◊ Chanukah Cookies and a Goat Story

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Dear mom,

I love that our past few posts have been wholly dedicated to turnips and kale. Yum. I wish I had more turnips here, but every time I buy them at the store I’m disappointed by their waxy, tough skin… so different from the ones we get at the farm. But let’s switch the subject. I want to talk about your naked turkey pictures so that I can retract my insults…  because I’m about to up the gross factor a few notches. And I’ll make a confession that I think you’ll be proud of.

IMG_1833I spent last weekend in the woods of Connecticut at Hazon’s Food Conference as an AJWS Food Justice Cohort participant. I learned about domestic food security, probiotics for maintaining gut health, the Farm Bill, international food aid and pickling. But the most memorable part of the conference was a four hour participatory session about shechting (kosher animal slaughter).

Yup. I saw a Rabbi slash through a goat’s neck. I was there as its blood flooded the grass and I watched its body twitch until all life was gone. I observed the meticulous process of making something Kosher – a perfect cut, perfect organs, perfect preparation. We passed around the goat’s lungs and some practiced blowing into them  like blowing up a balloon to make sure there were no perforations (which would nullify Kosherness). I plucked the feathers of bloody chickens still warm with life…  still letting out occasional squawks despite their deadness. I volunteered to rip a chicken’s head off, but it was too slimy with blood to get a good grip and I wasn’t strong enough to make the full tear. Yes, this is your daughter speaking.

The night before the slaughter, I attended a panel discussion about the shechting process and realized why there are so many Jewish vegetarians:  in our culture, animal slaughter is real. I don’t think that most people recognize food-meat as dead animal. But in elementary school, I learned that in order for us (Jews) to eat meat, an animal has to be cut with a knife sharp enough  sever all of its arteries in one deep blow. And it’s stayed with me.

During the panel discussion, some asked why Kosher meat is considered more elevated in God’s eyes than meat that is humanely raised/free range. I’m not sure that kosher slaughter is any more humane than other forms of animal meat processing – but I do know that it’s meticulous regulations connect me to the life of the animal and the process in which it’s killed. And maybe that’s the point? If we’re conscious about where meat comes from, maybe we won’t eat it so recklessly.

The night before the slaughter, I had the most vivid animal dreams. My best friend was a camel who sat next to me in math class every day. There were bears in my class too. We could talk to one another.

I woke up nervous. I’ve been a vegetarian since childhood. Could I handle watching a goat beheaading and decapitation? I felt my stomach drop as I walked to the site.

Surprisingly, I was totally fine. In fact, I was mesmerized. The goat’s insides were beautiful. The color of its liver was deep and its the texture of its lungs was like spongy foam; its flesh held patterns like computer generated art –  concise angles, lines and repetition; the way that the hide separated from its muscle without breaking the tissue was perfect. I almost enjoyed the transformation from goat to food.

Here’s my confession. I tasted goat that day. I could barely swallow, but I had to do it.

I don’t have the desire to eat meat again, but realized that putting a McDonalds hamburger to my mouth (who knows where that meat comes from?) is way grosser than sticking my hands inside a freshly slaughtered goat. I think my vegetarianism is on the right path.

Phewww.

And I appreciate your confidence in the things you’ve enabled me to do that you expressed in your last letter (even if it is shechting a goat)… but I’m not totally sold.  Who let’s their kid sit down in the middle of the field during a game? And then tells her she did a good job? Opting out from boredom without repercussions may be the root of my problems. I’m gonna whoop my kid’s butt if he/she pulls something like that.

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Anyway. This will be my first full weekend in DC since mid October and I can’t wait to have a few days to breath. Despite the chill  outside, I can’t believe we’re into the thick of Chanukah and Christmas is on its way.

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When we were trying to think of some Chanukah classics while I was home, you reminded me of the blue jello Chanukah “jigglers” in the shapes of Jewish stars you used to make for me and my friends when we were kids (and the following urgent calls to my pediatrician, why is my daughter’s poop BRIGHT GREEN?!). Those jigglers were the best, and I was inspired to make something just as fun (but a bit classier) for Chanukah this year. So I made the cookies featured below for my office cookie swap. If your jigglers married Bubbe’s kasha and bows, they would birth this newest cookie invention. Just trust me on this one. These Chanukah honey buckwheat shortbread were a HUGE hit.

IMG_1803Chanukah Honey Buckwheat Shortbread

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 tbs sea salt
  • 6 dates chopped
  • 1/2 c hazelnuts chopped
  • dash of clove powder
  • 1/2 tbs vanilla

Mix flours together. In a separate bowl, beat the sugar, salt and butter until smooth. Add chopped dates, hazelnuts, vanilla and clove powder. Add flour and mix until dough forms. Form dough into ball and refrigerate for at least two hours.

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roll dough into a sheet that’s 1/4 inch thick. Use cookie cutters to shape cookies. Place cookies at least an inch apart on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush glaze onto cookies before putting them into oven.

Bake for 10 – 13 minutes, until edges begin to brown. Let cool completely and enjoy!

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Zesty sesame glaze:

  • 1/3 of a small avocado
  • 1/3 c honey
  • juice of one lemon
  • 2 tbs lemon zest
  • 4 tbs sesame seeds
  • dash of clove powder
  • blue food coloring

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Mash avocado until creamy with the back of a fork (or blend in food processor) until fibers can no longer be seen. Stir in remaining ingredients.

Chocolate Buckwheat Dreidles

I need to keep experimenting with these to get them right… I tried using spelt flour, but the “dreidle” shape melted in the oven. They were tasty despite their ugliness and I have hope for them in the future. If anyone has any suggestions, send ’em my way!

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  • 1 cup spelt flour
  • 1 cup buckwheat flour
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 tbs celtic sea salt
  • 4 oz shaved dark chocolate
  • 1/2 tbs vanilla

Same directions as above. The chocolate “topping” was avocado, cocoa powder and honey.

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