Covid19 and Italian Corn Bread

Italian corn bread

This is a frightening moment. It’s hard to write about recipes and food during this time when I incessantly read the news and my mind is mostly devoid of non-coronavirus thoughts or ideas.  I have noticed, though, that when I get especially anxious about what is happening, I am drawn to being in my kitchen. Chopping, cooking, baking all calm my nerves a bit and give me something purposeful to do. My sweet elderly dog patiently sits nearby, his intense eyes gazing at me, wondering if any crumbs might drop by his paws, completely unaware of the global crisis and singularly focused on food scraps.

In this challenging moment, my appreciation and awareness of beautiful, sometimes seemingly mundane things in life has become accentuated.

I have taped to my computer a quote by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, “Our goal should be to live in radical amazement. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.” Continue reading

Sukkot: Environmental Refugees and Stuffed Kabocha Squash

Sukkot is a harvest festival that allows us to experience and reflect upon our vulnerability and fragility in the world. All of the practices of this holiday–celebrating fall harvest foods, inviting community and strangers to one’s sukkah and living in an impermanent dwelling for a week–can be examined through the lens of how we are addressing and will deal with the impacts of climate change crisis. Continue reading

Tu B’shevat Toasts

Tu B’shevat toasts

Tu B’shevat–the new year celebration of trees and also known as the Jewish Earth Day–means eating lots of delicious fruits with edible interiors, edible exteriors, and edible everything at holiday seders.  For the holiday this year (which starts on Sunday evening), I created a DIY “toast toppings” to enjoy during that meal that includes most of the seven species of ancient Israel (wheat, barley, grapes, olives, figs, dates and pomegranates), along with other significant fruits-including carob–and a nut butter. Continue reading

Rishikesh, Kitchari, and Passover

I spent a good chunk of last year in India. While there are still tiny remaining Indian Jewish communities (read my Fort Cochin post), there is now a transient Jewish population of tens of thousands of mostly post-army Israelis who generally travel through the country generally along a route known as the “Hummus Trail”. The trail is easy to figure out because in each location there are Chabads and other Jewish outreach organizations. For Passover, I joined the Hummus Trail community and went to Rishikesh. Continue reading

Tazria-Metzora: Purification

Tazria-Metzora orecchiette pasta

Tazria-Metzora orecchiette pasta

This week’s parsha Tazria-Metzora, offers a detailed explanation of purification steps for someone who is ritually impure (tumah). It includes the following instruction: And he shall slaughter the guilt offering lamb, and the kohen shall take some of the blood of the guilt offering’s and place it on the cartilage of the right ear of the person being cleansed, on the thumb of his right hand, and on the big toe of his right foot (14:25). Tumah is not bad. As commentary in Etz Hayyim explains: “We can see the notion of tumah, then, as growing out of a sense of reverence for the miraculous nature of birth, the awesome power of death, and the mysteries of illness and recuperation” (p. 649).

Continue reading

Shemini: Integration

Shemini: Couscous and tomato stew

Shemini: Couscous and tomato stew

A version of this originally appeared on the Joy of Kosher
In this week’s parsha, Shemini, on the 8th day Aaron (reluctantly), and his sons become Kohanim.  After Aaron’s sacrificial offering, he and Moses “bless the people; and the Presence of the Lord appeared to all the people. Fire came forth from before the Lord and consumed the burnt offering and the fat parts on the altar. And all the people saw, and shouted, and fell on their faces.”

Thereafter, Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu proceed to offer a sacrifice to God, but bring “alien fire.” Thus, “fire came forth from the Lord and consumed them: thus they died at the instance of the Lord.” After their deaths, Aaron was instructed by Moses, “you must distinguish between the sacred and the profane, and between the impure and pure; and you must teach the Israelites all the laws which the Lord has imparted to them through Moses.” Continue reading