of the tribe. Siblings update each other on their love lives, children sing songs and aunts and uncles debate political views until everyone unites at the table to eat an honest home-cooked meal. This time, all across the nation, becomes holy.
Growing up in the most secular environment in Israel, the Kibbutz — Friday night dinner played a major role in the scenery of my childhood. These dinners were our only outlet of festiveness and connection with Shabbat. For me, that connection was symbolized by the food.