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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.

Snack and trade, or carb tax?

Kashi is running a promotion right now, where you can virtually “trade-in” your unhealthy snacks (beef jerky, nachos, cotton candy, etc) for some actual “healthy” ones, free of charge! OK, so maybe a dark-chocolate oatmeal cookie isn’t the most healthy snack in the world either, but at least it’s:

a) whole grain

b) chocolate

c) free through the mail!

Get yours while supplies last.

Social Justice with Fries

maagalei tzedek
Are the people who serve your fries getting sick leave? Does your barista get paid for overtime? Are the dishwashers getting paid minimum wage?

The folks at Bema’agalei Tzedek are working to make sure that everyone entering a public eatery in Israel can answer these questions. Their social seal program, which is active in five Israeli cities, takes the idea of fair trade one step further, assesses the whether or not a restaurant or catering hall is living up to its social responsibilities towards it employees and patrons. The social seal sticker makes it easy for customers to do a quick ethical check before they scan the menu.

Free (as in beer)

My last omer-centric post celebrated the yeastiness of a sourdough starter. Today I wanted to focus on barley. Let’s not forget that the omer period itself is named after the measure of barley, known as an “omer” that was brought to the Temple on the second day of Pesach, marking the beginning of the transition from the barley harvest of early spring to the later wheat harvest of Shavuot.

Hmmm…yeast, barley….what else might be used to celebrate this period? Some commentators say that the transition from barley to wheat marks the transition of the Israelites from a slave people (who lived like animals, the main consumers of barley) to freedom (since wheat bread marked the culmination of civilization). Not so fast, says professor Charlie Bamfourth in a recent Scientific American article:

A bone warming winter’s meal from my stove to yours…

Smoky white fish, tangy sauerkraut, succulent tempeh and sweet root veges laced with cream…

Here is winter supper from my forth coming book “The Flexitarian Table” (Houghton Mifflin June 2007).

Whether you’re a Meat head, Veg head, or a serious Omni-Locavore like my friend Sarah Rose or my cat Bambu you’ll find something tasty here. Yes dear reader it’s time to wake up and smell the sauerkraut, whip out your immersion blender, and get cracking! Cooking is an adventure not some sort of chore! On your way from the green market to your table you will get back to your shtetl roots and even take an excursion to Southeast Asia. You’ll be braising sauteeing, toasting, pan frying, simmering, pureeing and seasoning your way to a sumptious yet deceptively simple supremely satisfying supper.

I’ll leave the dessert up to you…

Google Food – is more always good?

A friend of my sent me an article written in the Washington Post about Google with the subject, “we should all be as lucky.” It talks about the amazingly top quality café (notice how they chose not to use the word cafeteria instead) which Google offers its employees. Did I mention that it’s free? For all three meals every day? And how by noon menus are distributed electronically for all the 11 cafes on its campus? Furthermore, I am happy to say that “Google supports local farming, organic produce, hormone-free meats and healthful eating.” Don’t you wish you could work there?

Earthdance New Year’s Jam

Earthdance photo by John Barrett Just got back from the annual New Year’s Contact Improvisation Jam at Earthdance, an ecologically focused, intentional community for (transient) resident dancers that I’ve been visiting for a dozen years or so.The food is great – lots of root vegetables, leafy greens, hearty soups, and other healthy wintery fare – with much of the food coming from the organic Earthdance garden. Add a hot tub, sauna, and about 125 wooded acres with a cold, deep quarry for swimming, and of course lots of yummy people, for full effect.

Ethical Smahot: Making Celebrations Meaningful and Joyous

(xposted by Lenny on

Related to thoughts about fruit platters, wedding foods, and such, recently highlighted a program in Washington DC called Ethical Smahot.

Ethical Smahot is a project initiated by Rabbi Alana Suskin and Rabbi Joshua Ginsberg as an attempt to control the excesses of some Jewish lifecycle celebrations and infuse them with an ethical, meaningful spirit. The project took inspiration from an earlier statement by some Orthodox rabbis in New York City regarding the necessity to control conspicuous consumption during lifecycle celebrations.

In its current incarnation, Ethical Smachot centers on a statement of seven principled elements that should be reflected in every Jewish lifecycle celebration: Tzniut (modesty), Kavod HaBriot (respect for one’s fellow human beings), Talmud Torah (study and learning), Seudah (festive meal), Tzedakah (charity), Tzedek (righteousness and justice), and Shomrei Adamah (guarding the Earth).

Not Blogging On Shabbat – In A Post-Pluralist Environment

To Blog or Not To Blog (on Shabbat) – that is the question.

The traditional halachic answer would have been “of course not” – end of subject.

The pluralist answer would be “why not?” – different Jewish people observe (and don’t observe) shabbat in myriad different ways. If someone wants to blog as part of their celebration of shabbat – or because they don’t keep shabbat at all, then why on earth not?

Here’s a third view. We respect tradition – but we’re not _not_ blogging because of a traditional understanding of shabbat. And we do respect the myriad ways that Jews keep or don’t keep shabbat.