Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Sweetie took these pictures last week and I meant to post them several days ago; spring changes happen so quickly these may soon be out of date. This first one was a pleasant surprise; this tulip used to be a solitary flower, but over the winter it split and now there are two. I'm pretty ignorant about bulbs (we inherited all our bulbs when we bought the house), so this was news to me.

Here's one of our rhododendrons. They usually bloom in sequence: first the white, then this magenta one, then the two purples. I guess the long hard winter delayed the white one, and the magenta doesn't usually bloom til Mother's Day.

Our lilac is just now bursting into bloom outside our bedroom window. If it weren't for our seasonal allergies to tree pollen, Sweetie and I would revel wholeheartedly in all this beauty. As it is, we revel as best we can, through our allergy-reddened eyes and in between sneezes. More pics soon.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Rename this blog!

I have thought for some time now that the name of my blog is rather bland and doesn't really reflect either my personality, sense of humor or, most importantly, what it is I blog about. Because my blog posts cover a wide and often unrelated series of subjects (food, food policy, gardening, music, radio, Jewish topics, general politics and occasional personal musings), I've had a hard time coming up with a good title that captures the essence of all that.

So I'm throwing this open to all of you, dear readers. Please submit your suggestions for a better title for my blog. The winner will be chosen at my discretion and will receive my everlasting gratitude, and (if you're local), a big hug.

UN Discusses the Right to Food & Food Sovereignty

This is very cool, and long overdue, imo.

From the Community Food Security Coalition's latest email digest:

"The President of the UN General Assembly held a discussion on the Global Food Crisis and the Right to Food on April 6, 2009. The first panel, moderated by Brother Dave Andrews, entitled Policy Choices and the Right to Food in the Context of the Global Food Crisis, featured: Olivier De Schutter, Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food for the United Nations; Professor Sanjay Reddy; Professor Daniel De La Torre Ugarte; and Congressman Jim McGovern. The second panel, Answering to the Poor: Right to Food and Sustainable Models of Agriculture, was moderated by Barbara Ekwall and featured: Henri Saragih; Molly Anderson (CFSC Board President); Dr. Judi Wakhungu; and Miguel Altieri.

"Farmer voices were presented by Henry Saragih, General Coordinator of La Via Campesina, who discussed the state and international community’s obligation to protect the right to food, food sovereignty and the right to sustainable food production. Professor De Schutter made two presentations the following day in Washington D.C. to help increase policymakers and non-governmental organizations’ understanding of these issues.
Read statements from all panelists.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Jews, Food & Ethics show now online

I am happy to announce that my radio show, Jews, Food and Ethics is now available online. When you visit the Yiddish Hour page at KBOO, click on the "Audio" tab at the top. Scroll down to the second audio file and you'll find it. You can stream it from the site or download it to listen to at your convenience.

If you know anyone you think would be interested in hearing this show, please forward them the link to the Yiddish Hour site, rather than sending the audio file itself. For one thing, the file is quite large and would take awhile to send by itself, but more importantly, this show is part of the Yiddish Hour and I'd like people who may not have visited our site before to check it out.

I look forward to hearing your feedback. I've never done a show of this type before, and I must say, after conceiving, planning and recording it over a period of nine months or so, I feel like I got as close as I ever will to experiencing the miracle of birth. The best part of it is no stretch marks and no 2am feedings!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Farewell to all that

Twenty years ago yesterday I gave my senior voice recital at UC Santa Cruz. I haven't considered myself a classical singer in any serious sense of the words in some time, and I haven't sung classical music, as either an amateur or paid professional, in over a decade, so in the rush of getting ready for Pesach I had forgotten about what I did on April 8, 1989.

My senior recital was a major milestone in my life then. It represented more than a year's worth of preparation, and also signaled the end of my college career. My parents, maternal grandfather and brother came from far and wide to hear me sing. My dear friend A, a pianist I had met the summer before at a music festival in Switzerland, and who had first worked on some of my music with me, drove all the way down from Portland to Santa Cruz (alone, I might add, no one to share the drive with), a distance of almost 600 miles and probably 10-12 hours, to lend her support (and cookie-baking expertise for the reception afterwards).

Here's the program:

Three Ladino Songs

Scalerica de Or
Ya Viene el Cativo
Cuando el Rey Nimrod

Three Lieder
Gustav Mahler (1862-1911)

Hans und Grethe (1886)
Wer hat dies Liedlein erdacht? (1892)
Das irdische Leben (1893)

Fetes Galantes I (1892)
Claude Debussy (1862-1918)

En Sourdine
Clair de Lune

 - I N T E R M I S S I O N -

Yosha's Morning Song
Malcolm Goldstein (b. 1936)

Six from 12 Poems of Emily Dickinson
Aaron Copland (b. 1900)

3. Why do they shut me out of Heaven?
5. Heart, we will forget him
8. When they come back
9. I felt a funeral in my brain
10. I've heard an organ talk sometimes
12. The Chariot

Music nerds among you might notice Aaron Copland's date does not include his death, because he was still alive in 1989. (He died a year later).

I find it interesting that I included the following quotes from the Talmud in my concert booklet. Interesting because I wasn't particularly connected to Judaism during my college years, and I was certainly no Talmud scholar. But here they are in the program, and I couldn't tell you why or where I came across them:

"Nature is saturated with melody; heaven and earth are full of song."

"There are places that open only to music."

My life as a classical music performer has been over, (with no regrets on my part, let me add) for some time. I realized sometime during grad school that for me singing classical music was akin to trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. I don't have the voice for it, nor the temperament. I never wanted to be a full-time singer anyway; I definitely didn't have the personality one needs to withstand all the rejection, to live only for your voice. I was never that singleminded. Like the address of my blog suggests, I have always been something of a Renaissance woman when it comes to the breadth of my interests and passions, and I was never willing to sacrifice that to acquire the focus I'd have needed if I were serious about making it as a singer.

Singing classical music was something that brought me joy for a time, but it also brought a lot of baggage and the growing realization that I was better suited, both vocally and temperamentally, to the folk and ethnic music I'd grown up with. Since I never wanted a professional vocal career, this realization was not a huge blow; actually, it was something of a relief: "Oh, right, I don't have to sing this stuff; I can sing the music I really connect with instead." 

But there are moments when I miss all the years I spent as a professional chorister, my occasional solo gigs (I was always more of a collaborative than a solo singer), my life as a paid church musician and soloist in a pre-Vatican II choir that sight-read Gregorian chant in the old block notation every week (I probably know more about the structure of the Catholic Mass than many Catholics, and certainly more of the liturgy, something I find amusing since I'm just a nice Jewish girl from L.A.)

Moments of nostalgia, yes, but not many of them. What I really miss now is a regular venue for singing the sort of stuff I really connect with: folk music, Yiddish theatre, Yiddish folk songs. I fronted a klezmer band for about eight years, but haven't found another group to make music with (in all fairness, musicmaking has not been my priority, either). I've been so focused on jobhunting and networking in the sustainable food community that I've given short shrift to music. The closest thing I have to being a performer these days is hosting the Yiddish Hour, and while that is performance of a kind, it is not the same thing.

Perhaps I'll find the time and energy to bring performance back into my life, as spring unfolds.

President Obama hosts 2nd night seder in the White House

This is a historic moment, especially because the event is designed not for major campaign donors to rub elbows with the President, but simply as a celebration for White House staffers and some of the Obamas' close friends. According to the post on Politico, there are only 20 guests, so it's really more like a seder you'd attend in your family's home, or one you'd host yourself, rather than some big gala Event.

I'd love to see Obama's face when he eats the maror, I have to admit...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Jews, Food and Ethics radio show-an update

Thanks to all of you who tuned in to listen to my Jews, Food and Ethics show on KBOO last weekend. I appreciate the support, particularly as this was my first-ever foray into a public affairs/interview-type show. I think, all things considered, that it went fairly well. I certainly learned a lot about how to do this kind of radio, and will put it to good use next time.

If you weren't able to catch the show live, it will be available on the Yiddish Hour site. I have to edit the show a bit before I can put it online, but because Passover is next week, I probably won't be able to get it up on our site before next weekend. However, I do want to assure you that the show will be available to download, and I'll post here when it's ready.

If you're interested in more information about any of the topics I discussed on the show, you can find links to my guests, the eco-kashrut movement and the Hekhsher Tzedek Initiative at our site. Click on the Playlists tab at the top of the page and you'll find a list of the music I played, along with the aforementioned links.

If you're Jewish, chag sameach. If not, happy spring.

Friday, April 3, 2009

How NOT to make yourself crazy (and malnourished) during Pesach

For many Ashkenazic Jews, figuring out what is okay to eat during Pesach is to negotiate a minefield of anxiety and judgment. 

One of my particular pet peeves centers around the issue of kitniyot, or legumes. Halachically speaking (according to Jewish law), there is nothing wrong with eating kitniyot, which includes beans, lentils and rice. However, many Ashkenazic Jews do not eat these foods because, about 600 years ago, Ashkenazic rabbis declared them forbidden. Their rationale goes something like this: legumes swell when they are cooked, making them too similar to leavened foods like bread, therefore we must ban them just to be extra careful we don't violate the Biblical laws of Pesach kashrut, which, for those of you unfamiliar with the food prohibitions associated with Passover, are even more stringent than regular kashrut. (For a great article about how some Orthodox Jews are reclaiming their right to eat kitniyot, check this out.)

I was raised in an assimilated Reform household, and the only Passover food restrictions we observed were not to eat bread and bread products for eight days. I had no idea there were so many other restrictions associated with Pesach until I became an adult, and I adjusted my observance to a certain extent. 

For many Jews, what (or what not) to eat during Pesach is as much a matter of minhag (custom) as it is a desire to follow Biblical law, or be "a good Jew," however you define that. Hence the reality that many Jews deny themselves the protein nourishment and the delicious flavors of beans and lentils, (not to mention rice), because they are operating from a place of minhag, a mindset that says, "This is how I've always done it, this is how my mother did it, it's not for me to change that, and if I did I'd be consumed with guilt."

Minhag can be a wonderful thing, providing continuity in one's personal observance of and connection with many Jewish practices. In this instance, however, I'm going to risk offending some of my Jewish friends when I say that refusing to eat legumes, and freaking out about having legumes even be present at any seder you may attend (most folks I know do potluck seders these days; it's just too much work to expect the host to do it all), is misguided and detracts from the whole point of Pesach, which is to celebrate our liberation from slavery in the company of friends and family.

I find myself going back to something Rabbi Arthur Waskow said in an interview I did with him for my "Jews, Food and Ethics" show on KBOO last Sunday. He made the point that changes to Jewish practice over time tend to be adopted based on whether they are life-affirming. In other words, does eating kitniyot enhance your enjoyment of Pesach? Does it decrease your anxiety about whether you are "doing it right?" If so, eating kitniyot is a life-affirming practice and should become part of your observance if you want it to be. Waskow also made a good analogy to feminist Judaism here: he said that when feminist Jewish practices first began surfacing, in the 1970s, many reacted by saying, "Not with my Torah, you don't!" But over time, it was found that including women's participation in rituals that had traditionally been limited to men was found to be life-affirming (I tend to think of it as simply more fair and practical, but I'll yield to Waskow's definition), so the practices were adopted. Today, even in some Orthodox communities, women's roles have expanded, and women's full participation is now de facto in the other branches of Judaism.

I respect the minhag of following minhag. But I also know that Judaism is an interpretive tradition that has evolved over the centuries, and so I believe it is equally Jewish to question or change one's minhag when it becomes burdensome, (especially when it is not based on halachah), and diminishes, rather than enhances, the joy of celebrating the Jewish holidays.

Chag sameach.

Important info about current food safety legislation

You may or may not be aware of several food safety bills that are making their way through Congress at present. There's a terrific post from The Ethicurian today that lays it all out. It's a bit long, but worth the read.

Jews and food

Check this out.

A gitn shabbes.