Archive for the 'Grocery' Category

A Victory for Factory Farming Opponents in Ohio

An article in the New York Times this morning reported that a truce has been made between factory farmers and animal rights activists in Ohio.  Much of the discussion is focused on caging methods for chickens.

According to the article:

Hoping to avoid a divisive November referendum that some farmers feared they would lose, Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio urged farm leaders to negotiate with opponents, led by the Humane Society of the United States. After secret negotiations, the sides agreed to bar new construction of egg farms that pack birds in cages, and to phase out the tight caging of pregnant sows within 15 years and of veal calves by 2017.

Postville, Procter & Gamble, And The Problem With Pareve Margarine

The raid on the kosher meat-processing plant in Postville, Iowa, threw us a bone in the shape of a vigorous new debateon whether it is fitting and proper to designate as “kosher” products made without regard for animal welfare, fair wages,and the environment. To these I would add human health. What does it mean to approve the manufacture and distribution of products that are known to compromise the health of those who consume them? Is there a distinction to be made between contaminantsthat do their work quickly, like salmonella, and those whose destructive effects are slow and cumulative, like trans fats?

Cheap Strawberries

The affects of our crazy winter weather are not passed us yet. Generally, we think of bad weather as leading to increases in the prices of food.  Examples include, damaged oranges when the temperatures drop below freezing or farmers having to charge more since, they had to remove 3 feet of snow from their potato crops. But this time, the cold winter is going to make your produce cheaper.

Florida’s cold weather caused a delay in the harvest date for Florida’s strawberries. The delay caused Florida and California to strawberries to hit the markets at the same time. Last week, 80 million pounds of strawberries were picked – a new record for this time of year. In 2009, a pound of strawberries cost $3.49, while this year strawberries will go for $1.25 per pound.

Jewish Groups Fight “Food Deserts”


Check out this great article in the L.A. Times about the Progressive Jewish Alliance organizing a tour of food deserts in Los Angeles. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“Jewish community groups aim to broaden the growing local and national campaigns to attract more supermarkets to poor neighborhoods, where limited access to healthful food has been linked to obesity, diabetes and other diseases. Programs are sprouting up in Louisiana, New York, Michigan and Pennsylvania.”

Read more here.

A Chat With Noah Alper, Schmear King


Recently I had the chance to speak with Noah Alper, founder of the eponymous Noah’s Bagels.  Noah, who sold Noah’s Bagels in 1999, has been in the food business since the 1970s, when he started Bread and Circus, the East Coast natural food chain (bought by Whole Foods in 1992).  He’s kept kosher since the early 1990s, and at one point Noah’s Bagels was the largest kosher retailer in the country.  (For those on the prowl, there’s still one kosher Noah’s Bagels, in Seattle.)  Nowadays, he’s committed to preaching the gospel of socially responsible business practices, and to that end he’s come out with a book called Business Mensch that aims to connect Jewish principles to good business practices and convince business leaders that community values are good for their bottom line.

*FRESH* at Green Screens @ Lincoln Center this Tuesday

The other day my boyfriend and I were enjoying a Sunday walk in Brooklyn when we ran into his friend Ana, her partner and their adorable new baby.  Among the introductions and pleasantries she mentioned that she was distributing her film FRESH.  “Here, tell me what you think of it,” she said handing me a copy, knowing I was a food writer.

So, one night a while later my boyfriend and I tucked into the sofa and watched FRESH, the new film by Ana Sofia Joanes.  As someone who has seen Food Inc and has read a lot of Michael Pollan, the material was not new to me, however I found the material’s presentation (forgive the pun) fresh.  I had found Food Inc to be a good film, but heavy on the propaganda.  I felt that FRESH got its message across in a far more even-handed way.  The film invoked a pretty good discussion, and I was happy to see on their website they had some additional educational materials and even a call for recipes.  But you don’t have to be a Jew and the Carrot writer or have chance encounters with the director to see this film.  If you live in the New York area there will be a screening this Tuesday.

Bare Bones

Throw me a bone!

My dad has strong memories of his mother’s chicken soup: the aroma, the flavor, and the chicken feet at the bottom of the bowl. He especially liked biting into the pads of the feet, which were nice and chewy.

Like many ethnic cuisines that evolve at least in part out of deprivation, Jewish food has long mined the more interesting parts of the animal (think tongue). But though the tip-to-tail movement has made offal, bone marrow and pork belly trendy, I don’t know any Jewish cooks these days that serve chicken feet in their soup. I set out to dip a toe into the world of off-cuts by buying a bag of beef bones at the Noe Valley Farmer’s Market in San Francisco.

Kosher Salt: Why Is This Salt Different From All Others?

I keep my kosher salt in an Israeli style pottery canister with a spring locked lid. It was a mishloach manos from my synagogue one Purim. I always feel like a kitchen alchemist when I reach for it.

Recently I was lunching with a business colleague in a casual Beverly Hills restaurant whose menu made a smug reference to its use of imported fleur de sel. My colleague said she’d been given some as a gift and it tasted wonderful.

The discussion rattled some of my assumptions about this elemental ingredient.  Is hand-harvested French sea salt at $1.42 an ounce the best choice for the savvy gourmet in the kitchen? Or is it lunacy, when coarse kosher salt costs me 6 cents an ounce?

Ask the Shmethicist: WWMPD? (What Would Michael Pollan Do?)


Oh dear readers, the Shmethicist has been AWOL for a while.  But now I’m back and better than ever (not unlike that pea soup that was even more delicious when we reheated the leftovers!).

Dear Shmethicist,

I am currently feeding a family of four (two adults, two toddlers) on a very small food budget ($150 a week).  A couple of years ago, my husband and I were able to buy all organic dairy and produce, and free range meats and eggs.  Now, it is a rarity.  Our costs are so tight, that even at $150 a week, we only cook nice dinners on Shabbat.

We have noticed a difference in how we feel and would absolutely love to do this again. We do not have our own yard in which to garden, which I would love to do someday.  There are several farms near here, but they are not open to the public (instead, they drive their goods to the farmers markets in the large city, which is over an hour away and which we cannot afford to drive to regularly, at $20 gas for the trip and $10 parking for the day).

Yid. Dish: Tahina


Tahina, the thick, brownish-gray paste of ground sesame seeds, is one of the latest foods to turn “gourmet” – at least in Israel. If supermarkets once sold only one brand of tahina, today it comes in squeeze bottles and glass jars with fancy labels; brands with Arabic on their labels proclaiming their “authenticity” vie with the all-Hebrew labels of the standard brand. (As far as I know, however, Melo Hatene is the only place to actually offer tahina tasting — the ultimate sign of a gourmet food.)

Kosher Marshmallow Tops List


What could be more dear to an ecologically minded keeper of kashrut in summer than a marshmallow? In San Francisco, a panel of tasters at the local daily voted the kosher brand as their top pick. Tell us in comments where to find kosher ‘mallows in your area! Has anyone tried to make one at home?

What is the True Price of a Salad?

Photo curtesy of Wallula Junction

Now that my Tuv Ha’Aretz (Hazon CSA) has started this year, I’m starting to get into a pleasant routine of planning meals around my weekly bounty (and my boyfriend’s kitchen).  The last two weeks we have seen beautiful fresh spring greens perfect for fun and interesting salads that I’ve dressed with (in various combinations) grated raw beets, honey and almond oil, crushed raw cashews, whole grain mustard and balsamic vinegar.

We’ve enjoyed the meals, and fortuitously there always seems to be enough salad left over for a hearty lunch the next day.  Each time I carefully put the salad in a container to take to work with me – and each time I promptly leave it on the kitchen counter.  A practice that leaves me both without a lunch that day and a wilted salad back at my boyfriend’s place.

Getting beyond my feelings of guilt that I’ve wasted otherwise very good food, it did get me thinking.  Is it more economical to buy a salad out than packing my own?

A Full Basket: Gourmet Organic Food in Israel


Rte. 44 is a two-lane rural road more or less in the center of Israel. Coming from Ramla, right before the community of Karme Yosef, sits a square building faced in limestone set back from the road. A modest sign identifies it as Melo Hatene. (The name loosely translates as The Overflowing Cornucopia.) I had passed the building more than once, but had not really given more than a moment’s thought to what this structure – too classy to be a packing shed – was doing in the middle of an agricultural field. It was my sister, stopping to explore while on a bike ride, who discovered what was inside and brought us there.

Cucumbers, Coca-Cola and Taxes



In the daily inundation of political scandal, violence, government infighting and general economic and social mayhem that we Israelis can’t seem to live without (judging by our consumption of news media), a proposed new tax on fruits and vegetables has garnered little public outcry. 

Until now, fruits and vegetables have been exempt from the 16.5% value-added tax (v.a.t.) placed on nearly every other consumer item. But foods like tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and eggplant had been considered basic daily necessities, like bread and milk (both of which are still price-controlled).