Would You Make This?” is a sporadic column where personal chef Alix Wall evaluates a new cookbook by making some of its recipes, sharing them with friends and asking what they think of the results.
It’s been 10 years since the Brooklyn born and raised Isa — pronounced like Lisa, without the ‘L,’ — Chandra Moskowitz first burst onto the culinary scene with her public access television show, “Post Punk Kitchen.”
Since then, a lot has happened: the former punk rock devotee and Jewish vegan activist has released six cookbooks, including perhaps her most well-known: “Vegan with a Vengeance,” and the best-selling “Veganomicon;” likely gotten more tattoos; and she left Brooklyn for Portland, Oregon, where she met the founder of Vegan Omaha, a guy named John McDevitt, and followed him to Omaha, where she lives now.
It’s here that she wrote “Isa Does It: Amazingly Easy, Wildly Delicious Vegan Recipes for Every Day of the Week,” her latest book, brimming with — as she says — “plenty of thirty-minute meals, and the ones that take longer are designed with built-in downtime, so while the quinoa and lentils are simmering, you can sit back, relax, and iron out your plans for world domination. Or just play with your cat.”
Could Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu be on the way to becoming vegan, or will we at least see him attend Gary Yourofsky’s next lecture in Israel? This question was on the minds of several ministers after hearing Netanyahu’s long monologue on his positions regarding animal rights at the weekly cabinet session on Sunday.
Part of the cabinet meeting was devoted to a survey of Agricultural Minister Yair Shamir’s work in the field. At the meeting, Environment Minister Amir Peretz asked to have the authorities to enforce animal rights laws to his ministry.
Two officials that participated in the cabinet meeting relayed the surprising development that Netanyahu instructed Harel Locker, the director-general of his office and the Cabinet Secretary Avichai Mandelblit to look into Peretz’s suggestion.
For more go to Haaretz
My usual preparation for Passover entails reading and contemplating a lot (did I say “a lot”?) about the meaning of freedom and liberation; gratitude for the myriad ways I am blessed to experience it daily, and pondering the responsibilities it imposes on me to help free others less fortunate. I also focus on “cleaning out the chametz” theme by getting back to basics about the food I put into my body - everything I eat is homemade, not processed or packaged.
I often get bored by the fourth day and have been hungry for new recipes. This year, the timing was right and I was lucky to attend a Vegan Passover Cooking class with our favorite vegan chef, Philip Gelb in Oakland, CA. The dish that particularly drew my attention was “Roasted Beets with Horseradish and Basil”.
Inspired by Buzzfeed’s 25 Delicious Ways to Use Matzoh, I am running full speed ahead into Pesach. I have lists of vegan, Pesach-friendly recipes lining my cubicle at work and shopping lists ready that I’ve prepped already. Strawberry Rhubarb. Dark Chocolate Brei. Rosemary Crepes. Cookies Galore, spiced, promising to be fluffy. I am resolved to do my due diligence, deliciously.
In the past, I have kept kosher for Passover for approximately 2 days. Around the 48th hour, I could be found gripping my stomach and sighing dramatically. Blurry-eyed, I would beg friends and coworkers for spaghetti and sandwiches. I rather obviously love food, love cooking, and find great happiness in consuming whatever my little heart desires, whenever it so desires. Now I find it hard to admit how childlike I am in my desire – and in my indulgence. Coming from a secular family, having acquired no knowledge of, or discipline for, Pesach, I suppose it makes sense that I start to become bitter, frustrated, anticipatorily hungry, and then gluttonous.
“I stood willingly and gladly in the characters of everything - other people, trees, clouds. And this is what I learned, that the world’s otherness is antidote to confusion - that standing within this otherness - the beauty and the mystery of the world, out in the fields or deep inside books - can re-dignify the worst-stung heart.” – Mary Oliver
Sometimes I marvel at how hard it can be just to be myself, to be the person I expect of myself, to be the version of myself that others probably expect, too. I end up staring off into space, dreamily fixed elsewhere, thinking abstractly about where I’ve been and how far I still have to go in a world that paints me flat. Sometimes my friends privately settle on the word ‘melancholy’ after they’ve known me for a few months. They present the word to me carefully, like a confession of their judgment, holding it by its edges, setting it carefully into my hands. Melancholy. It’s as if the word itself, a little gift, might capture and hold my disquietude, the parts of me that clamor against patters, expectations, what’s tried and true, and if I hear it, perhaps – poof! – fulfillment and happiness! Thinking of this, I don’t want to write another ‘perfect’ or, even, the ‘best’ hamantaschen recipe, the tried and true the ones we all love, and know. And what we all expect. I want something else today.
On Purim, we celebrate Jewish survival and redemption. It is one of the most popular Jewish holidays because it is built on hope. Purim is a reminder that no matter how bad the circumstances, or whatever we fear around the corner, things will turn out well in the end. It’s greatly loved for the merriment to be had celebrating Esther’s victory with the king, her great success, not to mention her great skill and tact. It is with this in mind that Jews observe Purim. The day before Purim is a fast day, followed by two days of celebration: dancing, merrymaking, feasting. Jews will linger in temple into the early morning hours, drinking and masquerading, dressed in full costumes – drunkenly assuming new identities.
Editor’s Note: The Beet-Eating Heeb is the nom de plume of Jeffrey Cohan, a former journalist in Forest Hills, PA. He also blogs about Judaism and veganism on his own website.
Somewhere in the higher realms, Nobel Laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer is observing his 110th birthday today.
And it would be a pity if his birthday went unnoticed at The Jew and the Carrot, a space dedicated to discussions of Jewish eating.
After all, Singer, the greatest Yiddish writer, had something to say about food, to put it mildly. He wrote vividly about the ethical imperative of vegetarianism in both “The Slaughterer” and “The Letter Writer,” two of his classic short stories.
So his 110th birthday provides an occasion – maybe even an appropriate one – to briefly re-examine those two stories from the perspective of our contemporary food system.
Editor’s Note: The Beet-Eating Heeb is the nom de plume of Jeffrey Cohan, a former journalist in Forest Hills, PA. He also blogs about Judaism and veganism on his own website.
A divinity student from a Presbyterian seminary approached The Beet-Eating Heeb recently and made a surprising comment.
“I’m so impressed,” he said, “with the emphasis that Judaism places on treating animals with compassion.”
The Beet-Eating Heeb didn’t know whether to kvell or to cry.
Kvell, because all levels of Jewish texts, from the Torah on down, express incredible sensitivity for the welfare of animals. The divinity student knew something about Judaism – on paper.
Cry, because concern for animals is almost totally absent from Jewish communal discourse, while literally billions of farm animals are suffering in abysmal conditions.
It is therefore, in the spirit of our Prophetic tradition, that a creative effort has arisen to rouse us from our chilling complacency and to focus attention on Judaism’s teachings about animals: Concerned Jews in Israel and the United States are trying to resurrect and reframe the ancient but long-forgotten holiday of Rosh Hashanah La B’Heimot, or New Year for Animals.
Editor’s Note: The Beet-Eating Heeb is the nom de plume of Jeffrey Cohan, a former journalist in Forest Hills, PA. He also blogs about Judaism and veganism on his own Web site.
Observant Jews refrain from eating meat for the first nine days of the Hebrew month of Av as part of the mourning rituals leading up to Tisha B’Av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar.
To those refraining from eating meat, BEH says, “Welcome to the plant-based party! And where the heck have you been?” But hold on a second. This nine-day ban on meat-eating is meant to constitute a denial of pleasure. For humans anyway. The list of prohibited actions also includes drinking wine and wearing freshly laundered clothes, which implies that eating meat equates with getting a buzz and dressing for success.
So you’re probably thinking, “BEH, just lay off the vegan advocacy for a few days. For a change.” Well, The Beet-Eating Heeb hates to disappoint you, but upon closer inspection, it appears that the themes of the holiday and the Book of Lamentations actually reinforce the vegan ideal.
James E. McWilliams wrote in a recent NYT Op-Ed, “The Myth of Sustainable Meat,” that consuming animal products can never be sustainable, even when approached with an eye toward ecology. He breaks out his calculator, multiplying the number of cows that Americans currently eat by the number of acres required to farm them responsibly. The result: an impossible amount of grazing land, among other problems. I normally expect this tone from guardians of the status quo who dismiss organic farming as inefficient or naive. What I didn’t expect was McWilliams’s suggestion: Stop creating animal products. He pits sustainability-minded omnivores not just against industrial farming, but against herbivores. His argument is so snide and riddled with flaws that it distracts us from his conclusions. It also points to a rift within the sustainable food movement. Can omnivores and herbivores talk to each other about food issues? And can a Jewish perspective help us through this seemingly intractable conflict?
McWilliams has a bad premise: that meat could only be “sustainable” if it could be eaten in the same quantity as Americans eat it now, but farmed in a humane way. However, I have never heard a “locavore” argue that meat should be abundant. Michael Pollan, the torchbearer of the local food movement, sums up the “locavore” ethos: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” McWilliams uses spurious gotcha facts to show that “holistic” animal farming is unrealistic. He cites a few mysterious figures, like “Pastured organic chickens have a 20 percent greater impact on global warming,” but doesn’t say what this means or how it was measured. His numbers are there not to make things clearer, rather, to intimidate. It’s also a common rhetorical error to judge something’s sustainability only by its so-called logical conclusion, assuming that the word “sustainable” means a practice that could work forever in the exact same way, and could be scaled up to seven billion people. That probably unachievable standard is not what most of us mean when talk about sustainability. We look for systems that are more healthy, lower in impact, encouraging of future learning and improvements.
Passover, though one of my favorite Jewish holidays, is also one of the most challenging for me. As a vegetarian and Ashkenazic Jew, major staples in my diet such as beans, tofu, tempeh, seitan, and brown rice are suddenly banned. I have met some vegetarians/vegans who “go Sephardic” for Pesach so that they have more food options, even going as far as consulting and getting permission from their rabbis to do so. But bringing kitniyot (foods such as: rice, corn, soy beans, string beans, peas, lentils, mustard, sesame seeds and poppy seeds that are not allowed to be consumed during Pesach under Ashkenazic custom) into my home would be a big no-no, and personally I wouldn’t feel comfortable observing the holiday differently. I’ve had 11+ years to figure out and fine-tune the ins and outs of a vegetarian Pesach and I’m here to share some of my must-have foods, while still following Ashkenazic tradition and staying healthy.
Let me preface my suggestions by explaining a little bit about my background and how I observe Passover. I was raised in a Conservative kosher home, where the only foods that enter our kitchen for the holiday are ones that bear a Kosher for Passover (K for P) symbol. Even though there are so many vegetarian/vegan packaged goods that I love and are chametz-free, they will not be coming into my home without the K for P symbol. For some readers, this may be stricter than you’re used to. Ultimately, you have to do what you feel comfortable with on this holiday. As a result, I tend to cook nearly all my meals from scratch. Cooking in bulk and not minding repeat meals is helpful, as is finding a grocery store (or online kosher shop) that carries a variety of products, which thankfully gets easier every year with the ever-expanding selection of Passover foods on the market.
Imagine a modern, hip Israeli incarnation of Willy Wonka and you have a picture of Shimon Pinhas, the man behind Raw Chocolate Love. His company is one among a handful in New York that produces raw vegan chocolate, and one of the few with kosher certification. Shimon, whose dark curly hair protrudes in every direction and almost resembles steel wool, gives the impression that he is a man who can do anything, a presumption that is not far from the truth. When he arrived in New York twenty years ago without a word of English, he had already worked in construction, electrical work, and theater in his native Israel. His present occupation as a chocolatier on the border between Brooklyn and Queens follows an 18-year career running a music studio in the East Village.
As a devoted, dessert-first, dentally-challenged lover of sweets I have often been disappointed by the hamantaschen. This iconic Purim cookie seems to me like a baked good whose main concern is its shape. The sweet center hardly ever extends itself past its expected core of apricot, prune, or poppy seed. The cookie crust that encloses its traditional center is often pale and plain in flavor and crumb, leaving nothing much to excited about beyond the triangle. I am calling for a hamentaschen makeover, because, really, a cookie is a terrible thing to waste.
Instead of using this Purim as an opportunity to try out chocolate fancies and other sweet ‘n creamy curiosities, I am dedicating it to the pursuit of delicious and different hamantaschen. I am devising a Purim baking plan. My goal is to come up with 3 or 4 uncommon, completely delicious, and totally fresh three-cornered holiday treats.
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]
What would you do with a one-pound bag of toasted buckwheat groats, a.k.a. kasha? If you’re like most Ashkenazi Jews, you’d probably cook up kasha varnishkes, the Jewish “soul food” side dish made of kasha, sautéed onions, bowtie pasta, and often mushrooms. If you’re not Jewish, well, you probably wouldn’t have the kasha in the first place!
If you’re wondering why buckwheat hasn’t caught on here like other whole grains, try tasting it on its own. It’s bitter and bland, probably why our people resorted to mellowing its flavor with carb-heavy pasta, sweet caramelized onions, and plenty of schmaltz. (It’s worth noting that buckwheat is, in fact, not a grain at all, but a fruit in the same family as rhubarb and sorrel — but who’s keeping track?) But buckwheat is worth a second look, not only for its sentimental value but because it’s high in protein and fiber, and contains a significant amount of manganese, magnesium, and Vitamin B-6. It seems that our time-honored way of preparing kasha could use a twenty-first century makeover.
Hosting a group of young adults for Shabbat dinner, Rabbi Yisroel Bernath and his wife, Sara, noticed something odd: salads and kugels were disappearing quickly, but the chicken went largely untouched.
When a little post-dinner sleuthing revealed many of their guests were vegetarian, it was all the incentive the Chabad rabbi needed to take his storefront center vegan.
For the 28-year-old Chicago native, whose friends at yeshiva called him “alfalfa sprouts” and ribbed the health-conscious bocher for his blender-buzzed vitamin shakes, the idea of a vegan/organic Chabad house was hardly a stretch.
After our Q & A earlier this week with Matisyahu, we’re thrilled to read the Village Voice headline: “Meatless Moguls: Bill Clinton, Russell Simmons, and Steve Wynn Among the Planet’s ‘Power Vegans’.”
And for those who like meat, but prefer their veggies, New York magazine announces “Here Come the Vegivores” in an article that explores restaurants taking on Meatless Mondays.
Ha’aretz asks Israel’s most famed food critic, Daniel Rogov, “Can fleeting culinary trends help Israel find its staple cuisine?”
You likely know Matisyahu (born Matthew Paul Miller) as the Hasidic musician who blends classical Jewish themes with reggae sound, but what you may not know is that he’s also a loyal and strictly kosher vegan both at home and when he’s on tour. The reggae star known for such songs as the 2010 Olympic anthem “One Day” tweeted in April “[I’m] kosher plus I went vegan” in response to a fan’s tweet.
The Jew and the Carrot recently caught up with Matisyahu while on his world tour where he can be found cooking vegan cholent up to three times a week. He shared with us his must have foods, what inspired him to go vegan, and the best meal he’s ever eaten.
Miriam Krule: You’ve been on tour since July. How has keeping kosher affected what you eat while you’re on the road?
Matisyahu: Since I started touring in 2003, I’ve always kept kosher, so I don’t know any other way. But last February I became vegan and that has changed everything. Basically I typically don’t depend any more on others for my food. I have to cook myself and therefore I am much more grateful and conscious of what I am eating.