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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Chocolate Chunk Cookies Recipe

Is there a cookie more American than the chocolate chip cookie? I can't think of one. It was invented in Massachusetts after all. There certainly can't be a more popular cookie. I recently read that 80% of all cookies baked in American homes are of the chocolate chip variety. Like so many before me, I've been on the quest for the perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. I think the sheer variety of recipes signifies one of the many reasons chocolate chip cookies are so appealing to Americans. They are really all about individuality and an expression of personal cookie preferences. After trying many recipes, I decided to develop my own. I used a bit of oatmeal for texture, a bit of molasses for chewiness, walnuts for crunch and some chocolate bars broken into chunks instead of chips. No matter how good your chips are, it's tough to beat chunks of a high-quality chocolate bar. You end up with a cookie flavored with whatever flavor the chocolate bar was, my batch today was...
Sunday, October 29, 2006

Inside the Kitchen--Cooking Competition

Tonight was the cooking competition, men versus women. On the men's side we had Laurent Manrique and Gerald Hirigoyen and on the women's side, Elizabeth Falkner and Melissa Perello. The competition was set up very much like "Iron Chef" with a secret ingredient and two kitchen. And the secret ingredient? Early guesses included white truffles or brussels sprouts. But it was really: Princess Peanut Butter! www. flick r .com Ok not really but the goat of said name was the "announcer" of the real secret ingredient, goat cheese. Now personally I think there may have been a bit of an advantage to one team in particular given that the some of the judges were French and two of the contestants were French and goat cheese is French. So who won? The Frenchmen. I wish I could give you the winning recipes but all I have are a scribble of notes. It was something like an appetizer of a duo of scallops, with goat cheese salad, lentils and caper vinaigrette, an entree of Boud...

Inside the Kitchen--Gerald Hirigoyen

www. flick r .com Inside the Kitchen presents so many great chefs and classes, it can be hard to choose, but one of my first choices was to take the class called "Secrets of Basque Cuisine" with Gerald Hirigoyen. I am a big fan of his two current restaurants, Bocadillos and Piperade (I also used to love both Fringale and Pastis, his former restaurants). Basque cusine has both French and Spanish influences, but is unique and not well-known in the US. Hirigoyen gave us a bit of the flavor of the region with his description of eating outside under an umbrella and drinking a glass of rose. In his recipe booklet he also gave us a suggestion for his favorite restaurant near Saint-Jean-de-Luz, the town where the seafood stew originates. He also did a little Emeril impression to keep us amused. Today's dishes were an elegant yet spicy and satisfying fish and seafood stew with langoustines, called "Ttoro". An interesting technique was demonstrated, pureeing the stock, ve...

Inside the Kitchen--Elizabeth Falkner

www. flick r .com Funny and down to earth Pastry Chef Elizabeth Falkner surprised us this morning by cooking two savory dishes in addition to a knock-out dessert. She said most people don't know she cooks savory dishes too. She especially likes that savory dishes are consumed right away and don't just sit around. Here's what she said: "I don't make ice cream sundaes every day, ok, I might, but I've still gotta eat!" Falkner regaled us with stories about her experiences cooking on the Iron Chef, her California influenced philosophy on food and the concept for her new restaurant, something she is calling "California Avant-Garde". The dishes she made were inspired by the end of Summer and a bit of a hangover cure--Prawns, Avocado, Corn Dust and Bloody Mary Sorbet, and also the beginning of Fall with a Maple Spice Pork Tenderloin with a Sweet Potato Succotash. Both were delicious, but her dessert was "wow"! For dessert she made a parfait o...

Inside the Kitchen--Grand Cru Dinner menu

My full report on the dinner, here . Tuna Sashimi, Golden Oesetra Caviar, Geoduck Lemon Terrin Chef Ron Siegel, The DIning Room, The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco 2000 Trimbach, "Cuvee Frederick-Emile" Riesling, Alsace, France Monterey Bay Abalone in its own Bouillon, Foie Gras Chef David Kinch, Manresa, Los Gatos 2004 Domain Christian Moreau, "Les Clos," Chablis, France Butter Poached Lobster wtih a Fricassee of Fall Vegetables in a Mini Pumpkin with Sea Urchin Broth Chef Roland Passot, La Folie, San Francisco 2003 Jacques Gagnard-Delagrange, Batard Montachet, Burgundy, France Roasted Colorado Lamb Loin and Braised Lamb Cheek Cannellonis Chef Hubert Keller, Fleur de Lys, San Francisco 2002 Chateau Haut Brion, Graves, France Bleu D'Auvergne with Endive, Dried Pears and Spiced Walnuts Chef Aaron Zimmer, Navio at The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay 1994 Chateau Haut Brion, D'Yquem, French Butter Pear Nage Pain d'Epice Ice Cream, Creme Fraiche Smoked Chocolate P...

Inside the Kitchen--Grand Cru Dinner

www. flick r .com Tonight's dinner featured top local chefs Ron Siegel of the Dining Room at the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco, David Kinch of Manresa, Roland Passot of La Folie, and Hubert Keller of Fleur de Lys. As good as the "Las Vegas" dinner was, I would say the Grand Cru dinner was even better. This was the least "inside the kitchen" of any of the events, but the staging area outside the dining room was a sight to behold. Sitting at my intimate table for six were the lovely Sara Deseran of 7x7 magazine and Liam Mayclem of Eye on the Bay and his partner and two of the wonderful event organizers from the Ritz-Carlton. Lively discussions of food, restaurants and our first concerts ensued, punctuated by chats with the sommeliers and chefs and frequent jumps up from the table to check out what was going on in the plating area. All of the dishes were winners and really demonstrated the talent of each chef. The wines too managed to go from wond...
Saturday, October 28, 2006

Inside the Kitchen--more blog entries

Just a quick note to say, I'm not the only food blogger here at Inside the Kitchen. Check out SF Gourmet's posts for more perspectives when you get a minute. FOOD + INSIDE THE KITCHEN ...

Inside the Kitchen--Something Sweet

www. flick r .com If there is anything sweeter than a French chef, it must be his pastries. This afternoon renowned Pastry Chef Frederick Robert the Executive Pastry Chef at Wynn Las Vegas Resort (who spent 25 years working with Alain Ducasse) treated us to a demostration of three unique desserts. We learned how to make a sweet ravioli, using double "oo" flour. This was filled with a lemon pastry cream and served with fresh passion fruit juice and lemongrass sauce. His ravioli was crisped up on one side, soft on the other. Next came another Italian inspired dessert, Chocolate Bombolones. A brioche dough was filled with a chocolate ganache and deep fried, served with an anglaise sauce. Not particularly diet friendly, but delicious! Finally we had my favorite dessert, a shortbread topped with a slice of roasted pineapple, a vanilla parfait, and pineapple sorbet. The fruit served with this was a concasse of pineapple and green apple. This dessert exemplified the chef's philo...

Inside the Kitchen--Something Fishy!

www. flick r .com Today I attended three classes and the common denominator was, fish! First class was Haute French Cuisine with Damien Dulas of Restaurant Guy Savoy. Dulas demonstrated how to make two dishes, Crispy Sea Bass with Delicate Spices and Colors of Caviar, both signature dishes at the restaurant. While I'm not sure I would make either dish I learned a lot that I will certainly incorporate into my own cooking. I would use the spice mixture, a combination of pepper, coriander, Szechuan peppercorn, fennel and mustard seed as a rub. I liked the texture of the pan sauteed scaly skin of the fish. Apparently any small or medium scaled fish can be cooked, scales on, creating super crispy skin. I would also use vanilla with fish, something I have used with seafood before. I also liked the combination of vinaigrette and caviar. The sherry vinegar really brought out the flavor of the caviar making it even more intense. At Wine 101 with the Masters I got to taste sever...

Inside the Kitchen--Opening Night Dinner Menu

Chefs Originally uploaded by cookingwithamy . Want to see the menu from the opening night dinner? Here it is: Pressed Chicken and Foie Gras Terrine, Crunchy Artichoke Salad, with Black Truffle Chefs Bruno Davaillon and Sylvain Portay Mix at THEHotel, Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas 2004 Charles Hours, "Close Uroulat," Jurancon, France Larry Stone, M.S. Rubicon Estate, Rutherford Pan Seared Day Boat Scallop with Potaot Mousseline and Jus de Veau Chef Julian Serrano, Picasso, Bellagio Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas 2004 Vina Sila, "Naidades," Rueda, Spain Robert Smith, M.S. Picasso at Bellagio Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas Artichoke Soup and Mushroom Brioche Chef Damien Dulas, Guy Savoy, Caesars Palace, Las Vegas 2004 Tablas Creek, "Esprit de Beaucastel," Paso Robles California Richard Betts, M.S., The Little Nell, Aspen Sous Vice Beef ZFlat Iron, Celery Root, Trumpet Royales, Herb Salad Chef Bradley Ogden, Casesars Palace, Las Vegas and Lark Creek Restaura...

Inside the Kitchen--Opening Night Dinner

www. flick r .com Say what you will about hotel dining, but cooking a meal for 250 diners of this caliber was an impressive feat. Speaking with my charming dining companions the verdict was clear, the scallop dish was a favorite. And how challenging to perfectly sear scallops and cook them so they were not rubbery or undercooked? Oh sure anyone could do that for 10 or maybe even 20 but for 250? The deceptively simple prep with potato mousseline, jus de veau demonstrated that Julian Serrano can make the classics sing. Kudos to another chef with San Francisco roots, Bradley Ogden. Sure, just about everyone makes a braised beef dish these days. But Ogden's sous vide flat iron beef with celery root, trumpet royales, and herb salad was fresh with hints of ginger and a richness enhanced with butter and Guinness. Hats off to the sommeliers who rose to the occasion pairing wines with challenging dishes like a super sweet white chocolate dessert and artichoke soup! Now if that isn't a t...
Friday, October 27, 2006

Inside the Kitchen--Pre-reception reception

Imagine a party in black and white. Segregated, the chefs in their whites and the guests, in this case some people from Meals on Wheels the beneficiary of the events of the weekend, in black. Black has become the color of the guest at formal events such as these. Many of the chefs are French, both those from the Ritz-Carlton and those from Las Vegas. The dinner tonight is featuring cuisine from chefs Bruno Davaillon and Sylvain Portay from Mix at Mandalay Bay, Damien Dulas from Restaurant Guy Savoy at Caesars Palace, Bradley Ogden from Lark Creek, Frederic Robert from Wynn Resort and Julian Serrano from Picasso at the Bellagio. Pity the poor chefs, this is their "working vacation" and any down time is their only chance to socialize. In a far corner are the sommeliers, featured tonight are Richard Betts from the Little Nell, Luis de Santos from Spago, William Sherer from Auereole, Robert Smith from Picasso and Larry Stone from Rubicon Estate. They seem to be the only ones wear...

What are you doing this weekend? I'm pleased to say I will be down in Half Moon Bay at the Ritz-Carlton attending Inside the Kitchen events and classes and will be blogging about it all weekend long. If you are going to be in San Francisco this weekend you may want to head over to my neighborhood and check out the Fall Harvest Festival at local gourmet retailer Cheese Plus . From noon until 6 pm Saturday and Sunday you'll be able to tastes the wares of local producers including Fra'Mani Salame , Charles Chocolates , McQuade's Chutney , and Jimtown Store . Also in the area are two of my favorite local wine shops, The Jug Shop , and William Cross Wine Merchants . Both are great places to find something special for under $15. Wherever you are, and whatever you do, here's hoping your weekend is a tasty one! FOOD...
Thursday, October 26, 2006

Creamy Scrambled Eggs Recipe

I'm not the first to notice the meditative state that sometimes comes about while cooking. When you are completely focused on what you are doing it's easy to get all those pesky thoughts out of your head. But there is another mental state that cooking can produce. Calmness. I was reading about how the long and slow method of cooking onions is preferable to cooking them fast over high heat and it got me thinking. That time spent over the stove can be very therapeutic. Which in turn got me thinking about eggs. If there is one food that people are more picky about than any other, it's got to be eggs. We all prefer them a certain way. I've heard that some chefs test out potential kitchen help by asking them to cook eggs. And of course in sushi bars it is completely acceptable to ask to try the tamago , a sweet scrambled egg in order to decide whether or not the sushi bar meets your standards. Scrambled eggs are a simple dish, but not necessarily simple to get right. ...
Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Food Writers Are Blogging

While the phenomenon of food bloggers turning into professional food writers is nothing new, lately professional food writers seem to be turning into bloggers. Here are a few blogs written by professional food writers that I am really enjoying at the moment. 1. Ed Levine Eats Why? While a professional writer, Ed Levine still maintains and shares a genuine enthusiasm for food (which is what makes blogs compelling in the first place). He also writes about food that is accessible to all of us, from meatball sandwiches to tuna salad to iced tea. 2. Ruhlman Why? After a guest stint on Megnut , this accomplished author decided to begin blogging. Here you'll taste insider buzz, news, book reviews all written by someone connected to some of the best chefs cooking in America today (Thomas Keller, Eric Ripert, etc.). 3. Roots & Grubs Why? Seattle Times writer Matthew Amster-Burton is funny, smart and his blog is just an irreverent mish mash of entertaining stuff. 4. ChopTal...
Sunday, October 22, 2006

This week I give you two quotes (click on the links ot read the whole post) and a picture so mouth-watering it is sure to make you hungry, unless of course you are a picky eater! Quote 1 "I swear to God, I'm becoming gayer with each cupcake I make. I am becoming a baking queen. A non-stop flour force, armed with butter and a cup o' sugar. And. It. Feels. So. Good." (Vanilla & Garlic) Quote 2 "I was one lucky senorita on an otherwise dull Monday night when Mike channeled his inner abuela and made us chiles rellenos that transported us out of Fort Lauderdale and straight across the gulf to Mexico." (A Mingling of Tastes) Forget those perfect Donna Hay/Martha Stewart photos for just one minute. In food marketing there is a term called "appetite appeal" and this picture has got it in spades. Head over to Alice Q. Foodie for the details on what she calls the "Ultimate Fall Lasagna". Finally a shout out to Barbara at Tigers & Strawb...
Friday, October 20, 2006

Al Dente Pasta: Favorite Things

It's no secret that I'm crazy about pasta. I could eat it everyday. Something about the texture of noodles is so appealing to me. I like glutinous chewy noodles, egg noodles, tiny little types like orzo, soup noodles, crispy noodles. I like them all, with the exception of mushy canned pasta like Spaghetti-O's , which incidentally I loved as a child. While I always have dried pasta on hand, and I buy fresh stuffed pasta from time to time from an Italian deli, sadly I don't eat fresh noodles at home very often. I used to make pasta from scratch, but it was a fair amount of work and messy. I am creeped out by the pasta that comes in those little refrigerated packages from the supermarket. It doesn't really taste all that great and the plastic containers are pumped full of gases to keep the pasta "fresh". Yuck! Recently I discovered a terrific dried "fresh" pasta made by a pasta freak like myself, Monique Deschaine (who learned how to make it from Ma...
Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Picky Eaters (and the people who love them)

I try to be a tolerant person. Really I do. But I tell you, picky eaters make me a bit crazy. I know they don't choose to be picky, but it can be so irritating to be around people who are fussy about what they eat and rule out eating certain foods entirely. I know people who won't eat food of certain colors (white in particular), textures (creamy or sticky foods) and then those who have this thing about "mixing foods" for example no sweet flavors with meat, and those who avoid lists of certain foods like raisins, raw foods, powdered sugar. The worst are people who have such a short list of foods they will eat that dining with them is practically impossible. I really don't know who has the bigger problem the picky eaters or me for my intolerance! Mostly I feel sorry for people who miss out on delicious things. Just recently there was an article in the Washington Post about picky eaters and a follow up piece on NPR that explored the causes of picky eating. Apparen...
Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Still hungry?

Announcing my first podcast ! I am in good company with guests Clotilde of Chocolate and Zucchini and Aun of Chubby Hubby on the award-winning EatFeed podcast for this week. I really enjoyed hearing about trends in Paris and Singapore, I think you will too. The same podcast begins with an interview with Marcus Sameulsson who I got to speak with briefly last month. He has just written a beautiful book on African cuisine and we talked about the cuisines "underground status" in the US. Though not familiar with much that the continent has to offer, I've long been a fan of Ethiopian and Moroccan food and hope to try some of his recipes and discover more African restaurants. I hope his book helps to popularize a very exciting and surprisingly accessible cuisine. FOOD...
Monday, October 16, 2006

Cream of Broccoli and Pesto Soup Recipe

I often skip online blogging events these days. But the idea of inviting bloggers to dinner is a very nice one indeed. Too bad my apartment is so small and my table virtually impossible to get more than three chairs around. Truth be told, other than house guests I haven't had people over in ages. So what would I serve? That is a tough question. Of course it would very much depend upon which blogging friends were to dine here. For vegetarian friends I would probably make my eggplant lasagna. For meat eating friends a roast chicken and crispy roast potatoes because, really, who doesn't like that? For seafood eating friends I would make a luscious oniony risotto with shrimp and peas or asparagus and a drizzle of lemon oil. For a starter, I would make a cream of broccoli soup with pesto. Why? Because I made it this weekend and it was a real hit. I'd be curious to see if they like it as much as I do! I would pair it with a nice Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. For dess...
Saturday, October 14, 2006

Funny posts always win me over. If you feel the same, read the ranch dressing post over at I'm Mad and I Eat. If you haven't discovered Ryan Tate's blog Covers , head over there now. He writes about the business of restaurants and is always coming up with interesting news and insights. This week he even posted something that may surprise you about Hidden Valley Ranch ... I'd say "ranch" was the theme this week, but really it's not. Instead if you need an antidote to all that "ranchiness" consider Chez Pim's recipe for tomato confit : oven-dried tomato in olive oil. It's a nice way to hang on to the flavor of Summer (too bad the tomatoes weren't grown on a ranch!) Finally if you are debating whether or not to head down the Ferry Building today, one very good reason to go is that Madhur Jaffrey, one of the best Indian food writers around, will be speaking at Book Passages at 2:00 pm. Not only do I rely on her cookbooks, but I...
Thursday, October 12, 2006

What to Drink with What you Eat

To say I am excited about Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page's new book, What to Drink with What You Eat would be an understatement. This book is gold for someone like me who is trying to learn about wine and better understand what beverages to pair with food. The format of the book is absolutely terrific. First off there is a brief introduction to the concept of "pairing" and the philosophy behind it and basic rules. I love the little cheat sheet that tells you what flavors you are likely to find in major wines such as Pinot Noir which is depicted by raspberries, cherries, strawberries, cranberries, violets, roses, plum and chocolate. Next favorite bit is the "If you like this, you might like that" section. For example, I like Sauvignon Blanc and so it turns out I may also like Albarino, Gruner Veltliner, Poilly-Fume, Sancerre, Txakoli, India Pale Ale, Sierra Nevada pale ale, gin or vodka cocktail with citrus, a little sweetness and an herb. Oh man, they really...
Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Still hungry?

What do I know about Southern food? Absolutely nothing. Except that it sure tastes good. So I was really pleased to get an advanced copy of The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook in the mail and also a chance to review Mrs. Rowe's Restaurant Cookbook . These are both wonderful books filled with recipes, stories and tips for cooking Southern style in your own kitchen. While I think of the South as a region that keeps secrets, these books share the goods. READ MORE For my full review and two scrumptious recipes, one for Spoon Bread and the other for Pralines, head over to Bay Area Bites FOOD...
Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Hidden Kitchens

I don't know exactly when I started listening to the Kitchen Sisters series called Hidden Kitchens , but I could instantly relate to their stories of cooking, hidden in plain sight. After all, since childhood my best friend had regaled me with her own stories of meals cooked on the manifold of the family car. And I had cooked up a myriad of snacks in a playground the year I ran a very renegade Summer camp. Hidden Kitchens can be heard on NPR's Morning Edition. Producers Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva find great stories that just happen to include cooking. More than anything they are "people stories". They share stories of the people who live under the poverty line and cook with George Foreman grills. Or the people behind the kitchens of the NASCAR circuit. Makeshift kitchens show ingenuity, creativity, and sometimes just survival. Recently I listened to the underground story of cab drivers who eat meals at a Brazilian night kitchen at a local cab yard.This was ...
Sunday, October 08, 2006

This weeks Posts are a sampling of rants and raves. First off, one of the funniest posts of the week comes from LobsterSquad who is ranting about the overusage of balsamic vinegar . It's hilarious! Next comes MattBites who is raving (and actually ranting a little) about apples . His post is a little bit shocking, be forewarned. Finally Johanna is raving about a surprising candy cure for heartburn that may just win her the Nobel Prize, at least she seems to think so. By the way congrats Johanna! FOOD...
Saturday, October 07, 2006

Did you get it?

Just a quick note to say the monthly email newsletter went out yesterday afternoon. If you didn't get it, feel free to sign up for it and I'll send you a copy. It is a double opt-in system, so after you sign up you'll be asked to confirm your subscription. The newsletter provides links to posts from the prior month along with a preview of what's coming up as well as some links to sites I think you'll like. This month I share my thoughts about the changing seasons and what to expect later this month. Thanks again for visiting and staying in touch....
Friday, October 06, 2006

California Soups & Salads Calendar

I don't know about you, but I need a calendar in my kitchen. While I use a calendar on my computer for most things, I like having another one in the kitchen to help me plan meals and shopping trips. My favorite kitchen calendars have been ones with pictures that somehow fit in a kitchen--vintage food posters, culinary still life images, that kind of thing. Recently I came across a calendar that is just perfect for my kitchen. The California Soups & Salads 2006 - 2007 Academic Calendar. It's particularly great for me because I have been without a kitchen calendar all year and this one starts now! But what I really love about it are the big appetizing photos and recipes. Chef Susan Beach has come up with healthy and delicious recipes that will inspire you to cook seasonally. Beach is the executive chef at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, which is a think-tank tucked in the hills of Stanford, CA. There she prepares meals for 60-100 distinguished academ...
Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Michelin Missed the Mark

Ok, so I've finally gotten a chance to really dive into the Michelin Guide San Francisco: Bay Area and Wine Country 2007 and I now have a bit more of an opinion. While most critics and bloggers are focusing on the issue of "who got how many stars" I think there is a bigger issue at stake. Having perused the book I can't believe how many restaurants were passed over. And not passed over for stars, passed over for any listing at all. I know they limit themselves to only 356 restaurants but they left out so many great places that we in the Bay Area love--neighborhood places like Kiss, Plouf, Destino, Luna Park, Coco500, Last Supper Club, Antica Trattoria, Kappa, Mama's, Kate's Kitchen, Okoze, Maya, Jai Yun. This is just a short list of places that are conspicuously missing. And to me these are restaurants that reflect the Bay Area. The criticism that somehow the guide missed the "essence of the Bay Area" I think is fair. We have our own standards for w...

Shopping at the Food Pantry

Let's put aside those arguments about whether or not organic food is too expensive or elitist, just for a minute. Or if local food is truly sustainable. Because for some people, it's really not an issue. Their own sustainence is the issue. For some, just getting enough to eat is what matters. Imagine you are struggling to make ends meet. You don't have the money to buy enough groceries to feed your family. What do you do? And how does your community help support you? You might think the answer is food stamps, or a soup kitchen, but neither of those are completely satisfying solutions. Here in San Francisco there is another option available. Each week at over 150 "farmer's market" style food pantries, located throughout the city, thousands of people are able to supplement their grocery shopping. Over 1.3 million pounds of food including fresh produce, is distributed each month through this program. The San Francisco Food Pantry program is an innovative ...
Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Overheard at the Michelin Preview Reception

I won't tell you who said what, but I swear to you, the following statements were all made by chefs whose restaurants received one star in the Michelin Guide San Francisco: Bay Area and Wine Country 2007 . "Give back a star? Non!" "I agree that only Thomas deserves three stars, but I believe that my restaurant deserves two stars" "You know, I've always wanted to be a Michelin one star restaurant" "I'm not putting Michelin tires on MY car..." For more lively Michelin coverage check out all these posts , and one from local critic Michael Bauer as well. Were the inspectors geniuses or just plain crazy? In my opinion they seemed to favor a certain French style in dining, and passed by some notable Italian restaurants. Everyone is bound to have an opinion, so you'll have to decide for yourself... FOOD...
Monday, October 02, 2006

Peanuts for Yom Kippur

Today is Yom Kippur , or the day of atonement. It is traditional for Jews to go to temple on this day, to fast, to pray and to reflect upon their actions. We are supposed to literally contemplate our own fate. I've never been completely comfortable with this holiday which I suppose is appropriate. It is a day to be uncomfortable. There is a story about Yom Kippur that I like very much. It's a Polish story about a rabbi who disappears on Yom Kippur and when someone follows him to see where he goes, it is not to "heaven" but into the forest to chop wood for a sick old woman. In effect, he goes "even higher" than heaven, because in Judaism the best thing you can do is a "mitzvah" or good deed. And so today seems like the perfect day to do a good deed. Instead of fasting, or spending the day in temple, I went to the San Francisco Food Bank . I volunteered with a handful of others, packaging up peanuts to be distributed to people in my own community w...