My synagogue garden will be five years old this spring. That is how long it took to become a truly congregational enterprise, and not just a labor of love for me.
Springtime is in full swing in Tennessee. The dogwoods, irises and tulips are blooming, and last week I was privy to an early edition of my CSA share: parsnips, watercress, chickweed and kale. I’m still trying to decide what to make with the parsnips (besides drying them for soup this fall), but the greens made their way into salads and stir-frys.
As a long-time vegetarian, when I think of Passover, I am not thrilled by my food choices. At least, I wasn’t until I spent Passover 1992 in Israel and realized that I could follow Sephardic rules. I’m sure my ancestors in 1509 Portugal probably ate beans and rice, and maybe even corn by then, but their decedents likely stopped after fleeing to Poland during the Inquisition.
Figs have long held my fascination. I grew up begging my mother for one more Fig Newton. Later, I had to stop myself from eating an entire container or bag of dried figs that my parents bought as a special treat. I often had to jockey with my dad for the last one.
I still have the first cookbook I ever purchased: “Good Food for Bad Stomachs,” published in 1951. I bought it sometime in the 1980s at a neighbor’s yard sale; I was a weird kid who hung out at the antique malls grew up getting stomach aches from milk, so it the purchase was a no-brainer. The first thing I made from that book was rice pudding, something you couldn’t find in Knoxville, Tenn. but I just knew I’d love.
Last fall, as my CSA was winding down, one of the farmers, Mark, gave me a LOT of garlic cloves from his planting stash. They were 2 inch cloves, huge by any standard, and I was loathe to relegate them to the dirt for replanting, when all I wanted to do was devour them.
Last summer I had the opportunity to attend the Hazon Food Conference through the generosity of Pursue. As a full-time food justice community organizer at that time, I had considerable information floating around my head about sustainability, structural racism’s role in our food system and the path our food takes from farm to fork. What I didn’t know much about was knishes.
Sometimes in Nashville, keeping kosher is about more than just the haksher (kosher symbol) on the packaging, it’s about finding the ingredients to begin with.
I’ve been a gardener and foodie all my life. Family legend has it that as a toddler I used to go from one cherry tomato plant to the next in our backyard garden, picking and sampling each one. The green ones I’d spit out, but I didn’t give up; I savored each sweet, red tomato as a gift as soon as I found it. Later I discovered my love of cooking with my first cooking class at age seven and hours upon hours of hounding my great-grandmothers, grandmothers, and mother to teach me what they know…until I developed my own eclectic, vegetarian cooking style.