Finger food

A few bites:

  • It turns out fermentation (at least for sauerkraut) is not so tough! In college, I made a 5-gallon bucket of it for my co-op and boy did that take a lot of shredding on the Hobart mixer. It also involved sinking my arms into salty cabbage up to my elbows, finding something that would cover the cabbage and press it just so, and then checking every few days and praying that I wouldn’t kill my fellow co-opers. Then I saw some simple, 3-to-4-day sauerkraut in action this weekend. Yes, I do mean action, because once you put cabbage and salt together, it gets fermenting and doesn’t stop. Not until you’ve eaten the whole jar, that is. This is another kick in the kiester to check out Wild Fermentation.
  • I sincerely hope I can upload a 10+ MB PowerPoint presentation on here. I’m devising one that could be useful in exploring the connection between food choices and climate change, or explaining the concept to new-comers to the idea. It’s pretty basic, but can probably teach anyone a thing or two. I know I’ve learned quite a bit during the process.
  • For example: Did you know that the food industry uses almost 1/5 of all the petroleum consumed in the United States, and 4/5 of that energy is not used to grow the food—it is consumed in processing and transporting the food? (Thanks, Michael Pollan). And did you know that landfills produced the equivalent of 147 metric tons of CO2 in 2006, and that the EPA is trying to turn it into electricity? Yep, the EPA is talking about powering hundreds of thousands of homes with landfill gas. Does that mean it will soon be my civic duty to throw things away? Maybe I should revoke that post about sustainable packaging. If we stop throwing away string cheese wrappers and pizza boxes, as I’ve been advocating, will we be cutting off one of our cheapest sources of renewable energy? And what happened to using the sun? I was really liking that idea.

This is an odd twist on saving the world, indeed.


Eating (and reading) to save the world

It’s been a while since my passionate vegan days (around ages 15-20). But as a Google search of my name reminds me, I was once a teenaged vegan idealist who snatched at the first glimmers of the e-networking world as a member of the Vegetarian Youth Network (scroll down to “New Paltz”). On this proto-listserv, we exchanged recipes for egg-and-dairy-free baked goods along with plots for a vegan revolution.

That well-spent youth all came back to me when I picked up the book Veggie Revolution: Smart Choices for a Healthy Body and a Healthy Planet by Sally and Sara Kate Neidel (Sally is a Ph.D. — Sara  Kate I think is her daughter). This book argues that vegetarianism can help alleviate climate change, water pollution, world hunger, and pretty much every other bad thing you can think of. I bought it this weekend at Busboys and Poets and the 16-year-old vegan in me is cheering. Continue reading

Weekly prizes

This is something I did once and haven’t done since. I’m reviving the practice for this week, though. Ready? This week’s prizes are…

1) Closest Brush With Fame: this prize goes to me. For getting my first piece posted in The Jew and the Carrot.

2) Most Disappointing Experiment: Injera-dillas. The theory was they’d be like quesadillas but made with injera instead of tortillas. Not as exciting as I had hoped. Maybe it would be better with some berebere-spiked salsa…

3) Sweetest Nosh: The chocolate mousse cake at the Fourth Annual MLK Commemorative Shabbat. This service at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue brought together all kinds of people to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who worked with Dr. King and said that marching for civil rights felt like praying with his feet.

There were Baptist church-going ladies in their Baptist church-going hats alongside crunchy liberal Jews in their crunchy liberal Jew-wear. And around them was everyone in between. There won’t be many services where I will sing both “L’chah Dodi” and “We Shall Overcome.” This was unique.

When the service was over, the huge throng headed downstairs for a dessert reception. I expected uninspired kosher cake and cookies–institutional tasting, perhaps dry. What more could a synagogue do when it has to buy noshes for hundreds of people who aren’t even paying for the event? But my oh my! I found homemade-quality cookies, chocolate-covered strawberries, and chocolate mousse cake with a hazelnut crust. A delightful end to a delectable meeting of cultures.

A bleeding heart coagulates

At the Green Festival a couple of years ago, I wandered through a fair trade coffee display and picked up a free copy of Julia Alvarez’s A Cafecito Story. It is a literary “eco-parable” about the ravages of free trade and the benefits of fair trade. Better for the campesinos, better for the environment, better for your conscience, it argues.

I’ve since given it away or contributed it to a book swap, but I recall one scene in the book in which a Dominican coffee farmer who raises a delicious, pesticide-free product drinks a cup of cheap instant coffee. He is reduced to this sad state because he is paid so little that he can’t even afford to drink his own wonderful and life-giving joe. This concept is used a lot in fair trade arguments, pulling at heart strings and appealing to pampered Americans’ guilt. They can’t even drink a cup of their own coffee! They can’t even have a bite of their own chocolate!

At some recent moment I can’t put my finger on, this argument ceased to have any punch for me. I was probably cooking for clients at the time. I shop and cook for hours at a time and my food comes out pretty damn good. (I base this not on my own judgment but on the fact that clients have called and emailed me just to describe in detail how knee-trembling my food was, where they ate it, who they shared it with, and how they wish they had ordered more). But I don’t eat it myself. Continue reading

Here cow cow cow!

Glory be! The future is here! The FDA has said selling products from cloned animals is okay. You only have a few months before “consumer anxiety” abates and the USDA figures it’s okay, too. Pretty soon the public will be ready to munch away, oblivious of whether their burger is from a cloned animal or not, but we’re not there yet.

What’s going to win them over? Probably the heaps of compelling evidence that’s it’s all good. As you can see from the article, the FDA spent six long years tracking the safety of cloned animals. That’s like a third of the natural life span of a dairy cow and 1/12 the lifespan of a human being–plenty of time to thoroughly monitor the effects of raising and eating clones. Now that schools are doing away with the idea of natural selection, why shouldn’t food producers? It’s all part of a trend toward innovation and a new world.

Well, I guess meddling with genes has a few proven problems… and there are some problems with this specific decree, like the fact that it flies in the face of public opinion and every animal rights organization doesn’t like it and Congress has asked to wait for more studies… but I’m not deterred. We must embrace the brave new future of food.

Go go goji!

Yes, it’s another post about China. I promise I’ll stop soon!

Dried wolfberriesIn China, many of the teas include bright orange-red berries. They float on the surface like cheerful buoys and, unlike most tea ingredients, are tasty enough to munch on when you’ve drained the cup. During the Shanghai trip, I kind of pointed and grunted to indicate that I liked them (I didn’t know what they were called in either English or Chinese). H somehow remembered this and miraculously a package of them materialized in my hands a few days later.

It was only just now that I decided to look them up. I had a hunch that they were goji berries and a Google image search confirmed it (they’re also known as wolfberries). A look at Wikipedia, without which no 20-something’s research would be complete, revealed that these berries are quite good for you. And then I discovered that they can go for a pretty penny.

Now I’m curious how much that 8- or 10-ounce package cost in China…

Two cultures separated at birth?

Jiu Ma cooks up a storm

A version of this post is also at The Jew and the Carrot. I am officially a Jewish foodie writer!

As yet another chunk of lamb careened toward a dinner guest, the scene at that Shanghainese table started to feel very familiar. At that point in my two-week trip to the city, I had seen the Chinese version of Jewish Geography, discovered that latke-like potato cakes are a staple of Shanghai’s street food, and received motherly offers of housecleaning and space heaters.

As H’s aunt’s chopsticks moved from serving plate to individual bowls, clunking down pieces of meat in front of people who she thought should eat them, I decided something that I’d been pretty sure of all along—that eating Chinese food on Christmas is not the only thing that bonds Jewish folks with our friends in the Far East. Continue reading