Archive for the 'Jewish Culture' Category

Eating Kosher and Veggie Across South America: The Good, The Bland and The Ugly

This entry is cross-posted at marriedwithbackpacks.com

It’s now been seven weeks backpacking through this meat-lovers paradise, tough going for a pair of Jews spoiled by home cooking and New York’s great vegetarian restaurants. Vegetarian cuisine in Peru and Bolivia is, like their economies, ‘developing.’ We were pleasantly surprised at the number of vegetarian restaurants in Lima, Arequipa and Cusco. In many of them we had a set menu consisting of a soup, a main, tea and possibly desert for $1.50-$5. Now it could be that South American vegetarian cuisine is relatively immature, or did the Spaniards run off with all the Inca’s seasoning as well as their gold… because all most all of our Andean meals were quite bland. The vegetables or grain soups would have been enlivened by adding almost anything. The mains usually consisted of rice, eggs and glisteningly oily fried vegetables. Most of the vegetarian restaurants rely heavily on eggs and cheese, so if you are travelling vegan, it might end up being the rice and oily vegetables for meal after meal. If you risk eating at a non-vegetarian restaurant, the vegetarian menu usually consists of pizza and spaghetti. I should mention that it wasn’t all bad news, we did enjoy a veggie version of a traditional Arequipa dish (at a restaurant called Lakshmivan), a large pepper stuffed with vegetables, tofu and chillies, as well as scrumptious burritos at the Hearts Café in Ollantaytambo.

When it comes to snacks there is more to get excited about.

Chasing the Carrot: Portland Tuv Ha’Aretz’s 2nd annual Jewish edible garden bike tour

Last Sunday, July 25, 15 people gathered at Oregon’s Museum of Science and Industry for Portland Tuv Ha’Aretz’s 2nd annual Jewish edible garden bike tour. Portland is laid out in grids, like Washington, D.C. Last year’s tour covered NE Portland; this year we set off to explore neighborhoods in SE.

Our ride leader, Tuv member Beth Hamon, is an old-school bike geek. Last year she created spoke cards for our ride (when you do something for the first time, it’s an innovation; twice is minhag) So of course she made a new one for this year’s ride. Here’s a picture:

Earth Based Judaism – Reclaiming Our Roots, Reconnecting to Nature

Originally Published by ZEEK.

Humanity’s current alienation from nature is unprecedented. As Wendell Berry explained in his seminal 1977 work The Unsettling of America, we are confronted with a “crisis of culture,” reflected in a “crisis of agriculture,” rooted in the simple fact that modern people have become disconnected from nature and the natural cycles we depend upon for survival. In less than fifty years, modern Western culture – particularly in the United States – has shifted from relying on small family farms that dotted the countryside to relying on an industrial food system run by massive corporate farms.

Biblical Botany: A Torah Flora Tour

In his blog Torah Flora, Dr. Jon Greenberg shares his unique insights and vast knowledge on Judaism and plants (or as he more articulately puts it, “biblical ethnobotany”). Some of us had the chance to witness that knowledge first hand today at the New York Botanical Garden, where Dr. Greenberg gave an enthusiastic group a “Torah Flora Tour.”

The goal of the tour (and blog), according to Dr. Greenberg, is to “use knowledge of plants and nature to better understand Torah and Halacha.” He cites a long-lost relationship during the biblical era between Judaism and nature, and a wish to reconstruct it.

“Oy”-Free Cooking

One time my brother came home to find me on the couch watching The Food Network.  He threw his hands up, “all you watch is food TV!”  That’s pretty true, but there is one cooking show I was missing out on, until now.  Eat in Good Health is a Yiddish cooking show produced every 2 weeks by The Forward.  It is one of the most enjoyable cooking shows I’ve seen.  The show is a great mixture of tradition, modernity, entertainment, and education.

County Fair Season!

See those blue ribbons? My challah (and my husband’s bagels) won those at the county fair last year. Both recipes always turn out reliably scrumptious, which should be enough for any baker, but there is something undeniably, down-home country-satisfying about serving your family and friends “blue-ribbon” baked goods.

Folks looking for Jewish food and culture might not head for the county fair; as Jewish pig farmers, pole benders and log-rolling lumberjacks are rarities in most parts, yet the lure of competition, fancy ribbons and yearlong bragging rights might make you wish to consider participating. That’s right, I suggest you get your apron on and whip, bake, pickle or jar up your Jewish delicacies and head to your county fair. Trust me, your homemade kosher dills will taste even better adorned with a Best of Show ribbon. All you need is a copy of your local fair’s open-class entry form to start planning your submissions.

Egg Rolls and Egg Creams

Image by Carlos Porto

Hey all you NY metro, cross-cultural foodies — this one’s for you. Tomorrow in Chinatown the Egg Rolls and Egg Creams Chinese-Jewish festival is scheduled, and it sounds like a blast. Here’s an excerpt from their flyer:

Experience a unique slice of the city where Chinatown meets the Jewish Lower East Side, at our Egg Rolls And Egg Creams Festival.

Klezmer march and music – lion dance – synagogue tours – Chinese opera and acrobatics – Yiddish and Chinese lessons – sing a long – tea ceremony – scribal art – folk dance demos – mahjongg – art projects – kosher egg rolls and egg creams

The Price of Fish: Parshat Beha’alotcha

In this week’s parasha, Beha’alotcha, Bnei Yisrael continue their journey from Egypt to the promised land. They are provisioned during their desert wanderings by manna, a mysterious food which appears on the ground with the nightly dew, and, according to midrashim,[1] exhibited a variety of tastes. It is against this background that we read the Israelites’ astounding complaint:

If only we had meat to eat. We remember the fish we ate in Egypt for free, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic. [2]

The Israelites had only just been redeemed from tortuous oppression, so it is most perplexing that they would now long for the ‘free’ foods of slavery. Commentators have offered a number of explanations, claiming that perhaps the fish were so cheap or easy to catch such as to be considered free.[3] The Sifrei, however, provides a more profound interpretation.

A Tale of Two Covenants: Rainbow Day, Shmita, and the Gulf

The iridescent colors reflected off an oil slick are like a twisted and distorted rainbow.

This coming Monday, May 10th, is also the 27th of Iyyarthe date when Noahs family and the animals left the ark and received the rainbow covenant.

There is a special correlation between this weeks Torah portion and the rainbow covenant of Noahs time. And there is a foreboding contrast between the rainbow covenant and whats happened in the Gulf of Mexico. The tension between these dynamic relationships in many ways defines the predicament of our time.

Maimonides meets Christ: Portland Tuv Ha’Aretz visits St. Andrew Lutheran Church

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On April 18, my co-steering committee member Sylvia Frankel and I were invited to speak to the congregation of St. Andrew Lutheran Church in Beaverton, Oregon, a nearby city most famous for being the home of Nike. It was an opportunity to address the congregation for one of a series of learning and study sessions; this one was called Food and Spirituality from a Jewish Perspective.

About 25 people attended, including Lead Pastor Mark Brocker and Associate Pastor Robyn Hartwig, and members of the St. Andrew Green Team, a group of congregants who work on sustainability issues within the St. Andrew community.

Traif Restaurant

A new restaurant is about to open in Brooklyn. It’s called Traif (the Hebrew word meaning not kosher).  As the BLD (Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner) Project points out, that while it may be in Brooklyn it is not a restaurant that the local Hasidic community will be dinning in.   Jason Marcus, the chef and co-owner of Traif, is Jewish and according to his blog, he wanted to open a restaurant that celebrates the foods he loves most, shellfish and pork.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about the restaurant when I heard about it. My friend sent me this article, announcing the opening of Traif. She was outraged. The idea of the restaurant didn’t sit well with me; but I didn’t think it is anti-Semitic. I wanted to tell the JCarrot community about Traif, but I am not really sure what to say. I am hoping that this post will spark conversation like it has on other blogs. I am curious about how this makes others feel. Especially people that care about food and Judaism.

Yid Dish: Homemade Matzah

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“This is the bread of affliction”, my father would drone every Passover as he opened the familiar blue square box. “Matzah is tasteless and dry, not meant to be enjoyed. Eating it should remind you of the sufferings of our people.”  As he went on and on and on with his yearly lecture on the harshness of slavery and unleavened bread I sat there slathering on salted butter, devouring sheet after sheet of crispy goodness. Although bland and stomach binding, this so-called ‘bread of affliction’ was a welcome change to the squishy, faintly chemical smelling Wonder loaves my mother bought the rest of the year. Despite the family mandate that matzah eating required a certain degree of complaining to make it religiously significant, my appreciation for the magical combination of flour, water, and fire was born.

Where I grew up in the Midwest during the 1970’s there were only two kinds of matzah available. Manishewitz and Streit’s. Both perfectly square and almost identical in taste, matzah was matzah; or so I thought. It was not until decades later at a community Seder that I discovered that matzah could be round, organic or made from non-white flour.

New Podcast – RideCast Special

Happy Rider

Check out this new special Ride Edition Podcast! If you haven’t heard, Hazon is allocating funds raised from the Bay Area Ride a bit differently than past rides. It’s pretty exciting and really putting the power in the hands (or cycles) of Ride participants, who will get to decide where to allocate the funds they raise.
Also, if you didn’t hear about last year’s NY Ride engagement story, Marc tells us what he was thinking the day he proposed on the Ride.

Check it all out by clicking here!

Yid.Dish: Quinoa, a Passover Game-Changer

Quinoa

It is apropos that the Whole Grains Council has declared quinoa as the March Grain of the Month, as we begin Passover on the night of March 29th. Quinoa, a rockstar of a grain in its own right with tons of nutritional value, made its debut as a Passover friendly grain just a few years ago, forever changing the way many people cook for the holiday.

According to the laws of Passover, chometz (barley, rye, oats, wheat, and spelt [BROWS to many who attended Jewish day school]) and their derivatives are forbidden. An Ashekanazic rabbinic tradition developed where kitniyot, legumes, rice and other similar products that are processed similar to chometz, look like chometz when ground into flour, or may have even just a bit of chometz in them, were also outlawed for Passover (many Sephardic Jews eat kitniyot).

As luck would have it, the law of kitniyot applies only to items that the rabbis were aware of at the time this tradition developed. This means that, you guessed it, quinoa is allowed on Passover! No longer were the Jewish people restricted to endless variations of potato dishes.

Enter, quinoa.