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Rhea Yablon Kennedy

Rhea writes news stories and takes photos for Gallaudet University publications and studies creative nonfiction at Johns Hopkins University. She's been contributing to The Jew and the Carrot since December 2007, and her thoughts on food, the environment, and triathlons have appeared in Edible Chesapeake, EcoDeaf, and TrEYE Stories. Her own blog about food is www.youaredelicious.net. When not occupied with writing, Rhea experiments in her Takoma, D.C. kitchen or trolls the nooks and crannies of the District for little restaurants that few know about and even fewer can shake down for a tasty vegetarian meal. Springs, summers, and falls find Rhea attempting to garden, joyously joining a CSA, or both. Next gardening season, she looks forward to mastering the art of growing large-but-still-tender okra pods and getting to know worms better.

Rhea Yablon Kennedy's Website »

Stop and Think; Choose a Blessing and Bless; Eat

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Life in general distracts me. It’s true no matter what I’m doing or where I am. If I go into the food co-op for bread and peanut butter, I’ll carry out shampoo and trail mix; when I resolve to run twelve times around the track, I lose count after the third loop. Even when I get through a task, I often neglect to follow up or look back to consider its lessons. By the time I’m halfway through, my mind is already whirring off in another direction.

So I was a little concerned when I signed up for a 21-day “spring rejuvenation cleanse” and learned that it would involve focus. In multiple ways. But this also got to the heart of why I wanted to purify in the first place.

To get the most out of this food-based detoxifying experience, the approximately 50 participants are supposed to eat certain foods, avoid others, prepare detoxifying recipes, breathe deeply, take long walks, and journal about the whole thing each day. On top of all that, our guide encourages us to “eat mindfully”. I figured if I could do all of that, I might have a fighting chance of getting my attention deficit into the black.

Yid.Dish: Jerusalem artichoke soup for 700 (or 6)

Jerusalem artichoke soup

People love to cook for intimate gatherings, but they also have a fascination with mass-producing food. I, for one, am guilty of an obsession with the Food Network show Unwrapped and immediately join the line for any tour of a cheese-, chocolate-, or bourbon-making operation. I’ll also tune into any show that gives chefs a ridiculously short amount of time to cook for an outrageous number of people—preferably with some kind of added challenge, like making dinner for a cruise ship filled half with gluten-sensitive diners and half with people who subsist entirely on whole wheat bread… while the boat heads directly for a storm on the high seas.

Can Judaism save the planet?

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Last week, The Washington Post‘s On Faith blog published a piece of mine inspired by the Hazon Food Conference. Specifically, I was inspired by the session “What Would Moses Drive?”

Entitled “Can Judaism save the planet?”, this piece presents one perspective that answers the question with a resounding “Yes!” We at least have the tools to do it. Judging from the number of people at the conference, and their passion and dynamic visions, we have the resources as well.

Valentine’s Day film fest loves local foods

(A version of this post originally appeared on my D.C. Farmers Market Examiner site)

Nora Pouillon selects veggies at a farmers market.

Washington D.C.’s FRESHFARM Markets’ new year started with good news: A mini documentary about the organization would be part of Yachad‘s Our City Film Festival slated for February 14 at D.C.’s Goethe Institute. Not only that, but the film would appear alongside “Nora!” featuring a restaurateur who embraces local and organic food.

“I’m thrilled to have a film about FRESHFARM Markets and to document in some way how the markets were created and what vision was behind it,” said FRESHFARM co-director and co-founder Ann Yonkers.

Yachad, which mobilizes the Washington-area Jewish community to repair and rebuild lower-income neighborhoods, selected 14 films for the third annual festival and divided them into four categories—Our Body, Our Mind, Our Heart, and Our Soul. “FRESHFARM Markets” will appear in the body category and is, of course, about FRESHFARM and its nine producer-only markets in the D.C. area. Their markets include such favorites as the Dupont Circle farmers market and the farmers market at the White House.

What Would Moses Drive? And Other Questions about Jews and Climate Change

(This post originally appeared on Jewcy.com and is reprinted with permission)

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What would Moses drive? This was the title of a session on climate change at the Hazon Food Conference, held December 24 to 27 in Pacific Grove, Calif. Indeed, this is a question for the ages. Or for right now.

The conference came just a few days after the close of the United Nations’ climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark. The conference also marked the end of a journey by a very wacky school bus, which cruised across the country on used vegetable oil to raise awareness about the Jewish Climate Change Campaign [read more about that here and here]. So it made sense for Jewish educator and environmental visionary Adam Berman to ask the question.

As it turns out, it didn’t really matter when this conference on a Jewish food movement that emphasizes sustainability took place. Really, Jews should be asking themselves what the quintessential member of the Tribe would do about climate change every day, and modeling solutions themselves. Luckily, Jewish practices translate beautifully into concrete tactics.

Running for the Crossroads Farmers Market

Ellen and Rhea kick booty

The Crossroads spirit was with me on Sunday. At 6 a.m., I headed down to the starting line of Washington D.C.’s Marine Corps Marathon decked out in my Crossroads Farmers Market shirt and fortified by a well-wishing card from the market’s director. (For anyone interested, my tummy was fortified by some organic coffee and a PB & J on sprouted grain bread–what I’ve found to be an excellent pre-race snack).

I went into this knowing that the campaign to rejuvenate the Crossroads’ Fresh Checks program for low-income shoppers through writing articles about it and running 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) had not actually reached its goal. My attempt at a charitable and world-healing act–an act of tikkun olam–had raised awareness and monetarily netted just shy of $700 ($698 to be exact) in donations. My goal was $1,000, but I was pretty sure I had reached my limit. The market managers had sent the ask to their supporters and shoppers, too, so together we had tried the best we could.

USDA Initiatives, Grassroots Efforts Harvest Increase in Farmers Markets

FreshFarm Market, by the White House

(This is cross-posted from Examiner.com)

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced October 2 that the number of farmers markets in the United States is up more than 13 percent from just a year ago. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farmers Market Directory now lists almost 5,300 markets nationwide, up from 4,685 reported in 2008. That’s an increase of about 600 new markets, or more than 10 new markets a week.

“Farmers markets assure that consumers have easier access to local fruits and vegetables and this growth demonstrates incredible interest consumers have in purchasing from local producers,” said Vilsack in a press release.

The announcement went on to mention the USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative, whose mission recognizes the distance between Americans and the farmers who produce their food, and ensures the people that “we are marshalling resources from across USDA to help create the link between local production and local consumption.” The news release also mentions its own farmers market that the agency has hosted for the past 14 years, and a guide to setting up a new market on federal property.

Yid.Dish: Beer Bread from the Edge of Irony

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To participate in the sustainable food movement today is to live on the edge of irony. Especially if you’re taking part in the movement from a seriously urban setting like, say, Washington, D.C.

What do I mean by this? Just look at this summer. Over the past few months, I’ve taken digital pictures of my hands covered in garden soil, emailed for advice on thinning carrots, Googled rustic local farms, and watched a documentary about real food from a plastic seat in an air conditioned theater.

It’s not just me. Recently, more and more small farms, local food organizations, and gardeners have set up blogs or created Facebook groups.

Yid.Dish: Watermelon Agua Fresca and Tomato Pie

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Cross-posted from Examiner.com

What’s with tomatoes and watermelon this year? I have seen them side by side at local farmers markets, of course, having both come into season recently. But in an odd development, I started to see them together in recipes, too.

At first, I noticed the usual myriad recipes for watermelon-feta salad sometimes included halved cherry tomatoes. Then came the watermelon gazpacho. Then, as if that weren’t enough, watermelon bloody Marys have now poured into the fray, celery sticks and all.

While I cheer combinations like chipotle and chocolate or peaches and basil, I just can’t get into this one.

Disastrously Delicious: Food Writers Get Together and Shake Things Up

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A group of Jewish food lovers, a spread of delectable dishes, and milkshakes made of laughter. If it were possible for one afternoon to be too good, this is where it would start.

A group of Jew & the Carrot writers, editors, and friends faced the risk—overflowing goodness and all—this past Sunday. Of course, it all started with the food. I arrived at host Avigail’s Clinton Hill, Brooklyn apartment to find hand-layered ratatouille swirling from the center of a clay baking dish, crusty homemade beer bread, a cake topped with the purple velvet of baked plums, aromatic rosemary bread, peach-basil salad, and made-from-scratch yogurt. That alone nearly tipped the scales to the side of the too good. Did I mention that we washed this down with homemade sparkling ginger-grapefruit juice? Spiked with gin?

A WHO ‘Thank You’ to the Obamas

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The other day, I met a gardener who used to ply the same community garden as I do. He had recently stopped by the old growing grounds, and noticed that many more of the plots were in use this year than last.

I could think of quite a few explanations for more folks growing their own veggies—from the economy to greater awareness about local foods—but this guy believed we owe the rapid increase primarily to one cause. “It’s Michelle Obama,” he said.

Yid.Dish: Sweet Under the Tongue – Coffee Flan With Raspberry Sauce

Flan!

When it comes to reasons for eating dairy on Shavuot, you have a variety to choose from. Here’s one that I like: on this day that commemorates receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, we remember that the text should lie “like honey and milk” under the tongue (according to the Song of Songs). Why focus on this one? It gives me an excuse to make flan.

This dessert, which is known in Francophile circles as crème caramel, is both milky and sweet as honey. Here’s a recipe and a how-to for the tricky caramel part. This version adds the depth of coffee flavor and the bright note of raspberry sauce (the photo includes a dollop of goji berry sauce, too). Enjoy, and have a wonderful Shavuot!

An Interview with a Chef Kosher Creator, and a Cooking Contest!

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Back in March, I got an email inviting me to take part in the ChefKosher.com cooking contest. I eventually submitted a recipe (for Chunky Borscht, which may look familiar to the Jew and the Carrot readers), and of course had to snoop around the site.

One of the first things I noticed was the stunning food photos. These enticing shots mark the portals to recipes for beef, poultry, fish, soups and stews, dairy dishes, breads, desserts and sweets, and more.

The next element to strike me was the sample recipe titles, tantalizing from the sidelines. The juxtapositions also gave me a giggle. On a recent visit, I found links to Moroccan Style Matzo Ball Soup, Barbecued Beef Ribs, and Pennsylvania Shoofly Pie. Now there’s a kosher meal to remember! (Just be sure to use a parve butter alternative for the pie!)

Of course, the mustachioed chef gazing amicably from the header also caught my eye. He looks like an Old Country version of The Muppet Show’s Swedish Chef.

A Sunrise Over D.C.

Sunrise on a rare holiday

When Birkat HaChammah arrived a week ago, a group of people from the Washington area marked the morning in a very D.C. way—by converging on the National Mall. The spot the organizers chose—at the Lincoln Memorial, in sight of the Washington Monument and the reflecting pool—is a place folks from this city and around the nation have gathered for thousands of events spanning our parents’, grandparents, and great-great-grandparents’ lives. The historic spot seemed fitting for a holiday that comes once every 28 years, or once a generation. (And the Washington Post seemed to like the choice of venue and celebration enough to write and video about it).