Foodie Judaism, Solar Powered

I have a neighbor who is a physician who switched twenty five years ago from his Conservative upbringing to Orthodoxy because the latter offered a Yuppie lifestyle (bye bye Maneschewitz and chopped liver, hello Cheers Italian restaurant) and rational medical ethics (bye bye appeals to tradition).
So, what now?
Food has changed for many Americans, as Anthony Bourdain wrote in the NYT last week “Foodie Nation” (December 27, 2009)

Something important happened to my former profession in 2007. I’m still unsure what, exactly — but there was a shift, the world of food tilting on its axis. Dining rooms were busy with ever more food-obsessed, better-informed customers…Chefs were now trusted enough to persuade customers to try what they themselves loved to eat. Hence the hooves and snouts and oily little fishes that increasingly popped up on menus

Or Wikipedia states:

. . . foodies are amateurs who simply love food for consumption, study, preparation, and news . . . foodies want to learn everything about food, both the best and the ordinary, and about the science, industry, and personalities surrounding food.

So my question is: How will this play itself out in religious groupings? Not everything is theology or law, people like to live their lives with those of similar lifestyles. How will those who go to Fairway to prepare for Shabbat only when they cannot get to a farmers market play itself out? How will those who prefer cerviche to gefilte fish create demarcations? or artisan bread in place of sugary egg challah? (once upon a time – the move from Orthodoxy to Conservative included a switch from herring to lox.)
From the other direction- will those who crave the heimish cholent or the frat house buffalo wings create community distinctions? Parts of Orthodoxy have actually been going with this trend as the restaurant Solo has hired 2 of the Top Chefs as consultants and there will be a molecular gastronomy restaurant similar to the non-kosher WD-50 opening in Jerusalem.
These shifts are never single cause and involve broader lifestyle changes. If the person that I mentioned at the start found doctors becoming Orthodox (there was still unwritten quotas and restricted positions for Jews entering medicine before). Yesterday’s NYT said that some of the in new fields will be narrative medicine, high tech security, and sustainable energy-solar energy. Whichever group gets there first with the “torah of the imperative of solar energy” or “halakhot of security” wins them as congregants. This is not so far off since on linkedin – among the friends of my Israeli friends- the largest number work for NICE systems- which develops high tech security. Have you heard any shiur geared to that industry lately?
So which rabbi or community will the solar energy engineer who feels there is a vital need to make our homes and synagogues energy efficient and reduce our global footprint pick? What if the engineer is also a foodie?
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7 responses to “Foodie Judaism, Solar Powered

  1. Solar Energy has a whole literature on it because of the Dud Shemesh. I’ve heard shiurim on this for years.

    Re security systems, R. Aaron Levine has a chapter on it in his Moral Issues of the Marketplace in Jewish Law. I gave a podcast on it in 2005, although it doesn’t seem to be online anymore.

    What I’m saying is that the Modern Orthodox community discusses these issues but they don’t have the prominence yet that symposia/yemei iyun would be structured around them.

  2. The occupation of the West Bank is a living example of the hilchot of security.

    On the happier issue of foodie Judaism. I once tried kibbitzing my way through this topic. I would never have thought that Orthodox Jews would pay up for chemistry. Yuppiefication marches on.


  3. torahumaddachic

    the foodie process of differentiation is already playing itself out at the shabbos tables of Washington Heights. I can see two distinct groups: one which prefers zomicks, chicken breasts w duck sauce, deli roll, and taco salad; and a separate (socially at least) group- although there must be some overlap otherwise we wouldnt be invited to those meals to see the food variations in the first place- and a second group of CSA/locavore produce, artisanal bread, and a sneering contempt for onion soup mix.
    and, for what its worth, what happens when orthodox locavores like myself become doctors with a keen interest in narrative medicine?

  4. torahumaddachic,

    How do you think that narrative medicine will change the approach to Jewish medical ethics?
    What would narrative medicine reject in the current approach?

    And FYI

    In 2009, Chef Kirshtein appeared on Bravo TV´s Emmy award-nominated show “Top Chef, competing superbly among high-caliber chefs. With his strong background in both classical and experimental cuisines, Chef Eli has rapidly become one of the prominent young chefs in the local landscape. As guest chef at Solo NYC, sister restaurant to New York City´s famous Prime Grill, he will prepare an exclusive culinary adventure utilizing the techniques of Molecular Gastronomy, also known as New Cuisine and “Avant-Garde Cuisine.”

    The Kosher Wine Society will contribute a truly special selection of wines to provide the perfect accompaniment to Chef Eli´s exciting menu.

    Meet Chef Eli in person and join us for this truly exotic food and wine pairing dinner.

    When: January 16th 2009 – 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM
    Where: Solo Restaurant NYC *
    550 Madison Avenue
    New York, NY 10022-3211
    Price: $70.00

  5. Teaneck is where they serve Cranberry Kugel & Deli Roll (unironically).

    Food serves an important purpose, in creating a cultural framework of giving a common language of the Orthodox. As Lichtenstein points out, “learning” and lomdus create a common language for people who otherwise might not have anything in common religiously. Being a Kosher foodie is an alternative language, especially in communities where people haven’t picked up a Gemara in 10 years. As i once remarked about my Mother-in-Law’s (religiously diverse) family, they like to talk about Music, Family and Food (as they are safe topics that do not cause conflict).

    Additionally it’s easier to be a fineshmecker about food than clothing or travel which gets more expensive. Even people making less money can be foodies, if they want to invest the time and effort.

    It’s also possible to be into Heimish Cholent (with real kishke), eating herring with your fingers on Kichel and into Kosher elk and genuine Indian food. It’s shows a morde developed palate.

    On an unrelated note, Baalei Teshuva claim that most of the developments in food sophistication within the Orthodox communities come from Baalei Teshuva who cannot deal with what’s served within Orthodoxy.

    Lastly, in order to accept Narrative Medicine, Rabbis would have to reliquish their positions as Experts on Medical Halakha and focus on the experience of being sick, where they have no special expertise. Personally, I don’t see this happening.

  6. 1] I should have mentioned “Britain’s chief rabbi Jonathan Sacks has called for this week’s Sabbath to be devoted to the environment, ahead of the climate talks due to be held next week in Copenhagen.

    Sacks has asked that this Sabbath, from sundown Friday until Saturday night, be focused environmental issues and has urged Jews across the U.K. to pray for sustainable habits of consumption and energy use. ”

    2] the molecular gastronomy date has been changed to Jan 23rd.

    3] The narrative medicine change will occur whether they like it or not. Orthodox not too long ago did not know anything about medicine and medical halakhah was not constructed yet- and look what happened.

  7. From what little I know about Narrative Medicine (talking with Bertie Bregman a bit about it; he was into it in med school and afterwards), I don’t really see what “accepting” it means, or why it would affect rabbis.

    As for the foodie thing, my wife was a foodie for a long time. Now she’s a cook. As a pro, she feels that she’s no longer a foodie by definition. I think institutions like CKCA and the more extended program in J’lem are a response to the foodie focus. In my wife’s class in the professional program, there were 5 men and 5 women. The men were mostly already in the field, and were looking for some better training. The women, except for Debbie, were not looking to become professionals, only better/more confident home cooks.

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