Mmmm…Matzoh Crunch Ice Cream

Oh, it’s hawwwwt out, my mishpotech, and I don’t mean like Hugh Jackman in a pair of Levi’s.

Savannah in the summertime is a little like residing within a steamy bowl of soup, except there’s less carrots and no lid to escape. Lawdy, have mercy on my sweaty soul.

Fortunately, there is a glorious respite from this scalding misery called frozen treats, and lookie what I just found on the interwebs: Chozen, kosher vanilla ice cream swirled with flavors to make your bubbie swoon.

Who wouldn’t at the thought of licking a scoop of rugelach, chocolate babka or matzoh crunch on the stoop watching the neighbor kids splash around in the fire hydrant spray? Wait, that’s my cliché mind kicking in the false memories I have of growing up in the Bronx in the 1950s.

Too bad for me and my real life of an overheated pug lapping at the sewage overflow washing down the alley, Chozen is currently only available in New York.

Presenting the Chametz-Free Lunchbag

matzah bagWho can’t wait to schlep matzah to and fro all next week?

Never mind, don’t answer that. But how much do you love this plastic-free, machine-washable insulated lunch tote from Lori’s Crafts?

If we’re all gonna be answering questions in the cafeteria about our giant crackers, we might as well be doing it style, right?

Check out more of Lori’s handmade Pesach fabulousness!

Like Martha , only Jewisher

jewish living magazineWhen I got the email announcing the birth of Jewish Living, “a smart, stylish and thoroughly modern magazine” celebrating Jewish culture “without religion or politics,” I almost gagged on my kreplach. (Fine. So it wasn’t kreplach, it was lasagna. And I was already gagging on it was because I made it almost two weeks ago. I am a good Jewish mother and I hate wasting food, but even I had to admit that brown spinach means it’s time to let it die already.) The cover smacked of the generic commercial exploitation of every women’s magazine I pretend not to read in line at the grocery store, and I’m so tired of the “We’re just like the goyim, except for the Jesus part” shtick.

But this rag ain’t half bad, even with glitzy graphics and glossy celeb photos: There’s a long article by Jonathan Safran Foer and guest editorials from everyone’s favorite Jews, from Bette Midler to Rabbi Shmuley Boteach to Ben Stein. The masthead boasts a staff of real machers, including editor-in-chief Liza Schoenfein, who served as executive editor at Saveur and was the founding editor of There’s your basic Judaism 101 info, fun projects to do with the kids, news about Jews around the globe and of course, a requisite chicken soup recipe. It’s definitely something I’d like to read while taking a long, hot bath while someone else is doing the cooking and cleaning.

It’s on the stands and online as of today; peruse it for yourself and let me know what you think.

I Can Bake A Honeycake…

honeycake…if I can manage to limp over the the store before sundown. A nice reader asked if I have a good recipe for this Rosh Hashanah delight, which of course I do, just not a whole lotta time to bake it!

The Yenta recipe comes from Gottlieb’s bakery, a Savannah institution since 1884. The Gottliebs are still around and are still in the food business; they cater the Senior Yenta lunches and the boys of my generation own the “it” eatery downtown.

Anyhoo, here it is. We won’t get to bring the New Year in with it, but I may take advantage of being unorthodox and spend some time in the kitchen after services tomorrow.

Sister Sadie’s Honeycake

(with a few Yenta additions)

1 cup sugar
2 cups honey
4 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cold strong stale coffee or flat Coca cola [I use a combo of both if I can. Why does it have to be stale or flat? I don’t know. Sister Sadie isn’t around to ask anymore.]
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 sliced almonds

Preheat the oven to 325*. Grease and line and line with wax paper two loaf pans. Cream the sugar and honey together til it’s drippy. Beat in eggs, oil and coffee and/or Coke. Sift the dry ingredients together and beat like a bad dog. Divide between pans, sprinkle almonds on top. Bake until top springs back, about 45 minutes. Cool on racks before turning out.

L’Shana Tovah Umetukah, my dear friends!

Apples to Apples, J-Style

applesThis time of year when someone says “apples,” we start thinking about chopping up piles of ’em with walnuts and cinnamon for a little charoset action, right? (Eeeps, that’s very Ashkenazi-centric of me. Lots of recipes for the Passover seder’s symbolic mortar don’t include apples, such as these delectable-sounding Moroccan Charoset Balls, but I’m going somewhere with this. Forgive me, Sephardic friends.)

So anyway, for us Jews of Eastern European descent, it’s apples, apples everywhere (and plenty of wine to drink), but you can really spice up any Pesach afterparty (if anyone’s still awake) with a few more: Out of the Box has just released Apples to Apples: The Jewish Edition, a superfun family board game that even the drunkest uncle can figure out.

The rules are as simple as the original Apples to Apples game, where players make comparisons using one set of cards with descriptive words like “brilliant” or “inspiring,” and one set of cards with people or things. Only in the J-version, the cards hold references to “My Rabbi,” “Gefilte Fish,” and yes, even “Paula Abdul.” Someone gets to judge which thing or person best fits the adjective on the table, mixing up subjectivity, hilarity and Jewish trivia all at once. Good times. And it’s shomer Shabbos, too, since there’s no writing or creating involved. A much nicer reward for finding the afikomen that the same ol’, tired five-dollar bill, nu?

This Jewish version of Apples to Apples (and you will never, ever refer to it as “Japples to Japples,” understand?) sprung from the fertile mind of Cleveland Jewish mama Alice Langholt, who compiled the game in the oodles of spare time she has in between raising four (four!) children, working at her synagogue’s religious school full-time, writing a midrashic novel, and publishing greeting cards. Oh, and baking her own challah every Friday. She developed the game after the kids were asleep, in the hours when her husband should have been rubbing her feet while she watched Grey’s Anatomy. Obviously, Alice is trying to make the rest of us slacker Jewish mothers look bad.

Since even the smartest kids under 12 probably can’t keep up with the Bette Midler and Woody Allen references, Alice is currently at work on a junior version of the game, which will surely become a staple in Sunday schools everywhere. After that, hopefully Alice will reveal where she’s hiding those six or seven extra hours a day the rest of us don’t know about.

There’s still time to buy Apples to Apples – The Jewish Edition in time for your seder — Look, it’s even on sale!

Git Yer Sugar and Caffiene Elsewhere

nocokeJust when I thought we’d settled all the Coke issues of the day, the Zionist Organization of America isn’t saying it ain’t kosher, cornless or no:

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that the Bigio family, who has lived in Canada since being involuntarily divested of their commerical property by the Egyptian government in 1962 as part of the country’s “steal from the Jews” campaign that year, can go ahead with a lawsuit against Coca-cola, who owns part of the bottling company seized from the family.

It’s a complicated tale, but it adds up to a big boycott for ZOA president Mort Klein: “Until the Bigios’ case is justly and fairly resolved, we urge all Americans and all others of good will to refrain from purchasing any of Coca-Cola’s products.”

May I offer anyone a nice glass of sweet iced roobios tea?

Kosher-for-Passover Coke Confusion

cokeDear loyal reader and fellow Southerner Pelinke has requested if I might could hook him up with some Pesach-friendly Coca-cola, to which I say, “dude, whaddya think this is, Yenta-Eleven?” (Heheheheh. Please forgive me, I am not well.)

Many of you halachically-minded folks already know that most soda isn’t kosher for Passover, as it contains high fructose corn syrup, which in addition to possibly being one of the greatest dietary evils in history, is manufactured from corn, a no-no for observant Askenazim during Pesach.

Now, being the clueless, winging-it-as-I-go Jew that I am, I started wondering, corn isn’t chametz (defined in Exodus as any of the five particular grains wheat, spelt, barley, oats, and rye,) so why is HFCS a Jewish problem? (It’s certainly an American problem, since it may be making us all fat.)

It turns out corn is included in a whole other food category called kitniyot, deemed unkosher for Pesach by 13th-century sage Rabbi Moshe of Kouchi (also known as “The Smak,” a nickname that conjures up a professional wrestler with a tallis cape and flying peyos capable of shredding any opponent, but I digress.) Kitniyot includes rice, corn, soy beans, string beans, peas, lentils, peanuts, mustard, sesame seeds and poppy seeds, some of which can be made into flour and therefore confused with a food made from the five forbidden grains. So Polish rabbi Moshe Isserlis (known as the “The Ramah,” which sounds like a perfect pet name for a rabbi) banned it all in the 16th century to protect anyone from any possibility of consuming the actual verboten shtuff. As this only applies to the Ashkenazic branch of the family tree, Sephardic Jews have no such blanket ban. (Read more about the differences between Askenazic and Sephardic Pesach rituals here.)

Because I didn’t grow up observing such strict laws (when Passover came, we threw out the bagels for a week, ’nuff said) it’s unlikely that I would incorporate the kitniyot avoidance into my Passover plans anytime soon (I make a mean green bean casserole for seder, yo.) It just seems subjective to me that my kid can’t eat peas because a long time ago a rabbi didn’t trust his flock to figure it out for themselves; I’ve never been so good at accepting “because I said so” as a reason for anything. I struggle with the kosher laws frequently — I recently questioned why chicken is considered fleishig and shouldn’t be consumed with dairy, since I’m quite certain that chickens don’t lactate. The answer I got was because the rabbis thought it might be mistaken for meat, so it was lumped into the meat category to protect us from making a bad decision. Rather than inspiring me to become more kosher (I don’t eat piggies and separate milk and meat at home) it made me wonder how much of the observances I feel guilty about not keeping are interpretations (wise be they may) rather than actually handed down directly from Up High. With all due respect to those who do keep kosher (you know I admire you) and the rabbis who wrote the laws, it’s not happening for me on the soul level. Not givin’ up the peanut butter n’ jelly matzah sammiches. Whoever heard of peanut flour anyway? I have a headache.

The point I’m attempting to make is that Kosher-for-Passover Coca-cola is made with actual sugar, not HCFS, and is therefore fine for those on the kitniyot train, but it’s wicked hard to find if you’re not in New York or Israel. But here’s a tip Pelinke: Try shopping at a Mexican market or restaurant for Coke bottled south of the border, where they don’t use the evil corn sweetener. The writing may be Spanish instead of Hebrew, but it’s the real thing.

Me, I don’t drink so much of the Coca, anyway. Unless it’s got a splash or two of rum. Which, being made from sugar cane, appears to be perfectly kosher for Pesach.

Raise A Glass, Raise The Spirits

wineIt makes sense that kosher wines are named after famous figures in Jewish history, but I have to admit I never gave much thought to who the men who inspired say, brightly-flavored Abarbanel’s Beaujolais Villages or the bubbly Rashi Asti. So a grand “todah raba” to Algeimeiner’s David Eisdorfer for this primer on three great Jewish teachers whose spirits live in on in, uh, spirits.

Still believe Manischewitz blackberry is the pinnacle of what should be paired with brisket? Sample the best kashrut vinters have to offer via’s Wine Club and become a macher sommelier!

And as for serving up your fancy Alfasi Chardonnay, you need to know that stemless wine glasses are all the rage. Sure, wine in a tumbler that doesn’t taste like cough syrup may take some time for your bubbie to get used to, but you’re an iconoclast anyway, arent’tcha?

Streusel Bars from Odessa…Mmmm

streuselbarsI whipped up a pretty fabulous Red Lentil Sweet Potato Soup without having to go out to grocery store last night, and I started thinking maybe I was something special. But then this Jewish culinary savant emails me, asking if I’ve seen her blog, Cooking With Yiddishe Mama.

Not only is it full of scrumptious recipes from the Old Country like warm tomato salad and honey chicken, it’s written in charming Russian-accented English and contains this wisdom to stop us in out in our instant-latke mix tracks: Cooking is not just a bunch of recipes, it’s our history, and we might know our history better. Let’s try to learn!

The Yiddishe Mama is actually Ukraine-born and Minneapolis-based Alla Staroseletskaya, and she’s got one impressive resumé — cooking’s only her hobby, for Pete’s sake. Stop by her place for mouth-watering holiday ideas.

Hey Alla, can we come to your place for Chanukah? I’ll bring the soup…

Pastrami in the Park

When you see a priest in full collar standing in line for potato latkes, you know you’re at the Shalom Y’all Food Festival. Which is to say yesterday’s gastronomic festivities were a grand success along the green acres of Savannah’s jewel, Forsythe Park. The thousands of people milling about, smacking their lips proves once and again that the small Jewish community of Savannah is way more than chopped liver to the city at large.

I suppose those of you who live in places with strong Jewish centers might take an event like this for granted, but hailing first from Arizona and then the hippie netheregions of Northern California, I found it amazing that so many people turned out for matzoh ball soup and bagels. I snarfed dolmas and baklava at Savannah’s Greek food festival last weekend, and there was maybe a quarter the attendance. Federation staffer Larry Dane-Kellogg estimated that “Shalom Y’all” would raise over $30,000 for Congregation Mickve Israel; can anyone inform me of another temple fundraiser that surpasses that in one day?

I’ve intimated before that Savannah’s Reform Jews are some of the most assimilated around, likely because of the deep South’s suspicion of Jews back when the first Portuguese ones arrived back in 1733 and subsequent generations’ social and material ambitions. Today’s congregation is proudly under-religious, yet has such a strong cultural presence that clusters of African-American ladies in fabulous hats came to wait 20 minutes for strudel after church.

(By the way, Savannah does have a visible, if small, Orthodox community � black hats, wigs, with an eruv and everything � but I haven’t had occasion to have much contact since I decided to send my son to public school rather than the tiny Day school. And since the Jewish food festival wasn’t explicitly kosher, I didn’t see any tzitzit.)

So with the question of what defines Jewish identity always plinking around my mind, especially after reading last week’s prickly Jpost article about “Judaism-lite” by Ariel Beery and Esther’s related posts on My Urban Kvetch and Jewlicious, I understand that eating a corned beef on rye doesn’t make a person Jewish.

But there is definitely something about the food the relates to Jewish identity as well as Jewish pride. No, learning to love borscht won’t ever replace Torah study as Jewish education, but tasting it and sensing something familiar makes a person feel more Jewish. Until all of us errant Jews give up our assimilated lives and get serious about shul and mitzvot, it’s always going to be about the food.