Joelle Abramowitz is really not a winter vegetable kind of person. So all she can do is dream about the first squash of summer — and her zucchini-and-ricotta galette.
I walked into the Chobani store in New York’s Soho neighborhood for the first time last Sunday. Like every store in this neighborhood, it’s effectively a hallway transformed into a functional retail outlet. It’s a beautiful, rustic wood paneled room, filled with an eager staff that immediately stick menus into your hand with delicious dairy food porn on the cover.
Any premeditated thought given to how and what we eat is, in my opinion, one form of modern day kashrut. The meaning of “kashrut” is “fit,” i.e., that which is fit to eat. I choose to interpret “fit” as providing nourishment for the purpose of sustenance, longevity and overall sense of well-being. Paying attention to what I eat is something that I do to make me “fit.” In addition to how and what we eat, attention is also given to when we eat certain foods — traditionally, we wait a minimum of six hours after eating meat and before eating dairy. Likewise, there are times of the year when certain foods or dishes are naturally more favored than others.
There are many foods and dishes that help define the space of a holiday—that help to give the celebration many layers of sensory textures. Because of that relationship, such foods sometimes turn into a symbol of the holiday and carry memories and connotations whenever they appear in a grocery store or meal.
Well, it is indeed winter here in the Holy Land. The warming lights of Hannukah have passed us by, and the days are still feeling short. Temperatures in the Tel Aviv area usually fall between 10C and 22C (50F-72F), while folks in the Jerusalem area suffer a bit more with temperatures getting as low as 0C (32F). Perhaps this seems laughable to folks in colder regions of North America, but keep in mind that our homes are not equipped for the cold, with most everyone depending on space heaters or dual heating/cooling air conditioner units. Luckily, Israelis are a warm and open people and are perfectly comfortable snuggling up with one another during these cold months. We all get by.
In the Northeast, as winter creeps upon us and the weather seems to only get colder and brisker, one food seems to continually pop into my appetite: soup. As a self-proclaimed soup aficionado, I frequently find myself preparing new soup recipes, testing them out at Shabbat meals. Since my lentil soup proved a pre-fast hit on Yom Kippur, I’ve been searching for the perfect winter soup to serve to my Shabbat meal guests. Perhaps most strikingly, chicken soup will be absent from my winter soup repertoire. I inherited my mother’s excellent knack for making chicken soup, always adding the most important ingredient of love, but this skill is all for naught since I began eating vegetarian this past summer. Sure, I can make vegetarian chicken soup, but I’d rather take advantage of the wonderful, seasonal offerings to make a winter soup.
Life flows in cycles. When we breathe, there is an out and there is an in. We go to sleep and we wake up. Our heart pumps and it rests. What about our food? We spend all day expending energy, so three times a day we need to refill. Our food can be many things to each of us. Fuel for our motion, building blocks for our body, a way to connect with the source of life, or a way to bring people together — to name just a few.
We tend to think of seasonal eating as a buzzword in today’s foodie scene, but it’s actually an old concept. As a practitioner of Chinese medicine, I spend a lot of time sifting through ancient Chinese treatises on diet and healing, all of which stress the importance of eating with the seasons as a means to living a healthy, long life. In my acupuncture practice, I find seasonal food recommendations and recipes extremely useful and empowering to patients, who start cooking for themselves and feeling better. Little did I know, much of what the classics of Chinese Medicine say can also be found in the writings of Maimonides, the great 12th century Jewish scholar.