Friday, October 24, 2014 Tishri 30, 5775

Still Talking About Food

February 6, 2013 By:
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Mark Bittman. Photo by Sally Stein

One of the few things that Jews approach with as much gusto as eating is talking about food: where to eat, what we just ate, how does this meal compare with the last one, etc.

So the first question that comes to mind when looking at the array of events that comprise the final two months of “What Is Your Food Worth,” which is described as “a two-year-long conversation about food, ethics, sustainability and eating Jewish” in the accompanying event literature is, “What took so long for someone to come up with this idea?”

According to Bryant Simon, the acting director of Temple University’s Feinstein Center for American Jewish History and a history professor at the school, it was just a matter of timing. Simon and the center have been creating, organizing and coordinating “What Is Your Food Worth” since its inception. He says that it all coalesced around a simple quote. “ ‘Food is a good thing to think with’ is where we started,” he says. “We wanted to create a program that would reach beyond the university, one that would engage the various segments of the community.” And, he reasoned, what better way to engage Jews than with the topic of food?

All jokes and easy stereotypes aside, the series, like the best Jewish conversations, focuses on trying to answer some of the most salient questions related to eating Jewishly. And, like the best Jewish questions, Simon says, “These are all difficult and thorny to work through” — questions like “Why is cheap food cheap — and what are the costs of cheap food?”; “How much are we willing to pay to eat healthy food or food for an ethical diet?”; and “Why is kosher food so expensive?”

To provide forums to address these issues, the center has collaborated with Congregation Rodeph Shalom, the National Museum of American Jewish History and the Gershman Y — a partnership necessary to successfully pull off so many events at so many venues over such a long period of time.

And the scope of available offerings through April is impressive, beginning with the 2013 kickoff event, “They Were What They Ate: Immigrant Jews and the Encounter with America,” presented by the aptly named Hasia Diner, a professor of history, Hebrew and Judaic Studies at New York University, which happens on Feb. 12.

You can also learn about:

• The relationship between “Art, Jews and Food” with art historian Daniel Belasco, who will connect the dots among disparate elements like farms, deli design and still lifes, at the Gershman Y on March 10.

• What the award-winning food writer Mark Bittman thinks “The Future of Food” holds for the United States and the rest of the world, when he comes to Congregation Rodeph Shalom on March 13.

• The answer to the question that has burned with as much intensity as a post-brisket/pastrami/schmaltz on rye hangover: “How Jewish Food Became Jewish” (with a lunch of kosher meat deli sandwiches included, natch), a seminar on April 10 that will delve into how immigrant lives and food culture combined to give us bagels, kugel, chicken in a pot and so much more.

To become part of the conversation and to see a full list of the events, go to: www.whatisyourfoodworth.com.

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