Alix Wall began cooking when she was 13 years old. After working 15 years as a journalist for Jewish newspapers, she decided to attend Bauman College and was certified as a natural foods chef. She lives in Oakland with her computer geek husband Paulie about two miles from the Berkeley Bowl. She now cooks for several families as a personal chef. In addition, she volunteers with Berkeley's Tuv Ha'Aretz chapter at Chochmat HaLev, and is on the executive committee of Hazon's 2008 food conference. Some of her weaknesses include dark chocolate, sag paneer, Humboldt Fog cheese, seared ahi tuna, dark leafy greens and a really good Port, though not necessarily in that order.
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j. weekly, the Jewish Newsweekly of Northern California is full of food news this week. On the cover is this article, discussing how traditional Jewish foods can be found among the growing street cart scene. Egg cream or brisket on the sidewalk? Sure thing.
And this article features a new restaurant in the Mission district featuring only food from within 100 miles. Its owner is a Jewish PhD student at Berkeley.
Many Jews would consider a bagel naked without the lox
Disclaimer: I am neither Orthodox nor do I keep kosher. And when I read things like this week’s Jewish Week article, I realize just another reason why.
Granted this is in the haredi community, which continues to move further and further toward a parody of itself. A group of rabbis has determined that Shabbat elevators, which are in use throughout Israel and New York, are no longer kosher. And now lox may be suspect.
As someone who cares deeply about where my meat comes from, how it was treated when it was alive, as well as how it was killed, I am continally struck by how except for a handful of exceptions (run by people we all know) kosher meat does not fit into this at all. People who care about both have so few options available.
I’ve heard a lot of us Hazon-niks refer to Michael Pollan as Reb Pollan. Yet, as far as I know, he’s never spoken publicly in a Jewish context.
Until Tuesday night, that is. Pollan appeared on a panel in Berkeley, just blocks from his home. He was invited not only for the food guru that he is, but as a regular customer of Saul’s Deli, the only Jewish deli in Berkeley.
Saul’s is perhaps the only Jewish deli in the country to serve grass-fed meat (at least according to its owners Karen Adelman and Peter Levitt.) Adelman and Levitt talked about how hard it can be to please the old-timers who don’t necessarily care about where their meat comes from, and trying to change with the times. This being the Bay Area, kashrut hardly figured into the conversation, not surprising, since Saul’s isn’t kosher.
The event was going to be held at the deli itself, but had to be moved to the JCC to accomodate the overflow crowd. You can read more about the conversation here.
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: Those of us who live in the San Francisco Bay Area tend to be a bit Bay Area-centric. We think we live in the best place in the country, if not the world. This especially applies to the foodies among us; my husband and I often remark over a simple dinner made with the freshest organic produce at how lucky we are to have access to such delicious, high quality food, all year-round.
And, of course, when it comes to food, I took it for granted that we are the headquarters of the new food movement: Alice Waters and Michael Pollan both live here, after all, and didn’t Hazon move its food conference to the Bay Area because it is the epicenter of all that is happening in food?
I thought so, until two weeks ago. That’s when my husband and I set out on a road trip vacation, through the Pacific Northwest. I’ll admit that as an almost-native Californian (I moved to the Golden State at age one-and-a-half) I had never visited my northern neighbors until recently.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom has just announced the nation’s strictest composting laws. S.F. residents: Either start separating out your compost, or pay a fine. This follows San Francisco becoming the first city in the nation to ban grocery stores from using plastic bags.
While we are losing out to states like Iowa and New Hampshire on our support of gay marriage, at least we’re still leading the nation in something.
Marking the end of Pesach with pizza and beer has become such a part of the holiday for me, that it almost has religious importance at this point. Of course it doesn’t really, but just as so many Jews eat Chinese food on Christmas, one could argue that keeping such rituals still are an important part of our Jewish identity.
While my family seder didn’t vary much from it has years past, my breaking of Pesach did. While the usual tradition has been to go out a neighborhood pizza joint, this year we did things differently. Having been gone for a week, we had lots of CSA veggies in the house I was wanting to use up. We also had sourdough starter, still alive from the Hazon Food Conference (yes, we are the push-the-chametz-to-the-back-of-the-fridge type of Jews, not the get-the-chametz-out-of-the-house kind. Not to mention that my husband, who has lovingly tended to that starter like it’s a living thing since the conference, was not about to see it be tossed away).
As I wrote last year, the Charoset pyramid is a longstanding tradition on my family’s seder table. Though we are 100 percent Ashkenazi, some years ago, my Aunt Diane began making Egyptian charoset to go along with the Ashkenazi version. For the uninitiated, Sephardic versions of the dish have dried fruit in them, making them much denser than the old apples, nuts and wine combo. Which means, my cousin-in-law Rebecca discovered some years ago, it can actually be built into something.
And so the pyramid was born. This year, Rebecca and my cousin Mike were hosting, and in the flurry of getting everything ready, she asked me to sculpt the pyramid.
I admit I’m a Top Chef junkie, so when season 5 ended, I found myself going through a bit of withdrawal. While the Food Network doesn’t really do it for me, I decided to tune in to The Chopping Block, a newer show on NBC that features two teams going head-to-head, trying to run successful restaurants in New York City.
It’s not worth describing how the competition works, or details about the show, but I will say that it’s nowhere nearly as entertaining as Top Chef. Nevertheless, after being pretty bored with the pilot, I tuned in this week to see the second episode, to see if it picks up.
It didn’t. However, I was proud to see that for the first time on one of these shows, some food awareness actually played a role.
For those of you who signed a petition requesting that President Obama grow an organic vegetable garden on the White House Lawn, according to this article in today’s New York Times, it worked. Actually, petition or no petition, it just so happens that Michelle Obama is a proponent of eating non-processed, local food. She claims that all family members will be expected to do their share of weeding, including the president. Local school children are helping to install the garden, at a cost of $200.
So there I was at the Berkeley Bowl this morning, which is how my work day starts. As a personal chef, the first thing I do is go grocery shopping. But I digress. I had gotten there a little later than usual, and had longer lines to contend with. So I picked up some reading material for the wait.
I know you know how it is. You look in the fridge and see half a cauliflower here, half a bunch of kale there, maybe a few lonely carrots or turnips hiding beneath the kale at the bottom of the drawer. And a new CSA box is due in a day or two.
Times like this call for a kitchen sink recipe. What I mean by that, is, of course, one that can accommodate whatever must be used in the fridge. I happened to be browsing my copy of Mark Bittman’s “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” when I saw a recipe for an extremely basic Carribean soup with yellow split peas and ended with a splash of lime. His recipe was so simple though, that I don’t think it had any vegetables in it. With a cold front coming in, I took that as my inspiration, and improvised from there.
One of my favorite things about Hazon’s Food Conference is that it inspires people to do something more after they leave. That “something” can be any number of things, from composting, to joining a CSA, to vowing to cook more meals at home.
While I am already a CSA-belonging, farmer’s market-shopping, frequent cooking, recycling, composting, herb-growing kind of person, I was curious to see what effect the conference would have on my husband.
He is an enthusiastic omnivore, to be sure, and is completely supportive of all my efforts to live more sustainably. He mostly came to the conference to support his executive committee member wife, and to see for himself what this Hazon thing was all about.
I had my hopes, though, which I didn’t exactly keep a secret. My husband has been an on and off home-brewer for years. In the past year, he and his friend Michael have taken it up together, starting what they call “East Bay Lovin’” in Michael and his wife’s San Francisco apartment (why it’s called East Bay Lovin’ and is brewed in San Francisco is a story for another day). My hope was that he would attend the sourdough workshop at the conference, and come home equally interested in this other kind of fermentation.
The Hazon Food Conference ended yesterday. I did not cover any sessions for the blog, since I was too busy with my duties as a member of the executive committee, but the fact that the turkey schechting made front page news locally was a pretty big deal. Said article was even above the fold. While my good friend Roger Studley deserves full credit for making this happen, the fact that the schechting took place because of the conference was hardly mentioned. It would have been nice if a bit more about the conference would have made it into the article, but still — it’s interesting that this was deemed front-page worthy, without a photo, even. As the volunteer member of the executive committee who planned the food for the conference, I’m sure I’ll have plenty to say in the coming days, but today I took a much-needed day of R&R. I will say though that it was an incredible four days. I’m both exhilirated and exhausted.
It’s been a year since I wrote my two posts “Could I Play For the Other Team?” and “I Caved into Turkey,” in which I wondered about whether after 20 years as a pescatarian, I could return to being a carnivore. Given that I haven’t addressed the topic since, I thought now would be the right time.
(I am not so narcissistic as to think that readers of this blog have been on pins and needles all year wondering about the eating habits of some woman they don’t know. But given that these posts sparked some discussion, and the topic is relevant to this blog, I do think it’s worth a post, whether you know me or not).