Months after super storm Sandy, the full extent of the damage is still coming to light.
This year, customers around the country scouring local grocery stores for their favorite Passover sweets will be sorely disappointed. Shabtai Gourmet, a company that provided gluten-free kosher for Passover cakes and cookies — including favorites like rainbow cookies, cupcakes, and black and white cookie, all gluten-free — for over ten years, was completely wiped out by the storm.
When Sid and Cindy Itzkowitz ventured from their flood-soaked home in Woodmere, N.Y., to their 12,500 square foot factory in the Far Rockaways, they had no idea what to expect. What they found, Cindy said, was beyond their worst nightmare. “There was seven feet of salt water and sewer water in there,” she said. “Everything was floating all over the place.”
But how did my family get so lucky that we are able to avoid this (great?) American pastime? And what will we be doing if not carving a twenty-pound bird and screaming at each other?
For as long as I have been conscious of Thanksgiving, my family has been making turkey-shaped pizza on the fourth Thursday of November. Apparently, there were some in my family who did not love the taste of turkey. So rather than deny the iconic status of this New World bird, my mother decided that a pizza created in its image would suffice (and ensure that her children could relate to American culture).
Last year I moved across the country to complete a seven-month internship program. There wasn’t a lot of time to make friends, but I found that sharing food seemed to foster a sense of camaraderie. I was excited when one day a fellow intern invited me to her home for Friday night dinner. Since I’m gluten-free my initial instinct was to offer to bring a dish so she wouldn’t have to go out of her way but I also knew that my standards of kashrut were not as strict as hers. We compromised and agreed that I would bring fresh vegetables for a salad from the farm I was working on, and she insisted on trying her hand at making gluten-free challah.
Later that week we sat around the Shabbat table and bit into the tough pieces of densely packed bread before bursting out in laughter. It wasn’t very tasty, but I was touched by the kind gesture and it the first of many Shabbatot I spent at her table. So earlier this summer when The New York Times ran a piece called “The Picky Eater Who Came to Dinner”, I was upset at the article’s snarky tone which laments how hard it has become for Americans to break bread together.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Leslie about her newest cookbook, “Gluten-Free Recipes for the Conscious Cook” and the benefits of a gluten-free diet, and the importance of eating sustainably for both the mind and body.
As much as Jews love their holiday feasting, big family meals can also bring up some anxiety. Maybe you keep more kosher than your parents. Maybe less. Maybe you used to be a vegetarian, but now you eat meat, but only if it’s sustainably raised. Navigating special food needs with loved ones is fraught because of the powerful symbolism of sharing (or not sharing) food. We know from our tradition of kashrut that the notion of “permitted” and “forbidden” foods plays a role in determining who sits together at the table. But what happens when we expressly want to eat together, just not eat the same food? This real email exchange (below), between a Jewish farming couple (Jon and Sherry — names changed for anonymity) and their family before a holiday visit, brings some of these questions to light (lightly!). Share your own family stories in the comments.
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!
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