With Yom Kippur upon us, thoughts of fasting loom. But take solace: Jews are not alone in this practice. Fasting is observed by religions around the world. While the reason, time of year, length, and type of fast vary greatly, almost every ends with a traditional but sumptuous meal.
Through the ages fasting has been prescribed as a way to repent, reflect, and become closer to whichever god one believes in. It is one of the five pillars of Islam, and during the month of Ramadan it is required that all able Muslim adults refrain from food, drink, and intercourse from sunrise to sunset each day. It signifies devotion to god and is supposed to teach observers about patience, restraint and kindness.
In the Forward’s first Food & Drink special section, coming out this Thursday, we trace the 600+ year history of the bagel. But where’s the best bagel in New York City? Read on to find out.
New Yorkers are an opinionated bunch. And few subjects are as polarizing as the city’s best bagels. When the Upper West Side location of the iconic H&H bagel shop closed in June, the city and bagel lovers everywhere, mourned the loss. But the closing also left a place open in the rungs of the top New York City bagels. So, we asked some of our favorite Jewish foodies to recommend their top bagel joints. We were hoping to find some sort of consensus on the city’s best bagel, but, alas, two our results proved the adage: two Jews, many opinions. Personally, we like them all. Share your #1 local bagel places in the comments below.
During the first summer in my current home in Denver, there were plenty of bees in the garden. Every time I walked outside to see how things were growing, I could see the bees buzzing around the plants, happily pollinating my zucchinis and herbs. I had an abundant harvest that year; in fact, I probably still have some pesto in the freezer. The next summer, there were almost no vegetables to harvest. And upon reflection, I realized there were also no bees. That was the summer of 2006.
This September I saw the movie “Queen of the Sun” as part of Denver-based Ekar Farm’s “Honey, It’s Bee Month” programming. From the movie, I learned that 2006 was a year that beekeepers all over the US started noticing a phenomenon called “Colony Collapse Disorder.” CCD is the term used to describe the spontaneous collapse of a beehive due to the disappearance of worker bees. Essentially all the worker bees from a hive simply disappear, for no apparent reason.
While Sabbath is a day of rest, some prefer unrest. Dan Sieradski, a new media activist, organized a Shabbat dinner last Friday amid the hubbub of the Occupy Wall Street protest taking place in Lower Manhattan.
Around 20 gathered in a corner of Zuccotti Park to welcome Shabbat, not far from the din of protestors and the soft “ommmm” of a few people meditating.
A couple of hours before Shabbat, Sieradski, 32, sent messages on Facebook and tweeted: “This is what shabbocracy looks like,” inviting Jews and non-Jews to join him.
For centuries, the system of kashrut helped us to decide whether food was “fit” for us to eat, but contemporary food issues are raising a whole new set of questions about what food we should and shouldn’t eat, which kashrut may or may not be able to answer.
Last May, Siach: An Environment & Social Justice Conversation brought together social justice leaders from across the United States, Israel, and Europe, including those who are developing the idea of Kashrut, to consider such factors as where food come from, who’s serving it, and how are those people treated.
While attending the Hazon Food Conference at the University of California, Davis campus last month, I had the pleasure of leading a table learning and discussion at the Community-Wide Beit Midrash (house of study) program on Saturday morning. Sitting at separate tables in the large room, I was one of two people who lead sessions on non-Jewish rather than Jewish texts. The noise level was high but the energy level was fierce. My role was as facilitator, not lecturer, and I found it timely to present a topic inspired by a post in Grist.com, which referenced a TED presentation by Frederick Kaufman called “The Measure of All Things.”
In the third video in the TEDx Manhattan series, Kaufman says that his purpose is to speak about the “retail face of sustainable food, the marketing of sustainability, and the great ‘green wash’ heading our way.” He introduces the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops, an initiative based in Arizona and California. This Index focuses not on commodity crops but on lettuce, grapes, almonds, and tomatoes. It’s made up of farmers, food processors, large environmental groups and academics who are attempting to find consensus for a “measurement of a unit of sustainability” for conventional farming. This is self-regulation, aka “market capture” amongst economists. Their goal? A sustainability label.
It all started in 1996, when Liora Gvion first wondered why the food served at a local restaurant in an Arab-Israeli town with a primarily Arab-Israeli clientele was the same as what was on the menu of Arab-owned restaurants that catered to Jewish Israelis. The sociologist of food, who lectures at the Kibbutzim College of Education and the Hebrew University, spent the next ten years, off and on, trying to figure out why this was so.
The result was a book, “B’gova Habeten” (“Abdominal Height”) published in 2006 about the political and social aspects of Palestinian food in Israel. The book will be released in English soon. Gvion spoke to the Jew and the Carrot about a related study she recently completed: “Cooking, Food and Masculinity: Palestinian Men in Israeli Society.”
Yom Kippur gives us an opportunity to reflect and repent, but for many of us the fasting element of the holiday can be very difficult. The most common problems include extreme hunger pains, headaches from caffeine withdrawal, and shakiness from low blood sugar (also known as hypoglycemia). Personally, I’ve dealt with all three of these issues in the past, and I’ve seen friends and family deal with a combination of them as well. Over the years through trial and error along with my nutrition education, I’ve come up with a list of tips to help get through the fast with ease:
Prep for the big day, and don’t supersize it! For a few days leading up to the fast, eat normal-sized portions at every meal. If you tend to overeat, be aware of how your stomach is feeling, eat slowly so your brain gets the signal you are full, and stop when you are satiated. Preparing for the fast in this way will greatly help control hunger pains.
A good challah can make a Jewish meal. Here are seven excellent ones in Los Angeles. [Serious Eats]
Rosh Hashanah now has it’s own cupcake. New York’s Magnolia Bakery is now serving up Honey Cupcakes made with walnuts and a touch of citrus zest. [Magnolia Bakery]
If the purpose of dipping apple slices into honey on Rosh Hashanah is to bring about a sweet year, caramel candy apples offer a kind of extreme dipping. The recipe puts a new twist on a custom that is hundreds of years old.
Some believe that the tradition of dipping apples in honey originated from Solomon’s “Song of Songs” which says, “As the apple is rare and unique among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved — Israel.” In addition, a midrash, or biblical tale, says that trees and all vegetation were created on Rosh Hashanah eve. Others argue that the tradition came from Eastern Europe, where few biblical fruits, other than the apple, were common. Apple trees were also harvested around the holiday season. Either way, it is a beautiful custom: apples, the fruits of love, created on Rosh Hashanah eve, dipped in nature’s sweetest goo. It’s a sticky, finger-licking reminder of a sweet year.
Caramel candy apples are a snazzy version of the practice, like an ancient tradition on steroids. The process of making them is rather straightforward and a fun way to spend an afternoon in the kitchen, especially with kids. Each caramel apple is dipped in a delicious lacquer of the gooey stuff and individually designed with endless options for colorful toppings.
Apple cake is one of Judaism’s most enduring recipes. Every family has its own method and nary a Jewish cookbook is without an entry for this perennial favorite. While the cake is popular year round, at no time does it see more action than during Rosh Hashanah, when apples and honey represent a sweet new year. But there are many other simanim (the symbolic foods of Rosh Hashanah) that get overlooked and this year I wanted to bring them into the picture.
In a humorous twist of history and translation, apples may not have even been one of the biblical fruits of the bible. According to Gil Marks in “The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food,” the bible mentions tapuach, which in modern Hebrew means apple. “However,” he says, “many authorities believe that the biblical tapuach was in fact a different fruit, perhaps the quince or a citrus fruit, because in the biblical period, the apple primarily grew wild and was not yet easily cultivated in tropical areas like Israel and Egypt.”
Start the year off well, be bold, shine forth with simplicity. Rosh Hashanah foods are meant not just to tickle our taste buds but also to inspire. The flavors and textures of holiday foods are meant to encourage the turn towards new possibilities. According Gilda Angel, the author of the “Sephardic Holiday Cooking,” Turkish Jewish cuisine, which relies on bright flavors of vegetables, side lining the heavy spices that dress up other Middle Eastern Jewish culinary traditions, is the perfect way to give the New Year a bright bold fresh start.
Like other Sephardic Jews, Turkish Jews who are originally of Spanish decent make food a spiritual centerpiece of the holiday. Drawing on the ancient Talmudic custom of eating foods that embody the wishes that we have for the New Year, Sephardic Jews around the world have developed complex holiday menus utilizing the ingredients that correlate to the blessings for the New Year. For those worried that there might be a negative decree in the coming year, try eating pumpkin dishes, such as the Pan De Calabaza, a pumpkin bread from the menu below, which will work to annul the decree. Leeks, like those who found in the Keftes De Prasa, or leek fritters, also below help give us luck instead of strengthen those who seek to triumph over us.
When I participated in the Adamah Fellowship at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center in the fall of 2006, I remember feeling such amazement at the way that the High Holidays perfectly lined up with the agricultural calendar. I arrived at the farm just in time to see summer turn into fall — to harvest the last of the tomatoes and eggplants, clear out old cucumber and summer squash plants and begin to put the field “to bed,” planting cover crop and spreading manure to ensure fertile soil for the next growing season. As we celebrated the New Year, we dipped the first of the season’s apples into honey and feasted upon the frost-sweetened storage crops of the season: carrots, beets, and potatoes.
This year, the beginning of fall brought on the terrific force of Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. Connecticut rainstorms usually bring about an inch of rain, but these storms together brought between 9 and 11.5 inches of rain. This massive amount of water caused our main field, the sadeh, to flood — not once, but twice. As these waters rushed over the rows of carefully tended vegetables, they wreaked havoc. Low-lying vegetables such as cabbages and carrots were drowned. Other crops were simply swept away. The winter squash, which had been gathering sugars to be as sweet as possible for harvest, floated in the floodwaters to the woods at the edges of the field. Because of possible contamination in the floodwaters, vegetables that remained after the waters receded have been deemed unsafe to eat. Topsoil — the fertile, soft soil that farmers spend almost as much time cultivating as they do vegetables — was completely washed from the field. The past seven years of composting and cover cropping was lost and will have to begin our next season on hard, compacted soil.
There are no lack of recipes to cook up this Rosh Hashanah (we’ll share some of ours on Monday). In the meantime, check out the LA Times for chicken stuffed with brown rice and grapes and fruit “carpaccio.” Tablet shares recipes for a Persian meal including Quince and Veal Chorosht’e Be, Persian Chicken Soup With Chickpea Dumplings and Persian Sweet Rice With Orange and Carrots.
Looking to try out some new apple varieties this Rosh Hashanah? The Kitchn’ gives the low down on a bushel of them.
While those of us on a gluten-free diet may have our daily eating habits under control, the chagim (Jewish Holidays) present a whole new array of challenges. Unless you’re preparing a holiday feast in your own home where everything is under control and to your own standards, it’s often difficult to eat out — even if it’s with family.
For those of you gluten-free folks out there, hopefully your family is open to helping you navigate your way successfully through the holiday while keeping everyone happy. Just remember: many delicious dishes can be prepared easily sans gluten and so many are naturally gluten-free, such as salads, soups, sides…unfortunately just not a typical noodle kugel (unless you’re going to be adventurous and make your own egg noodles) nor a typical challah. Here is a quick guide to navigating Rosh Hashanah gluten-free with a few recipe links and ideas to help you out at this holiday season. Chag Sameach!
A few years ago, before beekeeping was legalized in New York, I purchased the last Brooklyn Bee honey of the season from rooftop beekeeper John Howe. In addition to showcasing a unique, hard-to-find urban honey for my family, my goal was to make a statement at the Rosh Hashanah table about the value of small-scale agriculture and the high quality of local honey…from bees pollinating my own backyard.
Little did I know that in trumpeting Brooklyn’s local honey I was potentially protecting my family from tainted honey from China. Smuggled Chinese honey is estimated to make up about a third of the industrially produced honey consumed in the US, according to last month’s chilling report by Andrew Schneider of Food Safety News.
My happiest memories of my father are of mid afternoon Fridays, the only time we would find him in the kitchen. A flock of six kids, like turtles making their journey back to the sea, trekking back home tired and famished on mid afternoon Fridays.
A couple of my younger siblings, walking a few miles back home from school, moments ago just jolted out of their seats in their classrooms, at the much awaited sound of the bell signaling the end of school week and freedom.
Another brother or a sister, stepping back home, dusty from an excursion on the patchy green, mostly sandy play area or from a playful ride outside on our lone brand new bike. I am hitchhiking in the scorching sun, from my army base somewhere in central Israel and heading home south, after an entire week or two of being away. Us all famished and cannot wait for Friday night Shabbat dinner.
Daniel Rogov, who passed away recently, may have gained notoriety for putting Israeli wine on the map, but it was as a food writer that he got his start. And while he will likely be most remembered for his impact on viticulture, his influence on the Israeli culinary scene was no less profound.
“He played an important role in our industry and [for] chefs,” says Jerusalem chef Michael Katz, owner of Adom, Colony, and Lavan at the Cinematheque. “Daniel Rogov was a very controversial person. Some people said he had no idea; some said he is a professional; some said he should have stuck to wine only; some said he had no idea about [being a] food critic; some said he was the best — what I am trying to say [is] that among the professional people there was no one idea or thought about the man…. Our opinion does not really matter [since] the public respected him and listened to him.”
“Take a bite, and if you don’t like it, spit it out!” said the veteran BBQ judge to my left as I eased into a folding chair, the smell of kosher brisket and ribs hovering over a packed parking lot of an Orthodox synagogue in Memphis on Sunday.
Before a recent move to Memphis, I considered myself to be pretty comfortable around a grill. After all, I was raised in Kansas City, and spent the last five years working in Texas, two areas of the country where BBQ is king. But as I sat down at the judges table at the 23rd Annual Anshei Sphard-Beth El Emeth (ASBEE) World Kosher BBQ Championships on Sunday, I realized I was entering a whole new world of sauce and flavor.
As I sat there waiting for my first taste of rib, the irony of all of this entered my mind. In Memphis, when it comes to barbeque, pork is a staple. As a somewhat practicing Jew, that means all I know about Memphis BBQ is what I’ve been told. In a sense, that’s how this all started. It was the late 1980s, and a couple of men sitting in the back of Shabbat services started lamenting about their inability to enter The Memphis in May World Barbeque Champions, a premier event in BBQ circles. The event is held on a Saturday in May, and focuses heavily on treyf, disqualifying many in this heavily-affiliated Jewish community. So from that, an idea was cooked-up, a Jewish BBQ contest.
We know that farmers “make hay while the sun shines,” but what do they do when it rains…and rains…and rains…? The devastation caused by Hurricane Irene, and Tropical Storm Lee that followed on its heels, highlight the precariousness of farming and the painful, tragic effects of extreme weather events. In the wake of these storms, farmers across the Northeast are assessing damages and picking up pieces. For many, waterlogged fields have caused total crop failures; incessantly wet weather is causing storage crops to rot rather than cure; and what should have been three more months of salable produce can now only be plowed under. No matter how skilled the farmers are, the tragedy is that it’s not their fault; they did nothing wrong — it’s just what happens.
Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) attempts to mitigate some of the risk of extreme weather to farmers. Customers buy a share of the entire season, and in the contract they sign before the first snap pea is even a tendril on the vine, they agree that “being a member of the CSA involves sharing the rewards and risks (eg. poor weather, early winter, etc.) with our farmer.” But in practice, this can be a tough truth to swallow when customers find out, as did the members of the Hazon CSA at the 14th St. Y last week, that their five months of produce deliveries were cut down to three. It’s not their fault either — it’s just what happens.