I have had the great opportunity to trample through the woods and fields just outside Rock Creek National Park to forage for edible plants, berries, flowers and mushrooms this fall. Foraging aside, I have spent endless hours during Covid inside Rock Creek park. I joke that it is my second home but it really is: I don’t start any morning now without hiking or biking in it, no matter the weather, and end many days with a quick jaunt on trails. Spending so much time in Rock Creek has made me keenly aware of the subtle changes every day to the spectacular landscape from the multitude of distinct shades of green leaves in early spring to the trails disappearing afoot as they become layered with leaf cover in the fall. And, my connection to the land has deepened as I have learned about the myriad edible plants and mushrooms living in it.
Like everything else, this is an unusual Sukkot. But due to my COVID routine, I have had the privilege for a deeper physical and sensory connection to the holiday’s harvest themes. It includes more time to tend to edible plants on my balcony and long hikes in woods filled with mushrooms and other edibles. And while the holiday celebrates an agricultural harvest, I like to more broadly think of it as a way to celebrate all of our food sources, whether foraged or grown on a farm. Last weekend, I went on a guided foraging trip just a few miles from my house. In a mere mile long walk, we found more than a dozen edibles, including black walnuts, shiso, sorrel, burr cucumbers, American persimmon, and turkey tail mushrooms. We nibbled little bits of each plant along the way but left everything there for birds and other creatures to enjoy. Continue reading
As we prepare to celebrate Rosh Hashana to mark the birth of the world, it’s hard not to be confused and/or overwhelmed at times by the surreal world we are now living in. From COVID to wildfires to flooding to addressing systemic racism, our physical reality is forever altered.
The past six months have brought to the forefront of our daily lives both the devastating consequences of human actions that are the most un-God-like, but also the incredible, resilient, responses by humans to these crises. When we wish people a healthy, good new year, I cannot think of a time when this has ever meant more than now, for all beings.
Living through a pandemic has become the ultimate opportunity to look at our food sources and the interconnectedness between what we eat and a host of global issues.
More than 70 billion land animals are raised and killed each year for food and other products around the world, including nine billion in the US alone. Animal agriculture is the main cause of an array of global crises, including climate change, pandemics, water pollution, poverty and hunger.
Zoonosis, the transmission of diseases from animals to humans is, according to the CDC, the source of 75% of all new viruses facing humans. It is happening at a rapid pace because of how animals are raised and slaughtered, primarily in industrial animal agriculture factories and live “wet” markets. From the origination of COVID-19 at an animal market in China to swine flu at an industrial farm in the US to mad cow disease in the UK, the raising and killing of wild and domesticated animals is causing pandemics. Continue reading
While we continue to hunker down at home, the competition to secure flour and yeast has become more challenging perhaps than buying hand sanitizer. I go through waves of intense cooking and baking, trying to conjure inspiration to keep my meals interesting, even when everything else in life has become so routine (and other times when I am not inspired and just have smoothies or oatmeal for dinner). I have spent the past year or so trying to recreate many of my grandmother’s recipes and being stuck inside now during COVID19 has encouraged me to make more. She was a voracious cook who commanded her kitchen: you didn’t wander around because she would insist on putting together or finding for you whatever you thought perhaps you might want to eat (in a quantity larger than you needed). And, I never left her home without tins of her mandelbrot. Continue reading
I’m still the same as when I last wrote-focused on COVID19 most of the day and trying, like everyone else, to function as best possible. Beyond the obvious irony of living in a pandemic during Passover, how I will celebrate it this year has been hard (beyond simply finding holiday foods).
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
I recently spent time exploring the Lower South of the US, delving into the emotionally fraught history and legacy of enslavement and civil rights, overlaid with an exploration of Southern Jewish life. It was a provoking, at times emotionally draining, visceral, and absolutely fascinating trip that challenged me every day to examine and reflect upon the impact of our nation’s history of slavery and to explore the extraordinary and unique life of Jews in the South. Continue reading
Simchat Torah–which starts Monday night– is the end of a long season of holidays and marked by both completing and beginning the reading of the Torah. But, we are not starting over in the same place with the Torah or in life. Rather, we are like spirals, moving into a new place that is deeply connected to the past. How will we understand or be guided by the Torah in this new cycle and year?
The foods of Simchat Torah usually elongated to represent the Torah scrolls or round to represent hakafot–the circles one dances in to celebrate the holiday. This year, I prepared a vegan zucchini quiche with lots of circles. It’s a great way to use up the season’s last bits of zucchini and is easy to prepare. There are many zucchini varieties and it would be interesting to try an assortment in this dish. Though, I perhaps should have made a dish with the super popular spiralized zucchini! Continue reading
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