Monthly Archives: December 2010

Can Cheese Be Jewish?

This entry was posted in Culture, Life on by .

“Goats are the Jews of the animal kingdom,” Aitan Mizrahi told a group at the Hazon Food Conference on Friday morning. The workshop participants, gathered in the warm, cream-scented air of a small industrial kitchen at the Isabella Freedman Jewish Retreat Center, immediately picked up on the tongue-in-cheek theme: They wander, they are intelligent, and they are stiff-necked, they said. And, Mizrahi pointed out, “They enjoy to be in a minyan and they also enjoy to go off on their own and shmooze.”

So the gentle and friendly milk-producers make a perfect fit for Freedman, an eco-conscious retreat space in the Berkshires.

During the session, Mizrahi described how the annex of the center’s staff housing where farming fellows make fermented delicacies, called the Cultural Center, turns goat milk into cheese and “goatgurt.” offering samples and sprinkling his presentation with biblical references. He and Adamah fellows Mònica Gomery and Rachel Freyja Bedick also explained how the participants could turn their own kitchens into cultural hot spots.

The first step in the process is to pasteurize the gallon or so of milk that each goat produces each day by keeping it at 180 degrees for 30 minutes. The milk is then brought to a lower temperature to start the cheese-making process.

The temperature and timing, regardless of the kind of cheese, are key. During the demonstration, Mizrahi focused on the somewhat forgiving farmer’s cheese.

To the warm milk, the cheese-niks add either vinegar or cheese culture and rennet to coagulate the liquid. In the batch for the demonstration, Mizrahi simply added one cup of white vinegar per gallon of milk. (It would take about ¼ teaspoon each of culture and rennet otherwise.) Before our eyes, the curds separated from the yellow-tinted whey. A volunteer helped to spoon the curds into butter muslin — a fine cheese cloth — and wrap them up.

The curds would then hang for a short time before it was ready to eat. Mizrahi uses different processes to produce feta, farmer’s cheese, rennet cheese and chevre.

When the curds drain and firm up, the cheese maker can add flavorings like olive oil, herbs, and salt. This is the one point where specific temperature and times take a back seat to taste and gut feeling. “I kind of bring down Bubbe,” Mizrahi said, especially when it comes to sea salt for the briny feta.

Mizrahi’s personal “culture revolution” did not start with previous generations, but with the goats themselves. As an Adamah fellow in 2004, he found himself helping manage the farm’s animal program, which at the time consisted of bees, chickens, and three milk goats. He left to work on farms else where but returned to the region in 2006. The following spring he purchased his first three goats, and soon started his own dairy.

Mizrahi tried a few farm and business models, including keeping his goats in different locations and selling legally questionable raw goat milk and yogurt. Several times, his efforts hit a brick wall. Then he had the idea to align with Freedman, and in 2009 founded a Grade A kosher goat dairy operation. He helped to raise funds to buy and install cheese-making equipment and soon Adamah Dairy was up and running.

Now the goat pen houses more than 20 does, kids, and bucks. Mizrahi always sells out of his $18-a-pound goat cheese and distributes its products to a number of area businesses, as well as supplies the retreat center and Adamah’s CSA members with cheese. It was the goat in him that kept his energy up when times got tough, Mizrahi said: “It was the stiff-neckedness.”

It doesn’t take an iron will to plough through most of Mizrahi’s recipes. The easiest to prepare at home is farmer cheese. Here’s the recipe:

Goat Milk Farmer’s Cheese
Courtesy of Aitan Mizrahi

Ingredients
1 gallon goat milk
1 cup vinegar

Equipment
Mixing bowl
Slotted spoon
Fine cheese cloth or butter muslin
Long wooden spoon and stock pot, or other hanging apparatus

Directions
1) Heat the milk to 180 degrees F (82 degrees C)

2) Turn off heat and allow to sit for a few minutes

3) Add one cup vinegar; stir

4) Milk will curdle

5) Spoon curds into cheesecloth

6) Gather the cheesecloth around the curds, then twist and tie the top. Hang in a place where the whey can drip into a container. One participant said that she uses a wooden spoon balanced across the top of the stock pot. Hang for up to 12 hours, then unwrap and enjoy.

Farmer’s cheese is great spread on bread or crackers with a fruit preserve. Use it like ricotta in lasagnas, or just drizzle olive oil and zatar over it for a middle eastern meal with pita.

Posted on December 13, 2010

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Short Fridays

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

Earlier this week, Avi Steinberg wrote about Kafka in Tel Aviv and shared a horribly embarrassing memo. His first book, Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian, was just released.

Winter Fridays in Jewish day school were the moments that made you proud to be of Israelite stock. I speak, of course, of early dismissal. Shabbes starts early, really early, and so the school day ends up being just a class or two in the morning—and one of those classes is Hebrew, which totally doesn’t count. For the uninitiated, Hebrew class in Jewish schools, at least where I went, is taught by some churlish Israeli mom who reeks of cigarette smoke and has neither the qualification nor the slightest inclination to teach the language. Typically, she would use Friday’s early dismissal as an excuse to whip out the accordion and have a sing-a-long.

I mention this by way of introduction. While I cannot offer you an accordion sing-a-long, I will, in honor of the great Jewish tradition of early Friday dismissal, be relatively brief.

I’ve been thinking of Jewish forms of writing. If you’re a big Jew, and you write on Jewish themes, people will eventually call you a “Jewish writer.” This seems sensible enough. But for the person who is a Jewish writer, the question of language will eventually tug at you. At some point, a Jew writing in a non-Jewish language will realize that this language is not quite his. I once referred to a person as “a Jew” in a story I was writing for a major American newspaper. As he was reviewing my article, the editor asked me, somewhat sheepishly, if the phrase “a Jew” was, perhaps, a tad derogatory. (He suggested something along the lines of “a Jewish person.”) This surprised me. It had never occurred to me that neutrally calling someone “a Jew” in a newspaper article was even remotely problematic. I told him as much. But he wasn’t imagining it: there is an ancient connotation of disdain in the English phrase, “a Jew,” a whiff of Christian contempt that goes back through the ages. Yehudi, the Hebrew word for Jew, by contrast, is devoid of any negative connotation.

For Anglo-American Jewish writers, the situation isn’t as tortured as it is for German Jewish writers. Kafka, reflecting on the flowering of Jewish-German writing in his day, wrote of “a gypsy literature which had stolen the German child out of its cradle and in great haste put it through some kind of training, for someone has to dance on the tightrope.”

While there is certainly a parallel here in English with what Bellow and Roth, among others, have done with English literature post WWII, the situation isn’t as fraught as it is for a Jew writing in German.

In fiction, certainly, the Jewish American dialect has asserted itself and made an imprint on the language as whole. But, what of other forms? Is there a Jewish-inflected criticism, a language of Jewish nonfiction, a native Jewish style in journalism? Because of this short winter Friday, I’m under no contractual obligation to answer these questions here. (Perhaps the “Short Friday Blog Post” is itself is a native Jewish form). Instead, I’ll let I.B. Singer take us into Shabbes with his view of Jewish journalism:

Every week I write two or three journalistic articles…I can write articles in the Forward about life making sense or not, or that you shouldn’t commit suicide, or a treatise on imps or devils being in everything.

Avi Steinberg’s first book, Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian, was just released. He has been blogging all week for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning’s Author Blog.

Posted on December 10, 2010

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Best of the Week

This entry was posted in General on by .

With Hanukkah over, we have a bit of a break until the next Jewish holiday. We’re ready for you Tu Bishvat!

Here’s what you may have missed of the past week here at MJL.

Torzelli is an Italian dish made of deep fried curly endive. You had me at deep fried.

Because Hanukkah is around the same time as Christmas, some say the importance and the values of the holiday have been skewed.

Israel is actually one of the most progressive countries in the world when in comes to equality for sexual minorities. Read more about homosexuality in Israel.

You know, just because Hanukkah is over, that doesn’t mean you can’t make sufganiyot, jelly doughnuts, all year round.

Have a good weekend!

Posted on December 10, 2010

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Wise Fridays: Guideline for Disputes

This entry was posted in Life on by .

wise fridays: sharpen the     reception on  your WiFri

“Two camels meet on the steep ascent to Beit-Horon; if they both ascend simultaneously both will tumble down into the valley. If they ascend one after the other both can go up safely. How should they act? If one is laden and the other unladen, the unladen camel should let the laden one go first.”

Talmud, Sanhedrin 32b

Find more Wise Fridays wisdom on MJL.

Posted on December 10, 2010

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Post-Hanukkah Detox

This entry was posted in Culture, Holidays on by .

Hanukkah is over, and much as I love a holiday that gives me an excuse to eat fried cheese, I am really excited to have some latke-free days in my future.

If you, like me, could use some recipes to help get you back into a slightly healthier place, here are some of my favorite suggestions:
Lentil Soup
Warm Butternut Squash and Chickpea Salad
Bulgur with Whiskey Soaked Raisins and Goat Cheese
Green Beans with Honey Tahini Glaze
Shakshuka
Masgouf–broiled salmon

Not a fried dish among them, barush Hashem. Now if I could just get the grease stains out of my clothes…

Posted on December 9, 2010

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Eight Days of Videos–Colbert & Stewart

This entry was posted in Holidays on by .

If you search online for pictures of Hanukkah candles, you get pristine photos of beautiful hanukkiyot and even more beautiful candles. But if you look closer, you’d realize that every photo is from the eighth night of Hanukkah. You don’t see pictures from the fifth night of Hanukkah, do you?

So last night, I was excited to light all eight candles. But things were not meant to be. No one was taking photos of my hanukkiyah. First off, somehow, the last of my candles must have been too close to the fire the previous night. So when we opened the box up, all the candles had been totally bent out of shape–almost at a 90 degree angle. Not pretty.

Second, and here is my biggest issue with Hanukkah candles, after a mishap with candles the first night, my apartment was actually short on candles–luckily only by one. We ended up using a Shabbat candle as our shamash. Again, not pretty. It was not an ideal eighth night of lighting.

Okay, rant over. Here is a video for the eighth night of Hanukkah–from Stephen Colbert’s Christmas special from last year. Very funny. Hope you enjoyed your Hanukkah!

Posted on December 9, 2010

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Eight Days of Videos–Magen Boys

This entry was posted in Holidays on by .

When a video is called “Hip-Hop Hanukkah” I usually just roll my eyes. Here we go again, another attempt to make a Jewish holiday seem cooler by putting Jewish words into rap lyrics.

But I was wrong about this one.

Magen Boys, who, if my 13 year old memory serves me correct, is a bar mitzvah party production company out of Toronto, produced a Hanukkah video that is actually really original and fun.

This video is actually two videos in one. It starts off with a Chabad rabbi on the street promoting Hanukkah when he is approached by a man complaining about his preaching. This, of course, leads to an “impromptu” rap battle.

Then the video switches gears when a group of professional hip hop dancers have a dance battle with a bunch of Chabadnik teenagers. The highlight of all of this is when they mash up “Whip My Hair” and “Ani Ma’amin.”

This might be my favorite video of Hanukkah 2010.

Posted on December 8, 2010

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

My Horribly Embarrassing Memo

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

On Monday, Avi Steinberg wrote about Kafka in Tel Aviv. His first book, Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian, was just released.

Editor’s note: The following post utilizes what your grandmother would call “sarcasm.”

It certainly has been a monumental few weeks in the history of humiliation. With the help of Wikileaks, we’re learning so many new things about our friends and neighbors. Who knew CNN’s Anderson Cooper dyed his hair white? Actually, to be honest, I had suspicions. All the signs were there. But still, there’s something startling about hearing him admit, and so bluntly, that he also uses a mirror to practice that signature move of his, the purposeful sidelong squint — and all of this preening just so he can look more like “serious newsman.” Anderson, you’re boyishly handsome. Just own it, babe.

But I don’t judge. I’ve got my own Wikileak grief. I present the following Wikileaked document, which involves, well, me. It catches me saying some things that I’m frankly not too proud of. Since it’s going to be circulating out there anyway, especially among Hasidic bloggers, I figure you might as well hear it from me first. It’s a memo from me to my book’s publicist. Oy, so embarrassing. Here it goes…

INTERNAL MEMO

Hey Gretchen!

Whazzzup. I write to you with a marketing concern. What can we do to–how do I put this–to fan charges of anti-semitism against my book? Does that make any sense? Let me back up. As you know, nobody from the Jewish community has accused my book of expressing anti-semitic sentiments. No reviewers, no interviewers. Nothing. I can’t even get a blogger to make a snarky comment on the subject. This is no good.

When my book came out, my mother’s main concern was, “will I still be able to show my face at the Butcherie?” At the time, I smugly advised her to stock up on Meal-Mart horseradish because she was never going to shop at the local kosher market ever again — not on my watch. Well, guess what? My mother shows her face at the Butcherie every Friday before Shabbes, like nothing happened. Even the surly Russian checkout lady seems entirely unaffronted. And my mother, meanwhile, feels comfortable enough to kvell about the book as she waits in line. WTF? How is word of my self-hatred ever going to spread this way? I swear, I’m never going to sell books in the Jewish community.

Now, I know what you’re going to say: It’s your fault, Avi. You had your shot. Why didn’t you write a book with more anti-semitic content? You went kind of light there in that chapter about Orthodox weddings. So, big deal, you got punched in the face during an out-of-control hora. It was an accident. And, as you say, you deserved it anyway. There wasn’t even that much blood. You wanna write a blood libel, show me some blood. Give me some of that thick red stuff, kid. A pint, half, anything. Some of that good Jim Caviezel vintage, then we’ll talk.

All true. But here’s the thing, Gretchen. You’re very gentile. It’s wonderful, but there’s something you don’t understand. Being called anti-semitic by the tribe is like getting whistled at by construction workers. Yes, it’s irritating. But then, one day, when they stop doing it, you’re like, “What, I’m invisible here? You don’t even care about me?” The anti-semitism accusation is a shout-out. It’s a form of affection. It doesn’t make your day exactly, but the absence of it is worse than excommunication.

I wish you could have been there for the good old days, back when I’d be accused of anti-semitism in the “comments” sections of articles I’d written, denounced on Facebook. I hardly had to lift a finger. I guess there’s no use living in the past. But, yeah, I’ll be honest, I’m kind of hurt nobody thinks I’m a self-hating Jew.

My last hope is that the Jews aren’t buying the book because it’s too anti-semitic. I know, I know, how foolishly romantic of me. In reality, I know it’s because they’re cheap.

Anyway, I hope your Christmas tree shopping is going well. Mine is kind of, eh, blah. So hard to find one at a reasonable rate, no? I say to the tree guy, “So, how much for a tree?” “$85,” he says. And I say, “$85?” And he says, “Yeah. $85. Do you want the tree or not?” “$85,” I reply, “is $85.”

Maybe if my fellow Jews weren’t so stingy, I’d have enough money for a proper Christmas celebration. I hope you’re having better luck. And, seriously, if you have any ideas about raising my anti-semitic profile, let me know.

Yours in Christ,
Avrum Steinberg

Avi Steinberg’s first book, Running the Books: The Adventures of an Accidental Prison Librarian, was just released. He will be blogging all week for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning’s Author Blog.

Posted on December 8, 2010

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

The World of Jewish Music

This entry was posted in Culture on by .

A look at Jish, a mixed Jewish-Arab group of songsters. (Ha’aretz)

An extensive profile of Subliminal, Israel’s biggest hip-hop star. (Tablet)

Why are so many jazz musicians from Israel these days? (National Public Radio)

Patrick Jarenwattananon talks about the path some Israeli musicians have taken to Jazz in “Standout Jazz, Straight Outta Tel Aviv.” (National Public Radio)

Adrienne Cooper’s new album, “Enchanted: A New Generation of Yiddishsong” “consists entirely of material that is either brand new or significantly re-imagined Yiddish songs.” (Jewish Week)

Posted on December 7, 2010

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy

Eight Days of Videos–The Fountainheads

This entry was posted in Holidays on by .

I’m all about this video. You might watch it and feel like it’s nothing special. But I’ll tell you something right now. The Fountainheads’ “I Gotta Feeling Hanukkah” is secretly pure genius.

Why’s that? Because it features Israelis singing in English! And that is hilarious.

Back when I used to go to camp, the Israeli staff members would always make fun of the North Americans when they tried to speak Hebrew. I guess they thought our accents were funny. But it’s payback time!

Hearing Israelis sing in English is just too funny. There is a naselness (obviously not a word) to their voices that makes me laugh so hard when listening to this song.

I do feel a little bad for the people who made this video. How were they to know that the Maccabeats would make the EXACT SAME music video just a week before. They probably worked pretty hard on this yet because of those YU kids, it comes off as kind of unoriginal.

But PLEASE. Sing English more often.

Posted on December 7, 2010

Note: The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. All comments on MyJewishLearning are moderated. Any comment that is offensive or inappropriate will be removed. Privacy Policy