Text Context

On The Couch

12/29/2009
Other than “How are you?” which is in reality a greeting, “What do you do for a living?” is the single most common question we ask each other. Not only the perfect icebreaker, it is also a subject that genuinely interests us. Best of all, it is a simple question with a simple answer. Except in my case. Yes, I can give a simple answer: I am a psychiatrist. It is accurate, but it is simultaneously deceptive. The listener invariably makes inaccurate assumptions.

Text Context January 2010: Generations

01/01/2010

‘Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made,” Robert Browning wrote in “Rabbi Ben Ezra.” The Victorian poet had interests in Judaica and was inspired by the 12th-century Spanish scholar and poet, Rabbi Avraham Ibn Ezra. In Browning’s optimistic poem, youth and age are not flip sides of life’s journey; generations are interconnected, always.

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An Acquired Taste

A toast to Cel-Ray, the one and only celery soda.

04/03/2009
For most people, there are two choices for pastrami sandwich accompaniment: cream soda or Cel-Ray. Cream soda, the prevalent option, is a retiring beverage. Too feeble for a lead, it plays decent second fiddle to a salty meat sandwich. Then there’s Cel-Ray, the connoisseur’s choice.

A Taste Of The World To Come

Blessings before meals tame a family — and remind us all to appreciate the food’s magical journey from the ground to the table.

04/03/2009
My practice of blessing before the meals began not as an act of theology but of desperation. As the mother of two young children, I was struggling to limit mealtime chaos. In my mind, meals were meant to be episodes of calm and connection and not the free-for-all they often became. I wanted my children to appreciate the food in front of them, not just complain and make demands for substitute foodstuffs. Looking for an alternative to coaxing and pleading (and occasionally yelling) for more focus, I considered the possibility of the blessings before food.

Beyond Agriprocessors

Must kosher food be socially responsible too?

04/03/2009
Last year, Rubashkin — the name of the family that owned and ran Agriprocessors, the country’s largest kosher meatpacking plant — became synonymous with scandal. In May 2008, U.S. immigration officials raided the plant, arresting 389 illegal aliens employed there, and company owners were charged on numerous counts of violating child labor and immigration laws. The highly publicized case also put a spotlight on a disquieting history of accusations of mistreatment of animals at the slaughterhouse.

Serving Up Food With Attitude

The wisecracking and domineering waiter holds a mythical place in the history of American Jewish restaurants.

04/03/2009
He may be one of the last of a famous breed, but Cliff Fyman, who has worked at Sardi’s for almost two decades, is that beloved icon of New York culture: the Jewish waiter. A published poet and an accomplished visual artist, Fyman says that a blue-collar job is one that enables him “not to take my job home with me.” He tried bartending, but found that he had to talk too much with the customers and consequently had “no more words left for poetry.”

A Rich Brew Of Ideas

Long before Starbucks, or even Tel Aviv, cafés played a key role in fostering (and caffeinating) Jewish literary and intellectual communities.

04/03/2009
At the turn of the 20th century, the presence of acculturated Jews in the renowned literary and artistic Viennese cafés was so pronounced that a proverb claiming that “the Jew belongs in the coffeehouse” was widely circulated in the city. Today, a hundred years later, the city of Tel Aviv can lay claim not only to serving some of the best coffee available anywhere, but also to fostering and sustaining a thriving café culture; a culture with heritage that goes back to the 1930s and the immigrants who came from cities like Vienna, Berlin and Warsaw.

Let All Who Are Hungry Come And Eat

Craigslist, homemade Haggadahs and other adventures in creative seder hosting.

04/03/2009
Every year, my father begins his seder with a story about the year that he, my mother and I were in South America. We were in Montevideo, Uruguay; Passover was only five days away and we had no seder plans. On Friday night, he went to one of the two shuls in town, hoping that he might meet someone who would invite us to his or her home for a seder. No one spoke to him. The next morning, he went to the other shul across town. Right away, he was greeted by the rabbi who promptly invited him over for lunch.

No Food Left Behind

Amid hard times and carbon footprints, leftovers are thrifty, politically correct — and shockingly tasty.

04/03/2009
For 100 years, we were a restaurant family. From 1888 to 1988, we threw out food. Pristine bread trays, untouched butter ramekins, plat du jours at the end of the jour. Anything tired or wilted was whooshed into the garbage, OUT! Every morning, as the sun rose over the East River, the kitchens started from scratch.

Food For Thought

Chatting with David Kraemer, the scholarly author of ‘Jewish Eating and Identity Through the Ages.’

04/03/2009
A longtime professor of Talmud and Rabbinics at the Conservative movement’s Jewish Theological Seminary, David Kraemer regularly ventures a few blocks north of the campus to shop at the Harlem Fairway. At this New York foodie mecca, the mostly vegetarian Kraemer, who is the primary cook of his family, indulges his zeal for all things culinary while rustling up ingredients for Shabbat dinner.
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