Thou Shall Snack – Interview & Win a Free Gift Basket!

kosherfest2006team.jpg

Jewish Grandmas are known for their special gift for feeding – and over feeding - their loved ones.  But for Jill Ginsberg (second from right), her Grandma Rose not only filled her belly with chicken soup, rugelach, and blintzes – she also sparked Jill’s entrepreneurial spirit. 

In 2005, Ginsberg founded Thou Shall Snack - a line of kosher snacks products that recreate traditional Jewish recipes, while giving them a decidedly contemporary twist (they’re kosher as well as baked, free of trans fats and genetically modified ingredients, and made with 70% organic ingredients).  Read an interview with Jill below and answer this question for a chance to win a special gift basket from Thou Shall Snack: What is your all-time favorite Jewish comfort food?  The gift basket contains an assortment of Latke Crisps and Babka Bites from Thou Shall Snack, a custom apron and/or T-shirt, and a beautiful latke serving platter.

LK: How did you come up with the original idea for Thou Shall Snack?

JG: The first time I got the idea for Latke Crisps was after I heard of my friend’s Jewish beer company, HeBrew Beer.  I thought, someone better make some latke crisps to go with that beer!  It was really more of a lark in the moment, but it ended up becoming our first product.

[I also realized] there were a lot of other ethnic-inspired snack foods out there, which got me thinking about the Jewish foods I grew up eating.  I began to wonder why no one had done something like this before.

LK: How do you generate new product ideas?

JG: There are a few commonalities between Latke Crisps, Babka Bites, and the third product I’m working on, which is a secret right now.  They have to be a Jewish food that most people [including non-Jews] are going to recognize.  They tend to be foods that are heavier and provide a little bit of guilt if you eat too much of it.  And the third things is that these foods are difficult too make in the kitchen – they’re laborious.  [These commonalities] have defined how we’ve marketed the products.  You can have access to traditional tasting foods and flavors without having to do all the work, and also without feeling too guilty about it.

crisp.jpgLK: It’s great that you are taking traditional, heavy Jewish foods and updating them.  But when you get down to it, snacking is snacking – there’s always going to be a sense of indulgence.  How do you strike the balance between a delicious product and a healthy product?

JG: I try to remind myself that we are not setting out to create the world’s healthiest product.  I want my products to be as healthy as they can, while still maintaining the integrity of the original recipes.  If we can’t get them to taste authentic, it wouldn’t be a product I’d put out there.  At the same time, I want it to be a product I’d eat myself and one I’d feed my kids. 

LK: Your kids must love it when you test recipes in the kitchen!

They do!  [I started developing] Latke Crisps by making really flat latkes and baking them in the oven.  The Babka Bites was more of an R&D process.  I bought babkas from the supermarket and from a great kosher deli around here, and I taste tested the version we were working on at the manufacturing plant versus the actual babkas.

LK: Did you have a culinary background before starting Thou Shall Snack?

JG: I’ve always enjoyed cooking, and I come from a family where cooking was a big thing, but I didn’t have any experience in the food industry.  I have a business degree from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill – and this work perfectly combines my interests in marketing and business.  I’ve probably done the majority of my cooking in the last three years.

JG: What has surprised you the most along the journey of being a food entrepreneur?

I think the most surprising thing is that it takes so much energy to make everyone happy.  In the food business, it’s not just like you’re a retailer selling to your customer – you’re selling to multiple people and you have to make them happy along the way.  It’s really a challenging, exhausting process, but it’s something I take very seriously.  I have a little bit of understanding about how reading something bad about yourself in a tabloid might feel.  I want everyone to love our product and that’s just not going to happen!

[Still] I feel incredibly fulfilled and content with what I’m doing.  Instead draining me creatively, I feel this work brings out all the creativity in me.  I’ve also been surprised by the amount of interest and acceptance we’ve received from a wider breadth of people than I would have expected.  I’d sure hope we’d get attention by the Jewish community –
and we have – but there’s a larger group of people that are taking notice because they think [our products are] unique and also because they’re low fat and all natural.

LK: As a Jewish food entrepreneur, what recent trends have you noticed in the Jewish food world.

babka.jpgJG: There’s definitely a trend towards all-natural and organic food.  You hear a lot of people talking about the convergence of kosher and organic.  It’s happening because kosher and organic [certification] make people think that foods are safer, healthier, cleaner – so there’s just some natural overlap there.  But I think that the biggest trends are really more health related.  There are lots of foods out there now that are fortified with vitamins.  When people are having a snack, they want to feel like they’re doing something healthy.

LK: Is there a Jewish food you’d never consider for a Thou Shall Snack product?

JG: I joke around with people that we’re going to make a gefilte fish popsicle.  There are the consummate Jewish foods that people love, and then there are the ones where people feel sorry for us for being Jewish.  I think gefilte fish is one of those, though I happen to like it – especially when people make their own.

LK: What does your Grandma Rose think of Thou Shall Snack?

We were featured in the Every Day with Rachel Ray magazine, and I mentioned how the products were inspired by Grandma Rose.  I sent her a copy of the magazine and she was so excited!  I really don’t think she knew who Rachel Ray was, but she was very proud.  Though, my grandma would be proud of anything that I did.

She also seems to genuinely love our products.  I sent her a bunch of bags of Latke Crisps, and she called me the other day and said, “You know – I had one bag for lunch, and I already know I’m having a sandwich for dinner, do I’m going to have another bag to go with it!

Find out more about Thou Shall Snack here.

Answer this question for a chance to win a special gift basket from Thou Shall Snack: What is your all-time favorite Jewish comfort food?

Other Interviews on The Jew & The Carrot
Author, Michael Pollan
Jewish cooking diva, Joan Nathan
Curd Nerd, Jamie Forrest
Farmer, Emily Freed
Jane Goldman
of Chow

Print This Post Print This Post

21 Responses to “Thou Shall Snack – Interview & Win a Free Gift Basket!”

  1. Katie Says:

    My favorite comfort food is matxo ball soup. I’m so glad it’s soup weather again!

  2. Karen Says:

    My favorite Jewish comfort food – that is too laborious to make (and around my area, difficult to find pre-made) is chopped liver. Straight from the container, no bread or veg needed, just a spoon (TMI)

  3. Becka Says:

    My favorite Jewish comfort food? Sweet noodle kugel followed by bagels.

  4. Larry Lennhoff Says:

    Favorite comfort food is cholent, followed by bagels.

  5. Leah Koenig Says:

    Thanks for these everyone! Looking forward to more…

    Leave a comment with your favorite Jewish comfort food by December 5 for a chance to win a special gift basket from Thou Shall Snack!

  6. Alix Wall Says:

    What about kasha varnishkes? Not a lot of people make that dish much anymore, but I do love it (with mushroom gravy).

  7. Tovah Says:

    My favorite Jewish comfort food is potato knishes! I love carb-on-carb action. Delish.

    And Alix, I adore kasha varnishkes! My grandma taught me how to make them just right, complete with Yiddish instructions that are not translateable into English ;-P

  8. Amy Buondonno Says:

    I’m a Jew-by-Choice, so while I love most of these foods they don’t have the “comfort” aspect that arises from tradition and memory. Most of my Jewish culinary traditions are adopted from my husband’s family, and we’re trying to add our own elements to the collections.

    That said, I think my favoritest nosh would have to be Hubby’s Grammy’s Passover bagels. They’re semi-sweet, eggy, chewy little nuggets of wonderfulness. No batch can possibly be big enough, and no seder is complete without a discussion of how the bagels came out that year.

  9. Tara Says:

    Definitely my mom’s chicken soup with matzo balls! It’s the best ever.

  10. Steven Weinberger Says:

    There are so many foods that are crave-worthy, but my all-time favorite kosher comfort-food is a tick piece of potato-kugel. Hands down. Nothing light and fluffy for me. It has to be the kind that’s greasy, crusty and nearly-burnt on top, beautiful, creamy, tan inside. The best ones are served at a Kiddush on Shabbos, and have been cooking in the oven since Friday afternoon.

  11. Leah Koenig Says:

    Wow Amy – it’s hard to believe that a Passover-friendly bagel would top the list! Do you have the recipe to share?

  12. Michael Croland Says:

    I’m also going with kasha varnishkes!

    And I just went to my local Organic Food Depot to buy 8 bags of the latke crisps for a Hanukkah potluck next week! I cleared out their entire supply!

  13. Elizabeth Gordon Says:

    To me the ultimate Jewish comfort food is calves foot jelly. Made by boiling calves feet, the garlic-flavored broth is poured into a mold over layers of bits of the meat and gristle and slices of hard boiled egg. The whole thing jells when cold. It’s cut into slices and served with horseradish. Yum! Perhaps an acquired taste?

    I haven’t had calves foot jelly in years as I have no idea where to buy it and am not about to make it. I also don’t eat veal anymore. My mother prepared it throughout my childhood. I later was thrilled to find it in Israeli supermarket delis. Calves foot jelly
    popsicles anyone?

  14. Susan Says:

    My favorite comfort food used to be my grandmother’s (and only my grandmother’s!) chicken and matzo ball soup, but now that I don’t eat meat anymore I do miss it. My current favorite is probably also kasha varnishkes, but to be a bit original I’ll say my grandma’s cabbage soup. I’ve tried to make it on my own, but it just doesn’t have that same savta flavor!

  15. Susan Says:

    How can we get this many responses without mentioning strudel and rye bread (not at the same time, of course). My mother used to make the world’s best strudel for Rosh Hashanah some with apples and some with plums. Yum! My sister and I used to fight over who got the heel of the rye bread to gobble on the way home from the kosher bakery when the bread was still warm.

  16. Rabbi Shmuel Says:

    susan – feel free to come to out farm – no one – and I mean no one likes the heel of the rye bread – they invariably go to the chickens (where they are summarily pre-empted by our livestock guardian dogs!)

  17. Amy Buondonno Says:

    Leah, it took me a while to dig this out of my e-mail archive. I’ll confess that I haven’t yet tried to make these myself, and I’m curious as to how a Kitchen Aid mixer will impact the process, and end result.

    2 c. matzo meal plus 2 tbsp. – put aside
    Bring to a boil in a large pot:
    2/3 c veg. oil,
    2/3 c water
    5 tbsp. sugar
    pinch salt

    When mixture is boiling turn heat to LOW and pour matzo meal in and mix with a wooden spoon. Turn heat OFF and keep mixing until all mixed. DO NOT BEAT! Remove from burner. Let stand 1/2 hr, or until cool. Add 6 MEDIUM EGGS one at a time and mix until firm. Let stand 1/2 hour. Do not grease cookie sheet. Oil hands and roll balls – give room to expand. Roll hands often in oil or dough will stick to fingers. Stick index finger into ice water andshape hole. Bake 350 degrees for 1 hr or till light brown. Keep an eye on them.

  18. Rachel D Says:

    My mom’s potato latkes with piles and piles of sour cream AND applesauce…mmmmm.

  19. Leah Koenig Says:

    Thanks Amy! I definitely plan to try those bagels this year :)

  20. Andy Says:

    Salt bagel, cream cheese, lox. Accompanied by a glass of chocolate milk.

  21. T Says:

    I like a nice bialy.

Leave a Reply