Archive for the 'Rant!' Category

At Vegans’ Weddings: Beef or Tofu?

“I know it’s your day, but it’s not all about you…Why have a wedding if you’re going to be like that [serve only vegetarian options]?  Just print a bumper sticker.”

Did this article that concluded with this choice comment in today’s NY Times Sunday Styles section annoy others as much as it annoyed me?  Of course weddings should reflect one’s values, so if you’re kosher, or vegan, or vegetarian, why wouldn’t you serve kosher, vegan, or vegetarian food?  As the vegan Kathleen Mink quoted in the article said, it was  a “no brainer” to have a vegan menu at her and her husband’s wedding.  But another vegan pastry chef served meat at her wedding because she was afraid celebrity chefs like Eric Ripert and Daniel Boulud would think she and her husband “were crazy” if they didn’t serve meat. 

Confessions of a College Health Nut

About a month ago I received an assignment for my business writing course. We had to compose a letter as an angry parent and PTA member, protesting a hypothetical high school’s deal with a well-known soda manufacturer. The deal would require that the school stock only this brand’s soda and snack products in its vending machines (we assume no healthy alternatives), in return for sponsorship from this manufacturer. My letter went:

To Mr. Anonymous Soda-Junkie:

As a member of the PTA and a concerned parent, I urge you to vote against the contract that would install (brand name here) vending machines in our schools. With teenage obesity reaching epidemic levels, we must do all we can to discourage the consumption of the unhealthy, calorie-rich foods sold by such machines.

Kosher “Organic Batter Blaster” vicariously attends the Hazon food conference


My dear friends The Wandering Jew and David Levy over at Jewschool, sick with envy that they couldn’t attend the Hazon Food Conference this year, produced this tongue-in-cheek video to vicariously participate nonetheless. Please enjoy their playful snark as we consider how the hell this product fits into the eco-kashrut movement.



Thursday, October 8 at 3:00 pm the New York City Health Department visited the fruit stand on 89th and Broadway in Manhattan.  Apparently his fruit stand was too big, extending a foot or so outside the designated area.  The police were summoned  as was a New York City garbage truck.   The police proceeded to deposit crates of fruit and vegetables into the garbage truck.  They threw perfectly good fruits and vegetables away! A homeless woman literally kneeled down begging for the food.  The officers ignored her request. The bystanders were astounded.  As  pedestrians called various state and local officials, as well as news reporters,  the garbage truck closed and the police ceased to haul any more crates of food into the garbage truck for fear of negative publicity.  The supervising police officer said, “We are just following health department protocol.”

Not a drop to drink. At least not a BPA-free drop.


It seemed like a great way to kill two birds with one stone.  Now I’m wondering if it’s killing—or at least harming—me.

Welcome to my water dilemma.

Last year, my concerns were mounting about both the evils of inherent in the privatization of water and the health risks of exposure to Bisphenol A,  used to produce many common plastics.  So the members of our household stopped using the Brita filter, and started toting straight-from-the-tap goodness with us wherever we went.  Toting it in SIGG water bottles, which were sold as a plastic-free, all aluminum alternative to BPA-laden bottles.

Trust the Swiss their website said.

Yeah, trust the Swiss . . . to sell you out to the Nazis.

Consuming our way to Olam Ha’Bah?

photo by Sir Mildred Pierce

For some reason, I get stopped all the time in the produce section at Whole Foods. I don’t know what it is about me that suggests why I would be able to explain the difference between lacinato and regular kale, or whether golden beets are as sweet as red ones (especially since neither of these vegetables were part of my diet as recently as a year ago), but there must be something.

However, I’ve had an encounter that I can’t shake. I was standing by the grape tomatoes, trying to decide between the organic ones from Florida (but were they the product of slave labor?) and the local greenhouse tomatoes from Connecticut (fewer food miles, but what about pesticides?), when a woman about my grandmother’s age began talking to me out of the blue. You could tell she was in a bit of sticker shock at the Whole Paycheck prices, and she said to me, “You know how much these are at Shoprite? 99 cents.”

The (Food) Court Jew?

Here’s an uncomfortable intersection between Jews and food ethics — the Jewish spokesman for food lobby American Council on Science and Health, Jeff Steir, appeared on the Daily Show last week to receive a royal roasting.

I presume the days when people don’t know they’re on a parody show are past, surely Steir knew what he was getting into. Presumably he thought this was the only way to get a hearing out there. But the entire segment me cringe. How embarrassing:

Little Crop of Horrors

Conference Food: The Ins and Outs of Mass Eating

Conference Food. Image Care of Flickr User Esagor.

Buffet lines, questionable vegetarian options, overly sweet danish and endless cups of coffee…

You know what I’m talking about folks- the closest things grownups have to school cafeterias and the reason why we often come home from meetings and seminars with worse stomach aches than those brought on by hours of gaping at Power Point presentations alone…Conference Food!

I’ve broken down my many conference food experiences into three major categories.  Let me know about your experiences and check out this amazing journalism conference I’m running on Sunday, May 3rd in NYC (where the food will be, I think, quite delicious)..!

Olives—Part 2: Olive Branches


What’s the most iconic symbol of peace? Chances are you immediately thought of the dove and olive branch. Doves were long ago exposed as white pigeons – not particularly peaceful or gentle birds, if the truth be known. And olive trees have lately been at the heart of the conflict in between Israel and its neighbors.

 It would only be stretching the truth a little to claim that olive trees are the equivalent for most traditional agriculturalists in this part of the Middle East and of buffalo for Native Americans or yaks for Tibetans. To my knowledge, no one’s ever worn any part of the olive tree, but olive oil is an important source of fat in a cuisine that’s heavy on vegetables, legumes and grains. It was burned for light, is still used in soap and cosmetics, and it’s valued for its medicinal properties. Olive trees are precious property, passed down through generations. A family might sell its land but still retain rights to the olive trees on it, returning year after year to harvest the fruit.

Yid.Dish: Local Potato Kugel with Rosemary and Caramelized Onion

Potato kugel
“Local? No, no. None of this here is local,” said the sour-faced woman wrapped in blankets next to her table of produce. “But at least I’m honest. You see that guy over there? He’s selling strawberries as ‘home grown.’” The woman scoffed and shook her head. “Home grown! In February!”

I knew better than to expect local strawberries at this time of year. (Although I wondered if maybe that guy’s hometown was in Mexico… I really want to believe people). I was just trying to find potatoes and greens for some brunch dishes.

Funny, You Don’t Cook Jewish

Shleppy in Shleopard

Is there a Jewish — and thus also a non-Jewish —way to cook?

I’m not talking about kashrut, which defines what one cooks.  I’m talking about how one cooks.

Actually, I’m talking about how I cook, and how my not-a-member-of-the-tribe partner Chuck cooks.  I’m wondering if like so many other aspects of our lives, the differences reflect our disparate religious upbringing.

My male partner was raised Christian in Canada, achieving a veritable trifecta of soft-spoken repression, at least compared to this loud Jewish woman from New York with whom he’s chosen to spend his life.  The manifestations of our differences range from the onerous to the hilarious. And we’ve begun to wonder if our cooking styles are among the things affected.

Fields o’ Green(backs)


Good news folks! At least somebody is making money in this dismal bear-eat-bear economy, and guess what, it’s an agricultural company! Well…sort of.

I’m going to have to apologize for my inappropriate levity come Yom Kippur, but Monsanto “The Man” Company doubled their net income on seeds this last quarter. It hurts, I know, but it hurts us less than in hurts the soil in Argentina.

Analysts credit the rise in profits to an increase in corn production in South America.sign2691.jpg According to the article linked above, for every million new acres of corn (converted from soy production), Monsanto’s share goes up one dollar. According to some clever commentators on The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch, we ought to build an equation that estimates how many farmers Monsanto needs to sue at 50K per patented grain of pollen for the same increase.

Chinese Takeout in the New Yorker

Last week the New Yorker published a longish piece (registration required) about Orthodox rabbis who criss-cross China certifying that various food manufacturing companies are adhering by all the rules of kashrut. It’s a fascinating little piece about what it really means to be a mashgiach, or a person who checks that food is kosher. Here’s a part that caught my eye:

How does the process of kosher certification inspection work? Here’s a composite scenario, as I witnessed it.
The Schmooze: This takes place in the conference room, which is perhaps adorned with a wood-and-brass captain’s wheel from a ship. On the wall, there might be a framed certificate for “High Tech Enterprise 2006″ or a large painted sign with an adage in English. “Only Faulty Product, No Captious Customer” and “People and Products Working Together” were two that I saw. Among those in attendance could be a plant supervisor, an engineer, an export manager, a sales representative, and a factory-hired translator. There is always a lot of chuckling–about what, I don’t think anyone present ever has a clue. Finally, the mashgiach turns on his laptop, signaling that it is time for…
The Review of the Raw MaterialsMore

(Emphasis mine.)

What struck me is this whole issue of everyone laughing for no reason, a point that is picked up again later in the article. To me, that’s a little microcosm of everything that’s going on in the kashrut industry. Everyone is smiling and chuckling and looking jolly and pious, but no one really knows what’s happening.

More Fun with High Fructose Corn Syrup!

I was sorting through the mail this morning and an unusually thick envelope caught my eye. As a doctor’s family, we receive all kinds of mail from drug companies and hospitals, but this one was from the Corn Refiners Association. You may recall Leah’s rant in September about the corn syrup marketing campaign. Well, the corn syrup manufacturers have gotten together and sent every single member of the American Academy of Pediatrics a slick guide to high fructose goodness called “Changing the Conversation about High Fructose Corn Syrup.” It includes “The Top Published Myths,” an FAQ, and cute ads, with quotes about the safety of HFCS from medical journals, all sent straight to your kids’ doctor.