The Jew And The Carrot

Eating Pork Can Be Ethical — Not Kosher

By Jeffrey Yoskowitz

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In an interview with the Forward, Michael Pollan said “semi-jokingly” that “it might be time to reconsider pork as treyf,” or so he said at a synagogue lecture to get some laughs. He also mentioned that he had a family pig named Kosher.

I can’t stop smirking at the image of the Pollan family chasing after its pet yelling “Kosher, come here.” It requires a particular brand of wry Jewish wit to appropriately play with ideas of the sacred and the profane in that way.

That’s why Pollan’s comments about reconsidering the Jewish prohibition on pigs, however serious or joking they were intended to be, caught my attention. As a Semitic swinologist (yes, it’s my own term) and editor of the site Pork Memoirs, weighing in on such matters comes with the territory.

It seems that, even in jest, Pollan underestimates the role that the pork taboo — and the dietary laws in general — play in Jewish culture and tradition. He considers the kosher laws as simply a system of ethics for eating, and advocates for reinterpreting those laws in light of evidence that pigs are more sustainable and efficient than other animals.

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'Cooked,' aka Michael Pollan's Epiphany Book

By Rhea Kennedy

B Guthrie Photos
Michael Pollan chats at D.C.’s 6th and I Synagogue.

“I like pork a lot,” author Michael Pollan admitted recently to a packed sanctuary at Washington, D.C.’s Sixth & I Historic Synagogue.

Then he turned to look at the stained glass window embedded with a Magen David, and added, “but I do understand the value of 3,000 years of tradition.” Pollan went on to discuss the illusion of inexpensive convenience foods and the “Portlandia aspect” of the food movement.

This was Pollan’s first major appearance of a national tour, and it couldn’t have better encapsulated the personal, traditional, economic and political realms that merge in his new book, “Cooked: A natural history of transformation.”

The book is based on an epiphany. Pollan writes that he “made the unexpected but happy discovery that the answer to several of the questions that most occupied me was in fact one and the same. Cook.” His six previous books cover many aspects of the food system, from growing to processing to waste. Yet cooking, he told the audience, was “the missing link.” (One can’t help but wonder if, given Pollan’s Midas touch with book sales and the four-year lapse since his last publication, an agent’s nudge might have also played a role in this revelation).

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Mixing Bowl: Tastes of Israel, DIY Seltzer

By Devra Ferst

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Bring a taste of Israel home this weekend with this recipe for baked za’atar eggplant fries with lemon tahini dip. B’tayavon! [The Kitchn]

…and this pomelo and arak cocktail courtesy of our friends at the Kubbeh Project. [New York Magazine]

Is a pastrami and egg sandwich a good idea? You decide. [Serious Eats]

…And what about pastrami on a bialy? [Serious Eats]

DIY seltzer and soda in all their fizzy glory. [Diner’s Journal

Are you a Michael Pollan fan? So are we. His family is putting out a cookbook! [Grub Street

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How Old Fashioned Jewish Seltzer Drinks Can Reduce the Federal Deficit

By Natan Margalit

I remember my grandparents talking about having “a seltzer,” maybe even an “egg cream.” As a child, I thought: What’s that? Are there eggs in it?

Today, I’m a big fan of making my own seltzer drinks with an inexpensive home seltzer maker. It helps the environment by using less plastic, I save money by not buying marked up bottled water or soft drinks, and probably most important: I can avoid the super sweet high fructose corn syrup sweetened drinks and save my health.

While it’s a small step, I believe actions like these help cut the federal deficit and could save the country. As several commentators have noted, we spend trillions of dollars a year on healthcare. And, as Michael Pollan’s argued in a 2009 article and Mark Bittman’s Opinionator column more recently stated, our health depends largely on what food choices we make. We now know that the American diet and industrial agriculture is leading to unhealthy lifestyles and health problems, which put a strain on our healthcare system.

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Mixing Bowl: Defining Sustainability, A Tipsy Egg Cream, Michael Pollan's Food Rules

By Devra Ferst

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.

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Mixing Bowl: Pork on EasyJet, Google Recipes, Michael Pollan Asks You

By Devra Ferst

Perhaps the best thing to happen to cooks since the invention of the cookbook, Google has launched a search engine for recipes. You can decide what ingredients you want to use, how much time you have on your hands and even how healthy you want your meal to be. Read about it on Wired and check it out on Google.

British discount airline EasyJet accidentally loaded ham and bacon sandwiches, instead of kosher fare, onto a flight from Tel Aviv to London. The company has apologized, reports CNN.

Michael Pollan, author of the “Omnivore’s Dilemma,” is updating his book “Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual,” which helps readers become more mindful eaters. Pollan is asking the food community, what rules to add to the newest addition. Send in your ideas to the Slow Food website..

A major kosher cook off will take place in Australia on March 15th, My Jewish Learning reports and shares an entertaining video preview.

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The Kosher-vore’s Dilemma: Kosherfest 2010

By Daniel Infeld

If you shop in almost any grocery store in the US, chances are you have bought a product that is certified Kosher. According to Sue Fishkoff’s new “Kosher Nation” “one third to one half of the food for sale in the typical American supermarket is kosher.” This is big business, “$200 billion of the country’s estimated $500 billion in annual food sales is kosher certified.” Kosher food is often perceived to be more pure or cleaner than treyf, yet it seems that there are many parallels between the Kosher and mainstream food industries.

Kosherfest, which is taking place this week in New Jersey, is an annual gathering, highlighting this big business. It is the time a year where Kosher food producers gather to tout their wares to industry professionals, supermarket buyers, chefs, and other food service providers.

In his keynote presentation, Menachem Lubinksy, founder and president of LUBICOM Marketing and Consulting, and co-producer of Kosherfest, claimed that the industry is moving towards offering healthier products. Apparently schmaltz is out, and olive oil is in. Yet, spending a day at Kosherfest made me wonder, is the kosher industry actually trying to produce healthy and sustainable products, or are they just greenwashing (promoting a product as environmentally friendly, when it actually isn’t)?

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The Fear of Raw Ingredients

By Rhea Yablon Kennedy

My generation was raised to fear cookie dough. Salmonella could lurk in every rubber spatula, and terrible things would befall the child who ate a bite of a raw confection. Only baking could render the dough safe.

Thanks to the recall of millions of eggs from Iowa’s Hillandale farms and Wright County Egg this past summer, the fear of uncooked eggs has intensified. According to The Washington Post, an estimated 2.3 million of the 47 billion eggs produced each year — by my calculations, one in about 20,000 — are contaminated. I worry that pretty soon even a well-cooked kugel will go the way of the Rocky Balboa-style smoothie.

But who is really making cookies or kugel from scratch nowadays, anyway? Not many Americans (even, despite the current food craze). Last year, Michael Pollan pointed out that the typical American has pared down his or her food preparation time to 27 minutes a day. Back in the ‘60s, when a MacDonald’s was a novelty and fresh food was safe, we devoted twice that much time to everyday cooking. The cook of the household also likely spent another hour or so shopping for ingredients. Pressed schedules are just one factor; I believe the fear of tainted raw ingredients — whether spinach, jalapenos, meat, or eggs — urges people toward those center aisles of frozen, prepared, and processed goods.

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