Archive for the Food Category

The Purest

Posted in Food, Funny?, Kashrus, Me, Yom Tov on May 6, 2011 by frumpunk

If my calculations are correct, and I have no reason to assume otherwise, this is the fourth article I’ve written concerning my Pesach experiences to date. The first was silly, a pithy piece using found photos to illustrate the madness involved in Pesach cleaning by displaying an apartment completely clothed in aluminum foil. The second was personal, and involved my ill fated seder when I tried to actually drink four cups of wine. Sweet red wine, as recommended by my cousin, whom I love very much but is sadly, somewhat of an imbecile. The third post conveyed my further dissatisfaction with the four cups motif when I felt sick to my stomach purely as the result of big cups of grape juice; a sacramental drink (seriously, check the label) that apparently contains enough sugar to power a small factory, or at the very least, to fuel the dreams of every kid in Ramat Beit Shemesh of running from one end of the town to the other, screaming continuously. While the sugar attacking my system didn’t make me scream, it was enough to inspire a short lived superhero based on me named Sucrose Man. He had the power to vomit crime off the streets. Okay, down the drain. Whatever.

This one however, comes neither to damn wine nor praise it. Honestly, I don’t care anymore. My body refuses to tolerate fermented grapes, I can accept that. I get through the seder with grape juice, but just a bit. Whoever once fed me the line about having to drink the whole cup to fulfill the mitzvah can go pleasure themselves with a rusty car door. Try a Ford Focus, the rounded sides will make a world of difference. This year I managed to get bothered by the side products, the things we buy kosher for Pesach despite the ingredients list being exactly the same as normal, ie, they didn’t contain wheat in the first place. You know, the chocolates, the cheese, the mayonnaise. Our mayo this year came courtesy of a brand called ‘Goodies’, which I’d never heard of and assumed to be a Geffen product at first glance. I recommend you never hear of it either, unless you want mayo that instantly separates into semi-liquified egg bits and warm oil when exposed to any temperature warmer than a polar bears waterbed. You know what else I only just realized this year? Kosher for Pesach Coke and Pepsi are a crock. Oh sure, it makes sense in America where any beverage with more ingredients than water is pumped full of corn syrup, but in the civilized world it’s always contained cane sugar anyway. You know what they do at Coke bottling plants in Israel for Pesach? Print out a new label. Then laugh a maniacal laugh that they spent the rest of the year practicing (one assumes) as they export it all over Europe at a markup that makes the price of bread in post World War One Germany seem an absolute bargain.

The best thing we had this year though? The water. Pure Spring Water, absolutitious, and 100% Kosher for Pesach. It had three hechshars and a PI rating of 67, which I think means it gets to insult lesser waters on the supermarket shelf while it waits for that special balabusta to scoop it up, the one that has to make sure that the water her family drinks this Pesach contains absolutely no bread, wheat, flour or thrift. I read the label during a particularly strenuous bout of “Ha Lachma Anya”. Turns out it gets filtered naturally at the source. Which simply means they don’t do a single thing to it before feeding it into their own bottling plants, other than using their own filtration systems, because while everyone likes the idea of drinking from a pure babbling brook in the mountains, those pure babbling brooks contain plenty of pure babbling insects. Insects who pee and fornicate in your water. Where do you think they do it?

I’ve worked kosher supervision before. It’s one of the better unskilled jobs, if one of the more boring, and I really like to imagine somewhere out there is a rabbi. He’s standing by a natural stream of freshwater, somewhere in the mountains. He’s thinking of all the relevant halachas that could be involved in making sure the water people drink this year will be Kosher for Pesach. People who trust him enough to cast the fate of their Pesach in his hands. His eyes are closed in concentration. He opens them, just wide enough to see a figure. A figure on the other side of the water. With a loaf of bread. Feeding the ducks.

The Final Countdown

Posted in Food, Frum, Funny?, Yom Tov on July 12, 2010 by frumpunk

It’s getting late, down to the wire. It’s not about the food anymore – hasn’t been for longer than you can remember. Ten. Eleven. Twelve. How many spoonfuls has it been? Don’t know, don’t care. You have to keep going. Suddenly you regret all those supermarket trips. Did you need that much ground beef? Were you really going to use that chicken? Doesn’t matter now. There’s no time for regrets and there’s no time to ponder. You have to keep eating. Two more spoonfuls and half the plate of meatloaf is gone. Only three more trays and half a chicken. You can do it. You know you can because you must. You check the clock again. A bead of sweat drops by your plate, more evidence of your foolish overcooking. You question your zealotry. You promise to change, to be better, to learn how to portion and conserve. You’d promise anything to not have to keep eating meat; everything that won’t keep or freeze for the next nine days. You’d feel guilty for having the pain of over-consumption in a world where millions starve, but you can’t. You’re too bloated to think of anything but the inevitable bowel movement this will end in and the porcelain havoc it’s sure to wreak.

And there you are. You’re consumed with that odd blend of sickness and pride that comes from finishing all the meat in your fridge before the nine days. Like sushi in a bad restaurant it creates an awkward sensation in your stomach and one that you hope you don’t have to meet again later that night.

But for now, you’re done. Your mother will be so proud.

A Steaming Bowl of Heimishness

Posted in Food, Frum, Heimish on March 18, 2010 by frumpunk

If you ever need to explain to someone what makes cholent so cholenty, start with this pic.

How To Chanukkah Correctly

Posted in Chanukah, Food, Frum, Funny?, Heimish, Yom Tov on December 16, 2009 by frumpunk

Chanukkah is here, and frankly, I can’t think of a better time to be celebrating it, seeing as Chanukkah is basically just an eight day celebration of fuel savings and conservation. I mean, eight days of oil from one small jug? When can I get that technology in my Buick? (Hey-oh!) Maybe we wouldn’t need carbon offset charges if the maccabis were running Chevron. I mean, eight days of continuous fuel from a jug that small? Are we sure that menorah wasn’t hybrid? Please, settle down. I’ve got a million of ’em.

But more important than jokes about gas savings is making sure the holiday is celebrated correctly. A quick summary for those who may be in the dark; Chanukkah is a festival where the Jews, after taking back the Beis Hamikdash, managed to light the menorah for eight days with only one small jug of oil. This is so they could use the rest of the oil to fry things. Ever since then it’s been a mitzvah to fry things in oil on Chanukkah. What most people don’t realize is that it’s actually an aveirah to eat things that aren’t fried on Chanukkah. I recently had to grab my sister to stop her eating an apple when she came home from school. Remember, as Jews we have to watch out for each other. If your neighbor sins the blame is on the whole congregation for not stopping and helping him. That’s why I threw that sucker in the deep fryer, then made her eat it. She may be mad at me now, but she’ll thank me later when she doesn’t go to gehenom for her sinful unfried-fruit eating ways.

But it’s not enough to simply fry everything you eat. You have to eat the right things. Just yesterday I organized a protest outside my local bakery after I witnessed them selling doughnuts on Channukah that weren’t jelly. Sadly, in our modern days this is just another commandment that people seem to think is optional, like not having a haircut before the age of three or not owning a kosherlamp. We have a mesorah to only eat jellified doughnuts on chanukkah, just like the maccabis did right after they conserved that gas, just like Yehudah did when at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the reopened Beis Hamikdah, just like moshe rabbeinu did right after he defeated Voldemort by throwing his streimel over his eyes, then squirted the jelly in them, blinding the dark lord, as so often happens to us when we bite into a doughnut from a Brooklyn bakery. Point is, these traditions have kept us alive as a people through a long a dark exile, and to abandon them now is to ensure our death as a nation.

So light your menorah and shine a blaze into that ever darkening night. Preferably with your kosher lamp.

I Can’t Eat This

Posted in Food, Frum, Funny?, Heimish, Israel, Me, Yeshiva on November 15, 2009 by frumpunk

I’ve done time. Hard time. Yeshiva time. I went to yeshiva, post high school for multiple years. When it comes to food, I’m a tough battle-hardened son of a gun. I’ve had the month old cholent. And yes, I cooked that cholent in my dorm rooms George Forman. I’ve choked down my fair share of grease based meat substances.  I’ve got stories of rummaging through left over simcha food that could make your intestines curl up and beg for mercy. I once had milk that was four years old. It was a little crunchy, but still good.

Or so I thought.

One of the standout meals I had this past year was a shabbos lunch spent with a chassidic family in Jerusalem. When I say chassidish I mean Chassidish, capital C. The women ate in the kitchen. Everyone but me owned a streimel. Yiddish was flying haphazardly in all directions. The peyos  were swinging and the gartels were tight. For the appetizer, my host was brought a massive tray with about thirty hard boiled eggs and several whole onions. While we watched, he proceeded to shell the eggs and chop the onion, enrapturing us with what was presumably a chassidic tale from his rebbe about how generations before us had prepared their own egg and onion dishes at the shabbos table while the guests waited slavishly wondering if for the main course, he would be brought a live chicken and all the ingredients of a cholent, to prepare it in front of us and tell us more tales in yiddish, leading us to take mental bets on whether or not we would finally be eating by tuesday.

It’s not that I’m spoilt. I can appreciate different customs and foods. It’s that I’m squeamish. Very American, chicken-soup-and-brisket type. I can try new things, I just don’t like to eat them when they’ve been passed hand to hand to reach me. I was polite, I ate my eggs and fish and it wasn’t bad, but seeing it passed under all those beards made me choke it down. Something that was almost reversed when the next course was passed down – boiled cows hoof. They told me it was boiled for a full day until it was just a blob of wobbly gelatin. I can try new things, but not the part of the cow that spends it’s life wading through feces. And it looked… wrong. It doesn’t look like food, and watching people slap it on bread and eat it with a gusto made me reconsider my previous plans to digest my food rather than regurgitate it across the table. (I found out afterwards that it’s more common than I thought. My grandmother knows what it is, but I still don’t understand why you would eat that part of the cow unless forced to by poverty or some sadistic poretz.)

But nothing could have prepared me for the main course. Initially I breathed a sigh of relief when the cholent was served. Finally, something familiar. Meat, beans and potatoes. Nothing can go wrong with this, right? That was until the boy next to me shows me the special delicacy his mother puts in the cholent. A whole chickens foot. Bones, skin and all. The whole thing, sitting right there on his spoon, practically squawking at me a warning to consider what other delights might my cholent contain. I’ve never lost my appetite faster, especially as he described how she cooks it until the bones are soft so it doesn’t crunch that much in your mouth. I’ve nothing against chicken feet per say, but they don’t look like an appetizing part of this complete breakfast. I spent the rest of the meal picking the potatoes in my bowl, too grossed out to eat the meat, but trying not to appear rude.

I’ve never thought before that there were things I simply couldn’t stomach to try and eat. Years of yeshiva food is supposed to steel you for anything. By all rights I should be able to eat anything anywhere. But I learned there’s a difference between spoiled litvish food and properly cooked chassidish delicacies. And I’ll risk the infection of a piece of schnitzel from three months ago thats been sitting under my dorm mates bed, before I’ll attempt to eat a fresh chicken foot, cows hoof or even a fresh piece of salmon passed hand to hand to hand.

The Best Israel Has To Offer

Posted in Food, Israel, Me on October 8, 2009 by frumpunk

I never had a childhood trip to Israel. Didn’t get to go until I was twenty and paid for it myself. You might feel bad for me, a childhood spent never experiencing the kedusha of the Kotel, the warmth of Eilat or the scenery of the Golan, but don’t, because all I missed was the crunch of a McDonalds fry. Tel Aviv? Keep it. The Old City? Pfft. But the idea that there was a magical place where all the food we wanted was kosher was more than we could handle, those of us in my class who shared the same Israel-less fate. When classmates came back from a Pesach spent in the holy embrace if the Jerusalem Raddisson, we would immediately corner and “grill” them (see what I did there?) on the first day back at school.

“Tell us”, we’d say, our eyes glazed over with childs wonder, “tell us about KFC. Do you really get a bucket, just like the commercials on TV?  What does it taste like? Can you… can you possibly describe it?”

If we were lucky they might even have procured a ketchup packet for us to ooh and ahh over. Proof held in hand that our promised land did exist. It was like having a coat hanger from the closet that led to Narnia. Or maybe they had pictures of those familiar signs and colors, twisted with the addition of Hebrew but recognizable nonetheless. Smiling family members waving under the sign, the expressions on their faces showing hints of their inner promises to their stomach that they were about to experience gastronomic delights of the sorts that kosher America could never offer. These lucky ones were about to enjoy the food that we lusted after in the mall and food courts while being resigned to our packed sandwiches or whatever had an OU on.

Israel for me is so much more than the country, people and sites. It’s about being able to go to a mall and have hot chicken for lunch. It’s about a pizza from Pizza Hut and a burger from Burger King. It’s the eternal argument of who has the best schwarma and where the best cheap pizza is. It’s a muffin grabbed from a bakery while I’m in town and it’s the wrap I pick up for dinner.

It’s not just me, I know. On Avenue J there are two places to get a sub and Subsational is far superior, yet the kosher Subway is still in business. Even after finding out this for myself, I still went back a second time just for the thrill of being able to order a sandwich at Subway, buy a drink and chocolate chip cookie, and sit down at a table with my Subway tray, Subway cup and Subway napkins and for a minute feel like I was experiencing the forbidden.

No London Love for Sephardi Kashrus

Posted in Food, Funny?, Kashrus on August 31, 2009 by frumpunk

I have relatives in London and travel there at least once every few years. For the uninitiated, London is in England, or so they tell me. Personally, I have my doubts. I’ve been there a few times and I still haven’t seen any royalty tromp through on horses, lopping peasants heads off. Not even so much as a public hanging. But I digress.

Keeping kosher in England is sort of like keeping kosher in Brooklyn in 1930. Almost everything you buy is from a Jewish owned company (who are usually better known for their standards of kashrus than their standards of taste), very few things in general have hechshers, and most of what you buy is kosher by word of mouth. Is this okay? “Of course! Everyone I know buys it!” But it says “boiled in only the finest pig anuses”. And the company is called “Porkeys McTreif”. “You see that guy? See how long his beard is? Well he buys it! You think someone who looks that chashuv would buy treif? Plus, my friend buys this all the time. Are you calling my friend a bad Jew?”

Luckily for the Kosher Konsumer, the London Beis Din publishes a yearly guide to everything on store shelves thats kosher. It’s quite good, and quite comprehensive. Or it looks that way until you realize the duplicates. For example, you can buy veggie/soy meat products from Tivall, Tesco and Sainsburys. But if you check the packaging, you find out that it’s all the exact same thing, made by Tivall. In general, it’s not bad though, and there’s most of the good stuff. By which I mean, they tell me that Ben & Jerrys and Baskin Robbins are kosher, and that’s really all one needs to survive.

Some stuff is sorely missing though, such as fries not made by Rakusens or yogurts not made by Herzl Dairies. I’m sorry, but I like my YoPlait with the candy in the lid. It’s not bad for you when mixed in strawberry yogurt! But going back to the first point, last time I went shopping there with my cousin, I was surprised to see him grab a bag of McCains fries and toss them into the cart. Even more surprised when he picked up a pack of Kingsmill Pancakes for my aunt. It’s a horrible revelation to find out that your Golders Green living, black hat wearing, very chareidi cousins don’t keep kosher. My head was spinning, wondering what the pork content of the cholent on shabbos must have been. Considering the fact that he was my ride and all my stuff was at his house, I decided to try the teshuvah approach before throwing stones. To be safe though, I still grasped a rock behind my back like it was made of gold.

I took out the book and tried to make him aware of the grave sin he was committing, buying products not sanctioned by the London Beis Din. He smiled the gentle smile of the wise man, or maybe he was just trying to disarm me before I hurled my rock, and flipped the packages around to show me the “SKA” printed on the back of each bag. Now I adore ska as a form of music, but whats it doing on the back of these glatt treif products? Turns out it stands for “Sephardi Kashrus Authority”. But if these things were kosher, why weren’t they in the book? Surely everyone should know that they have more options for their culinary delights, if you consider fries and pancakes to be a culinary delight. For the record, I do. But then I’m the type to consider anything edible if it has enough chocolate or melted cheese over it.

The London Beis Dins book lists everything kosher, whether certified by them or not. Hundreds of products are listed under every type of reputable kashrus possible. But apparently not by Londons own Sephardi kashrus. I don’t know what the politics are, but that’s a shame. Because living in kosher England is like being one of those little chassidic kids you feel sorry for on summer days, when you’re sucking down your Iced Mocha Crapachelli Strawberry Chocolate Chip Ice Cream and all they have to eat is a tub of Kleins Kosher ice cream, made in Brooklyn since 1934, and each batch appears to have been made in 1934. Basically, it’s the color and consistency of frozen pus. You know I’m right.