Author Archives: Patrick Aleph

Patrick Aleph

About Patrick Aleph

Patrick Aleph (also known as Patrick A) is a freelance writer and activist, using technology and pop culture to bring Jewish spirituality to people who are disconnected from traditional Jewish life. Aleph is also the singer for the punk rock band Can!!Can and founder of

Make Your Own Purim Costume

Purim is a great opportunity to express your inner artist. Instead of buying a pre-made costume, renting something expensive, or settling for last year’s outfit, consider making your own costume. With a little creativity and some simple materials, it’s easy to be the hit of the Purim party.

Costumes from the Purim Holiday

Everyone loves the classic Purim costumes: Esther and Vashti queen outfits, the royal attire of King Ahasuerus, and Haman in menacing-looking garb. But there are other Purim-themed ways to dress up.
make your own costume
Consider going as mishloach manot, traditional Purim gifts. You can turn yourself into a walking gift basket with a quick trip to the gift wrap aisle. You’ll need:

-Brightly colored, non-matching shirt, pants (or skirt), and belt
-Clear cellophane
-Multicolored ribbon
-Packaging from festive foodstuffs such as candy bar wrappers, cookie boxes, etc.
-Super glue

Glue or tape food packaging to the shirt. Measure, cut, and glue cellophane to create a tube that can fit around your waist and chest. This can either be the length of a dress or a shirt, depending on how you want to wear it and how much cellophane you have.

Use the blade of the scissors to curl the multicolored ribbon (alternatively, you can buy pre-curled ribbon).

After putting on the shirt and pants, slip on the cellophane. Secure to your body with the belt. With help, tie the ribbon into a large bow across your chest or waist. Additionally, streamers of ribbon can be tied into long hair.

Another way to get into the Purim spirit is to dress up as a bottle of wine:

-One “construction grade” large paper bag for yard trimmings (found in any home improvement store)

Famous Jews

Jeans and a “Super Jew” t-shirt from ModernTribe or PopJudaica are an instant Seth Rogen costume. A black tux, sunglasses, mustache, and an open collar revealing a large, gold Judaica necklace make a great Sammy Davis, Jr. costume (be sure to wear dancing shoes and carry a martini glass). Albert Einstein’s disheveled professor look can be recreated with black dress pants, a white button-down shirt, and an oversized sweater stuffed with newspaper for a plumper look.

Cooking Like It’s Treif

For many people, cooking kosher means dusting off their grandmother’s cookbook, scouring through family recipe cards from the 1960s, and stealing ideas from the Temple Sisterhood. This may feel “retro-cool” for a minute, but when the Food Network, Anthony Bourdain, and Martha Stewart are pushing ham-and-milk-sauce to go with your shrimp-and-a-side-of-bacon, it can be enough to drive a foodie to the dark side of treif, or toward settling for a life of mediocre falafel.
However, enterprising amateur (and professional) kosher chefs need not despair. Here are some tricks for how to deconstruct treif recipes, and turn forbidden meals into something deliciously Jewish.

The Art of Substitution

In the event that a recipe calls for a non-kosher ingredient, the easiest thing to do is to look up its chemical substitution online. The best example is gelatin, which generally comes from the connective tissues of non-kosher animals. It is a key thickening agent in sauces and baking, as well as a glaze for traditional French desserts like fruit tarts.
cooking good kosher food
There are certain kinds of vegetable gums used in commercial food manufacturing and processing–guar gum, agar, and gum acacia–that can be used instead of gelatin. All of these are kosher and can be purchased online or at larger health food and Asian grocery stores. Agar, in particular, is a great substitute because one teaspoon of agar can replace one teaspoon of gelatin.

Flavor Profiling

When chefs create new recipes, they consider the flavor profile that they wish to achieve. The idea of a flavor profile is that what makes a dish taste good is more than just the sum of its ingredients–it is a delicate balance of separate tastes, odors, and other impressions, such as silkiness in the mouth, aftertaste, heat, and spiciness.
When you come across a non-kosher recipe that intrigues you, consider how you can modify it with fresh herbs, spices, and non-traditional ingredients–and still stay true to its flavor profile. Expand your repertoire by visiting international grocery stores, spice markets, and farmers’ markets, where you can find a wide variety of culinary tools not readily available at the local supermarket.