One of the winners of the New York Ride mini grant from Hazon last year was Temple Beth Shalom in Mahopac, New York, a Conservative synagogue situated “where the country begins,” according to their local tourism slogan. The synagogue is led by Rabbi Eytan Hammerman, a 2010 Jewish Theological Seminary graduate and long-time friend of Hazon, from time of the organization’s founding. Rabbi Hammerman moved to Putnam County several years ago from White Plains, New York where he was the synagogue’s Rabbinic Intern. A highlight of his time in White Plains was his participation in the Tuv Haaretz CSA program which operates out of Temple Israel Center. He enjoyed the fresh fruits and vegetables that Tuv Haaretz provided each week. Upon moving to Putnam County (by bicycle, one Sunday morning – that’s another story), he surprised by the lack of CSAs or farmers markets “in the country.” He felt that the area was prime for a farmer’s market and wanted his synagogue to host the market. Coincidentally, a local landscaping business had the idea at the same time. After their first trial year, the synagogue and other business, together, opened the Mahopac Farmers Market, located each Sunday in the parking lot of the synagogue, at a central location in town.
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.
With the opening of this season’s farmers markets, I find myself withdrawing more cash from my ATM — and more cash each week. The vendors do not accept checks or credit cards, so we patrons have to plan ahead or pay nasty surcharges when we run out of money during the middle of a market run and need replenishment from a nearby ATM (although a shout-out to WaWa by my beloved Headhouse Square Farmers’ Market at 2nd and Pine in Philadelphia for not charging extra for cash withdrawals from non-bank members). The consolation is that I spend less at Whole Foods and the other large food chains on my regular shopping rounds.
Peter Smith reported recently that it might. “According to a new study reported in the Journal of Consumer Research (subscription required), credit card use may mediate the pain of parting of our hard-earned money.” Manoj Thomas, a marketing professor at Cornell, examined the spending habits of 1,000 shoppers at one chain grocery store. After collecting data over a 6-month period, he found that credit or debit card use contributed to impulsive purchases of “vice products.” Thomas and his colleagues speculated that paying with plastic is “emotionally more inert” and “abstract.” Paying with cash is immediate and tactile.
One sure sign of spring in my Brooklyn neighborhood is the first sighting of the Mr. Softee truck. A hundred years ago, Jewish residents of the Lower East Side knew it was spring by the appearance of sorrel, or schav in Yiddish, on the neighborhood pushcarts. While the pushcarts are gone, nowadays you can find sorrel at city greenmarkets.
At first glance it can be mistaken for spinach. But sorrel actually belongs to the same plant family as buckwheat. Its signature is a vinegar-like tang similar to that found in rhubarb, it’s botanical cousin.
The appreciation for this sour green is limited to a few key hot spots. One of them is France, where it’s enshrined in such classics as potage germini, or to put it more plainly, cream of sorrel soup. Further east, 19th century Russian cooks found dozens of uses for sorrel, treating it as a stand-alone vegetable, a seasoning, and a base for soups and sauces. The summer surplus was preserved in salt for use through the winter. In the Jewish kitchen, schav was best known as the main ingredient in a soup of the same name, a traditional staple of the Jewish summer diet.
Animal science expert Temple Grandin suggests some steps that kosher slaughterhouses could take to improve animal welfare on the op-ed page of the Forward.
Josh Ozersky ponders why he thinks Jewish food is bad “I don’t claim to have an answer for this problem, which is one of the most baffling in all of American culinary history.” We’re not sure we agree with his whole shtick but it’s worth a read in TIME.
Couldn’t make it to the Atlantic’s Food Summit in DC this week? Read about it on the Atlantic. One session at the conference sought to define sustainability. “Most people agree that ‘sustainability’ is a good thing when it comes to food, but there’s a big problem with the term: It’s incredibly hard to define,” writes Daniel Fromson about the session, where four experts shared their definitions.
Jewish meat delis have gotten much attention, in the past couple of years (thank you David Sax). But little notices has been given to the fish counter of classic dairy delis. Shelsky’s Smoked Fish, which will open in Brooklyn in the coming month, will offer “smoked salmon, house-pickled herring, house-cured herring, bagels, bialys and rugelach,” reports the Village Voice.