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Eric Schulmiller

Eric is the cantor of the Reconstructionist Synagogue of the North Shore, in Plandome, NY. He lives with his wife and fellow-foody in Port Washington along with their son (a 2-year old eco-foody-in-training) and new daughter.

Eric Schulmiller's Website »

The Chicken or the Ache?

In my hard-core college vegan days, when I toted around a copy of John Robbins’ Diet for a New America like it was from Mt. Sinai, I often wondered how I would approach the subject of meat eating with any future children I might have. The idealized plan that I came up with (while still a bachelor, of course), was that we would have a strictly vegetarian household until my future children reached the age of Bar/Bat Mitzvah. At that point, I would give them a copy of Robbins’ well-written argument against consumption of animal products, take them on a tour of the closest factory farm and/or meat processing facility, and then let them make their own informed adult decision about whether they wanted to consume meat from that point forward. If they choose to eat meat at that point, more power to them.

Of course, nearly twenty years later as the (flexitarian? vegewarian?) parent of two toddlers, things are not so cut and dry. Nowadays, Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma has replaced John Robbins on my shelf, and we are indeed an omnivorous household. Things seemed to be going smoothly – we support our Tuv Ha’aretz CSA, shop at Whole Foods (or at least the organic aisle at Stop & Shop), and  try to follow Reb Pollan’s core dictum: “Eat Food, Not to Much, Mostly Plants.” We try to keep limit any meat we consume in the home to that produced in a sustainable, ethical manner. Emergency roadtrip Burger King stops aside, we’ve done a decent job of modeling the ideals of eco-kashrut to our kids.

Make Your Own (Big Tent) BLT From Scratch Contest!

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Food writer Michael Ruhlman has issued a very intriguing summertime challenge: make a BLT from scratch. No, really from scratch. This means curing your own “bacon,” (more on the airquotes in a minute), baking your own bread, growing your own lettuce and tomato, and making your own homemade mayo!

The level of commitment and self-sufficiency required to produce a single sandwich would be compelling enough, but Michael takes it one step further by opening the contest up to foodies of every stripe. To quote from the writer’s own rules:

Embracing Opposites on Purim

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One of the central themes of Purim is the acknowledgment that the order the we treasure in our lives is as precarious a blessing as any we can imagine. The entire holiday features numerous inversions of that order – from the myriad role revearsals in the Book of Esther to the costumes and hidden identities that feature in the story and in our celebrations. These role reversals and moments of revelatory chaos remind us that the universe is not completely under our control – a message even more crucial in our day when we have attempted to subdue the very forces of nature to fulfill our every whim.

Here, then, is a fun and unique way to embrace the topsy-turvy world of Purim through our tastebuds!

Shakshukah? Booyakasha!

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The folks over at Jewlicious have posted an awesome Israeli rap video that shows how Jewish rap differs culturally from its LA or NYC-based counterparts. Instead of bouncing low-riders or tons of bling, the video revolves around food – namely the preparation of the classic sephardic tomato and egg dish, shakshouka. The song does have some MTV-esque elements (bikini-clad dancers and an occasional English expletive) that might make this video slightly NSFW, but the skills on display (both musical and culinary) by the artist BooSkills definitely make this single worth a look.

Salt Sellers

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When dark chocolate finally crossed over into the mainstream,  I’m sure I wasn’t the only foody to rejoice at its recent widespread availability (heck, even Hersheys & Mars have dark versions of most of their candy bars now).

Well, it seems that salt is about to become this year’s dark chocolate. As early as 2006, salted caramel seemed to be taking the dessert world by storm. But when I walked into my local Starbucks this week and ordered up a Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate, I knew that salt had reached the big leagues. How was it, you ask? It was 500 calories-worth of swooning, Homer-Simpson-like moaning, beverage ecstacy. Salt + chocolate = GOOD.

In a beautiful bit of Jew/Carrot synchronicity, I read in this weeks’s Torah portion the story of Lot’s wife, who was turned into a pillar of salt when she turned back to witness the destruction of her hometown of Sodom.  Still buzzing from the hot chocolate, I did a little digging (salt-mining?) into the significance of salt in Jewish tradition.

Banana Republic?

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My 4-year-old son’s pre-school class held a mock election today: After each student tasted one bite each of banana, apple, & pear (the equivalent of one presidential debate?), they “voted” by placing a paper cutout of their favorite fruit into a cardboard box. The results? Banana won in a landslide.

If this informal poll is to be believed, things aren’t looking so good for the Macoun/Pear ticket,  but B. Anana shouldn’t get too overconfident, either. After all, no one knows how the Blueberry effect will come into play on election day.

Consider the Lobster (Even if it is Treif)

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We are a people of the book as much as we are a people of the fork, and no one – no one – in our generation was more gifted with words than David Foster Wallace, who died (of apparent suicide) this past Friday. Here, in memoriam, is a link to his beautiful, compassionate, soul-searching article on man’s relationship with food, “Consider the Lobster,” which gave rise to a same-titled collection of essays that are all worth reading.

Waffle Bike

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Bikes. Waffles. Calls to worship. What could be more tailor-made for Hazon than that? Did I mention the factory farm chickens attached to the back of this baffling, waffling vehicle? The shotgun and machete attachments?

I just came across this strange short film today, and while I’m not sure what to make of its deadpan, tongue-in-cheek commentary on the state of the world’s food systems, violent religious conflicts and our over-reliance on technology, all I know is that it made me laugh, and it made me want waffles.

And that’s good enough for me.

Like Borscht for Chocolate

Can you feel it? Love is in the air! It’s Tu B’av!

At shabbat dinner tonight, my parents (who just celebrated their 42nd wedding anniversary this week) shared the story of how my mother won my father’s heart by bringing him home-made latkes every week – schlepping them on the subway from East Flatbush, Brooklyn to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, then a few hours’ bus ride to his Army base at Fort Dix, New Jersey.

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Has “Locavore” Jumped the (Sustainably-Raised, Organic Chum-Fed) Shark?

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In 2007, “locavore” was named word of the year by the Oxford New American Dictionary. The concept was heartily endorsed by literary giants such as Michael Pollan and Barbara Kingsolver. As Leah previously posted, even Walmart has gotten on board!

But now, for the second time this week, the NYTimes has “discovered” the local food movement, but now with a new twist: According to today’s article, there is a company out in San Francisco (aka Alice Watersworld) that will plant, tend and harvest an organic garden in your own backyard. Not figuratively. Your. Yard.

The Secret to Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies? Shabbat!

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I’m sure many of my fellow foodies and followers of R. Cookie Monster (aka the “Om-nom-nom Rebbe”) eagerly devoured David Leite’s recent article in the NYTimes about his quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie.

According to the insider tips he got from such experts as fellow M.O.T. Maury Rubin (owner of City Bakery, where you can get the best hot chocolate this side of Babette’s Feast), the key to really great chocolate chip cookies isn’t the chocolate (although that’s crucial, of course), or the dough, but allowing the dough to rest for at least 24 hours. That’s right, the key to great chocolate chip cookies is right there in Genesis 2:2!

Tripto-Fan

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While visiting my sister in Virginia this past weekend, I had the chance to sample some fair food at her local Memorial Day festival. Keeping in mind that the motto of fairs seems to be a perverse Pollan paraphrase (Eat “Food.” Way too Much. Mostly Fried.) I feel lucky that my latest passion that I stumbled upon is something relatively (at least compared to fried oreos and coke) healthy: The Giant Turkey Leg. Vegetarian Spoiler Alert: I’m about to spend the next 350 words waxing rhapsodic about a big hunk of meat.

Before I relate how this deliriously-delicious drumstick brought a family and neighborhood closer together this Memorial Day weekend, let me first echo that sentiments of blogger Bobby McMahon: “One bite, and I knew that I had made a grand, delicious decision.” Tender, smoky, juicy, meaty. And that was just the first bite. If a pastrami sandwich from Katz’s Deli led a good and decent life, it would come back to Earth reincarnated as a State Fair turkey leg. It was that good.

But this turkey leg’s mere deliciousness is not why am I bothering my fellow Jewfoos (Jewish foodies) with this poultry panegyric. Let me tell you the rest of the story:

NYC Taverns Go Green

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File under the good news heading: According to this article in Crains New York Business (I read it online – as in standing on line for my take out lunch. It beat reading about Jenna Bush’s wedding…),

New York City is one of the largest players in the burgeoning green restaurant industry. According to Boston-based non-profit Green Restaurant Association, 25% of all American restaurants that it has certified as “green” are in NYC! The article also mentions the specific efforts of Tavern on the Green, who are nervous about not being up to sustainable-snuff when ownership of the site reverts to the Parks & Rec dept., and New York’s first certified organic restaurant, Gusto Grilled Organics. Now New Yorkers can have their cake and eat it, too.

Beer-kay Avot?

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Counting the Homer

Last year, I posted about the connection between beer, civilization and the Jewish people’s journey from Egypt to Sinai during the period of the omer.

This year, just as the counting of the omer began, I came across this article, which is a survey of contemporary authors concerning which beers they would pair with their novels! Some authors picked beers that matched the characteristics of their writing (“dark, with biting overtones,” etc.). Others chose more figuratively. For example, Michael Chabon responded, “The proper pairing with The Yiddish Policemen’s Union would of course be a nice cold bottle of Bruner Adler lager, brewed right in the Federal District of Sitka by Shoymer Brewing, Inc.”