Gastronomic Overload

pastramiAfter attending a chili cook-off and Savannah’s Greek Festival last week, I’m about ready for couple of weeks of quinoa and kale. But the rabbit food will have to wait until after this Sunday, Oct, 29, when the Shalom Y’all Jewish Food Festival takes over downtown Savannah for its annual homage to the nosh.

Sponsored for the past 18 years by Congregation Mickve Israel (which, as my sweet, addled mother-in-law reminds me every time the name surfaces — bless her heart— is the third-oldest congregation in America), the day-long feast is a Savannah tradition for all hungry citizens, MOT or no. People down here may still think Jews have horns, but they can still tell you the difference between a kugel and a knish.

Formerly known as the “Hard Lox Cafe,” this orgy of latkes, blintzes, matzoh ball soup, brisket, bagels, rugelach, egg creams and every other Jewish delicacy (even tongue, blecch) is what would happen if we celebrated all our holidays at once. My mouth is watering, but I’m not sure my system can take it…better keep the Prilosec handy.

L’Shanah Tovah Y’all

rosh hashanahDearest reader, I wanted to write how much I wish for your Sabbath and Rosh Hashanah happenings to be filled with warmth, light, love, hope, faith, fine wine, crisp apples, honey made by happy bees, a tasty round raisin challah, fragrant flowers and the soul-clearing tones of the shofar, but I think this painting by artist Rochelle Blumenfeld says it all.

L’Chaim to He’Brew

beerIt started out as a joke, but macher Jeremy Cowan is laughing all the way to the bank: His He’Brew: The Chosen Beer microbrewery/schtick factory is celebrating 10 years in business.

There’s even two new brews for the New Year: There’s Genesis 10:10, a concoction of the original He’brew infused with everyone’s favorite biblical fruit, the pomegranate. (Just who is the pomegranate’s publicity agent? That fruit is so everywhere these days.)

I’m looking forward to a swig of Bittersweet Lenny’s R.I.P.A., at once a tribute to loudmouth genius Lenny Bruce and a revolution in your basic pale ale. Brewed with “an obscene amount of malts and hops” to produce “shocking flavors far beyond contemporary community standards,” Lenny’s R.I.P.A. promises to piss off the neighbors.

Come to think of it, forget this whole nice-brisket-after-synagogue crap. Let’s do Rosh Hashanah right and have a kegger!

Hummus From Unlikely Sources

hummusGrocery shopping with children is surely some subcircle of the hell us Jews don’t believe in. Parents everywhere know that it’s sometimes easier to give in to buying things you don’t want just to get through the checkout line. So when my little girl became attached to a package of dry navy beans at the Piggly Wiggly, I figured $1.89 was a cheap ticket to a peaceful shopping trip. She insisted on cradling her beans like a baby all the way home.

But by the time the rest of the groceries were put away, the bag o’ beans was abandoned for pair of her father’s socks (what can I say, she likes to pretend they’re hand puppets.) If there’s anything about the Yenta you should know, it’s that I do not like to waste food. Blame my mother and her “Starving Children in Ethiopia” routine from my youth: I boil down every chicken carcass for soup, I make my family eat week-old rice, I pick mold spots off bagels before serving them for brunch. And yes, I have been known to exploit those poor hungry African children as motivational tools. Bad Jewish mother. (I always make a fresh meal on Friday nights, so you don’t have to worry about salmonella if you join us for Shabbos some time.)

Even though I’m sure those dry beans had a shelf life well into my menopausal years, my curiosity was piqued. I had only eaten beans out of can or in a burrito and I had no idea what to do with them besides sewing them up into a homemade teddy bear made from old towels and forcing the child who brought them home to sleep with them. El Yenta Man saw me musing over the small hill of beans and said, “You know you have to soak those first, right? Like overnight?” I do now, dear; thanks!

During the beans’ long bath I trolled for bean recipes and found this one for lemon olive hummus. It’s low-fat, super tanga-licious and outrageous on pita triangles (I picked off all the mold spots, promise.) I’m so glad I made a double batch (one bag of beans goes a long way) because we’ll try it on cucumber and feta sandwiches for lunch.

What’s ironic is the blogger who posted it is an Orthodox Christian gourmet from southeast Georgia.

Maybe we should get together and discuss hell over hummus, whaddya think?

When There’s Tsuris, There’s Soup

soupIt’s still hours away from Shabbos, but this Yenta has been called to duty — in the kitchen.

This has been a ridiculous week for the Yenta family, with mini-Yenta in danger of being picked up by the truancy police, El Yenta Man still adjusting to his first 9-to-5 job, like, ever, and Yenta-Mother-in-law in the hospital recovering from emergency abdominal surgery. Yenta Father-in-law and Brother-in-law have not eaten a decent meal or vacuumed up the dog hair blanketing their house in over a week, and therefore, No. 1 Daughter-in-law must rise to the occasion.

Before you get all, “Omigosh, Yenta, you’re so, like, selfless and wonderful, what a mensch you are!” please know we’re staying in the Yenta-in-laws beach house rent-free, so if I chose to stay home today blogging and painting my toenails, we all might be living in the minivan next week. So aspiring mensch-hood it is.

I feel prepared to take on the well-being of everyone’s souls and tummies. Of course, the best tonic for everyone’s frayed nerves is my super-duper special matzoh ball soup recipe. Plus, Mother-in-law is only allowed broth for the next few weeks anyway.

And since no Shabbat meal is complete without wine, I’m trying to find the best pairing with Jewish penicillin. recommends a nice chardonnay or a pinot noir with a poultry-based soup, but what are the chances of tracking down a couple of bottles of Hagafen Cellars‘ pinot in coastal Georgia?

Fire Up the BBQ?

water buffaloIsrael’s Chief Rabbinate has deemed water buffalo kosher.

I’m sure the carnivores are salivating, but I’m not sure it’s a cause for celebration. Do the Jewish people really want to be responsible for mass exploitation of another red-meat species? Not to be macabre, but as author Jonathan Safran Foer painfully explains, kosher doesn’t exactly mean humane. (Warning: Humane Kosher is a very explicit site and not for the weak-stomached.)

I’m no vegan, and in no danger of becoming one, but I do my best to be conscious of where my meat comes from. If it’s not organic and/or grass-fed, I’ll usually pass. I try not to preach or judge, either — when you’re hungry, you eat. Not everyone can survive on tofu — animal protein is necessity for most of us. But seriously, if you had to kill the animal yourself, would you eat as much meat?

Such is “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” a human conundrum and a new book by Michael Pollan.

That said, and because I enjoy my ethical paradoxes, here’s my recipe for Buffalo Chili: Continue reading

Don’t Be A Drag, But Definitely Go In Drag

Purim ShirtChag sameach! If you’re over 8 and don’t yet have children of your own, it’s likely that Purim is off your radar as far as Jewish holidays go. Your memory hearkens back to your childhood synagogue carnival, where hordes of little Hamans with black eyeliner goatees spazzed with their crazy loud groggers, and maybe some crumbly dry hamentaschen was forced upon you by the Hadassah treasurer, and even though there’s some killer Purim party happening near you tonight, you’re thinking “Nah, I’m gonna stay in and watch ‘The Apprentice.'”

You need to get over it, though, really. Purim rocks sooo hard. Not only is it a story of intrigue and mystery set in ancient Persia, there’s always a new way to interpret the Megillah. For instance, I always thought Queen Vashti should be admired for refusing to dance nekkid for that pig King Ashauerus and his drunk buddies, but then I read an article by Rebbetzin Tzipporah Heller, who shows that Vashti wasn’t such a stand-up feminist heroine after all.

And since mixing it up is what Purim’s all about (the sages say we’re supposed to party ’til we can’t tell the difference between good and evil,) El Yenta Man has promised to fulfill the family tradition of cross-dressing. It all began as a “real men aren’t afraid to show their feminine side” type of dare, and he caused such a sensation last year as Queen Esther that our congregation president asked him to join the board right then and there. He wants to go as Vashti this year “’cause she’s sexier,” he says, but wait ’til I tell him she’s a huge beeyotch to boot.

So go find some Jews tonight, toss a few back; if you’re anywhere near San Francisco you’re so stoked because Matisyahu and Perry Farrell are headlining Purimpalooza at Ruby Skye, which lets you know right there that Purim is the hippest of hipster holidaze, yo.

And go in costume, even if you’re just wearing this stick figure t-shirt that distills the Purim shpiel down to the remedial basics. But be careful of that Queen with the big shoulders — she’s taken.

A Little Chutzpah With Your Mitzvah?

candyI’m exercising one of my rights as a Jewish mother to shtup guilt in the form of food: Please buy candy from my kid.

It’s a fundraiser for his Hebrew school, and seriously, it’s a really small school, so every box of chocolates counts. It’s a mitzvah that you get to eat, too: Mmmmm, look.

There’s plenty that’s kosher for Passover, so order by the March 15 deadline to have some sweets at your seder.

Go to and click the “Passover” bar. At checkout, remember to paste in the boy’s Student ID#: 9001268.

Thanks, friends!

Whiskey, You’re The Devil?

jdListen, the whole kashrut thing, I’m working on it. Having grown up in completely secular homes, I consider it an accomplishment that I’ve gotten El Yenta Man to stop trying to flavor the mustard greens with hamhock. “I’m a Southern Jew,” he likes to tell to me. “We do things different.”

He’s been very open to my insistence that we ever-so-slowly move into a more observant direction in our lives, but if I have to tell him that his beloved Gentleman Jack ain’t kosher, things are gonna get ugly.

From Ynetnews: Though previously regarded as kosher because it’s not wine, the halachic nature of whiskey is now up for debate. A group of rabbis now says that because some brands of whiskey are aged in oak barrels previously used to produce non-kosher wine, it’s best to abstain until things get cleared up. Apparently using old barrels gives the brew that little extra “something” in Johnny Walker, Chivas and Grant’s.

American rabbis investigating the conflict say that here barrels get burned clean, so it’s not an issue. But until there’s an official ruling, I’m keeping this news to myself. After yesterday’s mold debacle, a guy deserves a Friday afternoon drink in peace.

Me, I’m currently a rum-and-Coke, once-in-a-while kind of gal, all good halachically. But my previous drink — tequila shooters — are iffy, and a big ‘nay’ if there’s a worm involved.

Want to know if your favorite libation is kosher? World Jewish Review’s Rabbi Tzvi Rosen breaks it down.

Shabbat shalom, y’all!

More Southern Jewish Soul Food

user submitted pictureEven though Marcie Cohen Ferris’ Matzoh Ball Gumbo: Culinary Tales From the Jewish South won’t be released until the end of October, the cultural cookbook is already causing a stir: At least one lowcountry restaurant has based a special menu around Ferris’ recipes that she has collected from the unique traditions of Jewish communities from Memphis to Savannah.
Ferris, an anthropological historian at the University of South Carolina in Chapel Hill, chronicles how the Crisco saved Southern Jewish cooking and gets to the bottom of a mysterious Rosh Hashanah tradition called “hoppin’ john” (being only honorary Southern Jews ourselves, all we know is that involves peas.) Our shelves contain a good amount of Jewish cookbooks, but we’re looking forward to spicing up our kugel with cajun seasoning and learning how to prepare “sweet and sour shad.”
We’re mostly interested in the historical perspective on communities like Charleston (where the Jewish population exceeded that of NYC once upon a time) but we wish the publishers would have gotten it together to get Gumbo out before the High Holidays this year so we could abandon our tired ol’ brisket recipe.