Earlier today, Noemie and I attended the Fermented Food Festival in San Diego (rather, just north in Encinitas), California. Quite a large segment of the Festival (attendees and presenters) was made up of Jewish food-enthusiasts. Some people call them foodies, some people call them gastronomes, whichever you prefer…
An old acquaintance of mine, Uri Liao, had a booth there for his company: Brassica and Brine. He is one of a new breed of pioneers in farm-to-table food that is organic and kosher. The company makes sauerkraut and kimchi, and Uri also has a soft spot for beekeeping and honey production. Since he is Orthodox, the kimchi is free of shrimp paste (for those with shellfish allergies or dietary restrictions). Additionally, it has a unique curry flavor that I find particularly delicious.
With my interest in food and Jewish communities, I was pleased with the variety of people at the festival. There were a number of liberal Jews of the vegan variety, but also several Orthodox attendees, and a woman with tzitzit (prayer-fringes) peeking out from the bottom of her t-shirt. Uri’s company reminded me of a quote from a book:
Sometimes one can see a paradoxical scene in a Jewish neighborhood supermarket before the holidays. An obviously Orthodox customer will have a cart loaded down with California kosher wine, kosher quiche mix, kosher filo dough, and kosher soy sauce, while and obviously secular customer will be buying nonkosher chicken together with thick red wine, borscht, gefilte fish, and kasha. The nonkosher consumer may was nostalgic about brisket, while the kosher consumer is excited about trying kosher sushi.
Lowenstein, Steven M.. The Jewish cultural tapestry: Jewish folk traditions from Persia to Poland. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. 238
What was apparent from the festival was that the attendees consciously made food choice a form of identity expression. For the Orthodox participants it was an example of their decision to join the cutting edge of the culinary scene, to incorporate into their religious observance and aspect of wider American culture (cf. above quote). For Liberal Jews, it was a chance to pursue gastronomic research into macrobiotics, local wines, and home food production via the activity of eating all that stuff I just mentioned. Home food production is coming into vogue across the board, not only for vegetarians. A friend of mine Rabbi Gabe Botnick started an organization to teach people to slaughter their own chickens. My current residence is not zoned for chickens, alas.
Noemie had suggested we attend the festival, and I was happy to go along given the chance to eat some fairly tasty morsels. I also noticed some horses standing off to one side, behind a fence, and couldn’t resist the chance…