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.
I just came back from an inspiring tour of University of California Davis’ food science program led by Sean Lafond, a Ph.D student in food sciences, who recently prepared tomato ice cream as a fun experiment in his home. “It tasted like tomato ice cream,” he said, though he doesn’t usually dabble in experimental ice creams, like the avocado ice cream made in one of the test kitchens by another researcher.
For the food conference participants, seeing the four-building complex replete with food kitchens, a wine laboratory, a brewery, a processing plant and an experimental garden was a full-circle kind of experience, where we could see the kind of work that goes on behind the scenes to put the ideas behind the food movement into action.
Writing about food can be an experience to savor, according to Jewish cookbook author Joan Nathan. “For me, writing about food is talking about culture and history,” Nathan said at a presentation on food writing on Friday at the Hazon Food Conference in Davis, Calif. The author of ten cookbooks, Nathan also writes about food for the New York Times and other publications from her home in Washington, D.C.
New York journalist Jeffrey Yoskowitz and California food blogger Amiee Kushner also shared their insight into the field of food writing to an audience of around 35 people at the University of California Davis. Yoskowitz, who keeps kosher, chronicles Judaism’s complicated relationship with pork at the website porkmemoirs.com. Meanwhile, Kushner writes a blog for an audience of Jews and non-Jews alike called Jewish Food in the Hands of Heathens.
August 18, 2011 marked the first day of Hazon’s annual Food Conference. The four day gathering at UC-Davis, a global leader in sustainability projects, united people from Colorado to Japan under open blue skies and amongst beautiful trees, flowers, creeks, and even a dairy farm and winery. Food, fun, and activities aside, the 311 person gathering had an intense agenda including seven program tracks like Food Systems and Policy and Jewish Agriculture.
The Food Justice and Tikkun Olam track provided an opportunity for community activists, teachers, students and foodies alike to learn from one another about our complex food system and a broader movement to address hunger, poverty, workers rights, and food access both locally and abroad. Pursue, a project of American Jewish World Service and AVODAH, hosted a session called “Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA): A Vehicle for Collective Action and World-Changing!” The workshop provided a platform for learning, idea sharing, and, ideally, continued conversation and collaboration. All three presenters were recipients of the Pursue Food Justice Scholarship, a pilot initiative to strengthen the food justice programming at this year’s conference.
This week The Jew and the Carrot celebrates the first anniversary of its re-launch. In honor of the milestone, we took a deeper look at the roots of our namesake veggie — the carrot and its tangled Jewish past.
Myths, both ancient and modern, abound around the orange veggie — some say it improves your eye sight, others claimed it aided in contraception, some quibble over the fact that orange carrots were created by botanists working under the House of Orange in Holland, and finally, others claim that Jews are responsible for the first written carrot cake recipe in America. Like most good legends, there’s a grain of truth and a whole of hullabaloo in these myths. So here are the facts:
First of all, carrots, and not just the ones sitting at the bottom of your vegetable drawer, are really old. Fossils of wild carrot pollen stretch back 55-34 million years, according to botanical researchers John Stolarzyk and Jules Janick. Since then, carrots have transformed from wild inedible roots to the sweet orange vegetable we know today.
Britain’s next food TV star may just be a kosher housewife. [The Jewish Chronicle]
With the Jewish farm movement growing, Leah Koenig takes a look at the history of Jewish farming in America. [Tablet]
The tale of a family’s babka recipe. [Gilt Taste]
Last butcher standing: “Yuval Atias is the last of the Bay Area’s independent kosher butchers.” [The Wall Street Journal]
The growing season in Colorado may only be about 150 days long, but the New Jewish Food Movement is growing here year round. Two years ago, Colorado sent 52 Participants to the Hazon Food Conference in Monterey, CA. Those participants came back to Colorado and began building one of the most diverse and dynamic local scenes in the New Jewish Food Movement today.
The Denver and Boulder areas are home to four Jewish run CSAs. The Minyan Na’Aleh, Denver JCC Edibly Fit, Boulder’s Tuv Ha’Aretz and the South Denver CSAs have grown out of the Hazon CSA program and offer a connection between the Jewish Community and local farms. Along with offering a way for community members to enjoy local produce, the CSAs also offer a spot for the local community to gather and connect with each other.
For the small but budding wine community of Israel (and many local revelers), The Israel Wine Festival at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem is the pinnacle event of the year. Friends and celebrities — close to 10,000 of them — mingle outside between the museum’s buildings and trees. Wines from around the country were poured, as guests munch on locally made cheeses from places like Jacob’s Dairy.
The festival, which started on Monday and ends tonight, is in its eighth year and was started by owners of two Jerusalem wine shops, by Avi Ben and Smulik Shahar. The winery lineup consists of 40 Israeli wineries. This year’s newcomers included: Bazelet ha’Golan, Kitron, Ella Valley, Katlav, Gva’ot, Har Bracha, Chillag and others. More established wineries like Carmel and Golan Heights were there as well, as was Tishbi Winery and Binyamina Winery. And some of the boutique Israeli wineries like Tzuba Winery, Odem Mountain Winery and Yatir Winery also made appearances.
Our daily need for food means that people who need to lose weight have a hard time, as we cannot simply withdraw from food’s siren song, unlike the non-essential addictions for cigarettes or alcohol. The most interesting research for me has been the work of Brian Wansink and his colleagues at Cornell, who’ve studied how and why we keep on eating “mindlessly.” I was fascinated by the description of their clever experiments in his 2006 book, “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think,” including the study in which unsuspecting participants eat soup from bowls engineered to automatically refill until the researchers called it quits — the soup eaters did not, as they saw there was still liquid in their bowls! Another experiment involved inviting college students for a free movie and handing them buckets of popcorn, the students gorged themselves on the snack, even though it was three days old. What they might have rejected otherwise as stale and unpalatable, was consumed uncomplainingly, because they were distracted by the movie and because they had been ingrained to eat at the cinema. Dr. Wansink taught his readership how easy it is to be fooled into over-eating by our circumstances.