A Kosherfest 2005 Roundup

November 16th, 2005

I’ve already filed my copy on the trade show that I attended yesterday (and will likely not attend today). There wasn’t a whole lot that was new and interesting this year. The show seemed somewhat smaller than previous years, perhaps because of the change of date to November, instead of the holiday-filled October, which is where it’ll be again next year, again in partnership with a couple of other ethnic-food shows.
One thing that was decidedly new this year was the pair of PETA protestors:

It’s pretty clear what their message was, based on their earlier insider video of goings-on at the Rubashkin’s/Agriprocessors plant in Postville, Iowa. It’s interesting that they went with the chest-level video of sexy-tech-launch fame.
In this picture, you see them arguing with an attendee, who’s insisting that after an animal is slaughtered, it’s no longer alive, so it doesn’t matter if the cow’s throat is ripped out afterward.

Marketing was pretty bold this year. This picture is of Sabra’s chummus sculpture of Michael Bloomberg, which is several times larger than last year’s sculptures of George W. Bush and John Kerry (the latter of which, you may recall, was vandalized).
Elite, the Israeli candy company, had a very large and heavily-designed display, and had a Bush impersonator, Brent Mendenhall — who stars in their latest television commercial in Israel — around to take presidential-looking, hand-shaking photos with attendees.
The most interesting new item for readers is most likely Sabra-To-Go, a hummus-and-pita-chips snack that comes in a convenient package.
Perhaps some more to come.

Getting Back Into the Kosher Supervision Story

November 15th, 2005

I promised when I first got Canonist going again after the server outage that I’d be producing some reporting on the kosher supervision industry.
I kind of got lost on that story, but current events offer a great opportunity to get back into it. Over the next week or so, I hope to provide a lot of my reporting in posts at Canonist and Kosher Bachelor, toward an article I’m writing for Radar.
Most obviously, there’s Kosher Fest, which I hope to attend today.
As well, there are two interesting posts over at Jewschool, coming from essentially opposite ends of the kosher-supervision credibility spectrum.
First, L’chayim wrote about the kosher certification of Coca-Cola, something that developed in the 1930s when a local rabbi asked the company to change certain ingredients and then certified that the product was kosher. He writes:

Coke originally had a derivative of beef tallow in it! People, know what you put in your mouth. That’s part of what keeping kosher is all about.
[…]
Around 1990, about 20 years after Rabbi Geffen’s death, there was a bit of a scandal after the Jewish population realized that there was no one certifying Coca Cola as kosher anymore but we were all drinking it anyway. What if they decided to put back in the beef tallow glycerine or something else? In 1991, the OU took over certification of Coke, at least in North America.

As to that latter assertion, it’s not entirely true. One of the bigger stories about kosher supervision that’s been little told is how the Orthodox Union gained the contract to certify Coca-Cola as kosher. The issue wasn’t one of going from no certification to the OU, but of going from the certification of the Triangle K under Rabbi Jehoseph Ralbag. I interviewed people at both the OU and Triangle K in my first round of reporting, but failed to get into this issue. But there’s a lot more to it, certainly, than L’chayim says.
But there are further questions to ask about L’chayim’s post in light of the criticisms of Rabbi Yitzchok Abadi. Would a derivative of non-kosher beef tallow really render a product unkosher? How and why — and according to whom? Under contemporary assumptions about kosher in the Orthodox community, such questions are stupid, because the answer’s supposed to be an obvious no. But when we peel back the historical layers of understanding the kosher situation five, ten, twenty, fifty or a hundred years, we find a very different world, as regards many questions relating to kosher.
Moreso, are such concerns really of the present-day? How often is glycerine produced from beef tallow, as opposed to other means? And would one be able to tell whether that was the case from a food label?
The second Jewschool post comes from DeityBox, who touts Abadi’s recent declaration that Cinn-a-Bons are kosher. Her presentation, too, earns a lot of criticism. To be precise:
1) Abadi’s statement here applies only to the packaged Cinn-a-Bon items that you can buy at a grocery store, not to those sold fresh at restaurant-type establishments.
2) Anyone who’d been following the kosher supervision agencies’ definitions all along could have eaten these products. They’ve been certified kosher for quite some time (indeed, my reporting on Kosherfest from last year, now lost with the rest of the KosherBachelor archives, discussed this item). In this case, it was one of Abadi’s being more stringent than the kosher supervision agencies (in which he asserted that the agencies’ assumptions about cheese might be off) over a period of time that kept him from declaring the products kosher.
3) This is more just an extension of 2, but there are plenty of products that kosher supervision agencies say are kosher to which Abadi replies that they’re not. It’s important to understand these differences in philosophy, that they may be evaluated on their own grounds, instead of some corporate vs. the public breakdown.
(Crossposted)

Spottier Dick — Rude-Named Dish for Rude People

July 6th, 2005

The VH1 show, Kept, had a dinner party episode, which was obviously a must-see for bachelors. Some controversy developed in the show over the inclusion in the menu of a British dish called “spotted dick,” which was never shown, and was seemingly primarily discussed for the purposes of repeating its name (and, for all we know, is pretty much the only reason it remains a part of British cuisine).
A discussion of the origin of the name is here.
On the show, close watchers will have noticed that they were cooking from a recipe labeled “Spottier Dick,” which Google results tend to point only to Jamie Oliver’s recipe, who probably has some good reason for his differential naming.
Anyway, besides being unkosher (though that could undoubtedly be gotten around), it doesn’t seem all that appetizing, in name or form. And further, I don’t see it gathering much appreciation from anyone other than British old maids.
Also, it was renamed for a bit in British hospitals.

Costco Croissanwich

June 29th, 2005

Ah, the Costco trip. It’s so much a part of the bachelor lifestyle that, when it happens, one wonders how one lived the past year without it.
It’s a simple narrative: ‘rents come to town, ‘rents have a car and a card, ‘rents load it all up, and the bachelor pad transforms into a horn of plenty for some months to come.
I’ve squandered the trip in the past with absurdly poor shopping choices. A number of years ago, all three Weiss children were treated to the trip at once, and my main score was a quantity of raisins that took me years to consume. While my sisters unloaded industrial-size packages of Pam, olive oil, paper towels and sponges, I had…raisins. Not that I’m not grateful for same, just quite regretful.
But no more, faithful readers. This trip was a Costco trip to put any other to shame. A massive quantity of goods, all useful, all in appropriate amounts, with a sufficient variety to make storage and efficient use possible.
Truly, if you’re seeking a Costco guide in your next trip, try and see if you can get me. You’ll lose a seat in the car that you could’ve used for storage, but it’ll be a relative waste with what your puny mortal sensibilities will lead you to do.
Today, I declare for all: I am the King of the Mountain (of Food).
The first few days after a Costco trip — while fresh produce and baked goods are still fresh, and the massive quantity and variety of additional elements are at their most unknown — are always a conondrum to the bachelor. Do I just eat an entire jar of kalamata olives for lunch? How many of (insert perishable) is too many? If I’m too full to stand, but not full enough to pass out, am I in the clear?
And for your faithful guide, to whom nothing is ever so worth purchasing as freshly baked croissants. The purchased dozen now stands at a lonely two. A good many were chain-eaten plain; a select few became a gorgeous dinner.
I still remember the lunch-time, a good few years ago, when a group of friends sat down to open their sandwiches from the campus bagel shop, and one friend showed us a world of unimaginable delights: from his styrofoam package, he removed a tuna sandwich, but not one placed on any mere bagel, but a crisp, beautiful croissant.
Oh, how I rejoiced in breafasts subsequent, to pay such a measly sum for such wondrous joy, a sandwich that carried the key to happiness.
So, with a portion of the leftovers from my mid-day binge, I treated the ladyfriend to the grilled cheese — croissant-style. This Costco Croissanwich — made with Vidalio onions, red bell peppers, white button mushrooms and feta also purchased in abundance — had textures, flavors, aromas, and wonderfulness that you didn’t know grilled cheese sandwiches could produce.
Herewith, a recipe:
Makes 4 sandwiches.
4 croissants, sliced in half along the equator.
1/2 Vidalio onion, diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced.
3 large white button mushrooms, sliced in half lengthwise and then thinly widthwise.
Roughly 3 ounces grated Swiss (emmentaler) cheese.
1 tablespoon, feta cheese.
1/2 teaspoon, dried parsley.
1/4 teaspoon, dried oregano.
Salt, pepper.
1 tablespoon, butter.

On one small pan over high heat, sautee onions, then red bell peppers and then mushrooms. Cut the heat, add salt, pepper, feta and herbs.
Assemble the sandwich: croissant bottom, grated Swiss cheese, vegetable mix, then more grated Swiss cheese, and the croissant top.
Put a second pan that fits well with the first over medium heat, and add 1/4 of the butter. When the butter’s mostly browned, place one sandwich in the pan, then take the first pan and place it on top of the sandwich, and press down for 30 seconds; flip the sandwich, and do the same for another 30 seconds.
Split them down the center to serve.

You can’t deal with this deliciousness.

What Did You Eat Today?

June 27th, 2005

Did you know that Shredded Wheat is a horrible cereal? It’s not so much bad-tasting as it is tasteless. My first bite left me thinking, “This needs salt,” which is a fairly absurd thought to have when eating a breakfast cereal.
I picked up a couple of boxes on-sale when I dipped into the drug store to buy some deodorant. Having never tried it, I was intrigued. I should’ve sensed something from the fact that all other on-sale cereals were sold out. Yes, the shreds stood alone. And for good reason. It tastes a lot like raw dough. Maybe I’ll try to make it taste better for future sessions.

Building From the Ground, Up

June 27th, 2005

I’m sorry for the month-long server downtime; everything that was the Kosher Bachelor is locked up in a dispute between two third parties, and there’s nothing I can do about it. The old data may or may not return soon, but we’ll hopefully spiff up the design here pretty soon.
On the bright side, the various design glitches in the past edition will presumably not be a problem.
Much blogging and so forth to come.