April’s Food Day, and Reinterpretation

Another Shabbat where I didn’t cook anything!  It’s getting a little weird.  Nonetheless, I ate really, really well…

Friday night, the Grad Network co-sponsored Shabbat dinner with Davai, the organization for Russian-speaking Jewish young adults in Philly.  We had about 40 people, which was a lovely-sized crowd, and it was wonderful to see people meeting each other across backgrounds.

The food came from Klapholz, and they did an amazing job.  The salad was beautiful, and I couldn’t resist these strawberries from the fruit guy on 40th and Locust.  Spring WILL get here!

Saturday, we went to Beverly and Naomi’s for a serious feast.  Though I’ve never made this BBQ sauce myself, it’s from Veganomicon, and I plan to make it soon, especially after practically licking the plate from the BBQ tofu.

Here it is from Veganomicon, (almost) verbatim:

1 T vegetable oil
1 onion chopped really fine
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 t salt
1 t red pepper flakes
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1/3 cup molasses
1/3 cup white vinegar
2 T sugar
1 T yellow or Dijon mustard
2 t liquid smoke

“Preheat a saucepan over medium heat.  Put the onions in the pan and saute in oil until browned.  Add the garlic and saute for another minute.  Add all the other ingredients except the mustard and liquid smoke, and cook for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour, uncovered, stirring occasionally.  Lower the heat if the sauce begins to spatter everywhere.  Add the mustard and liquid smoke, and taste for sweetness/sourness.  Adjust the flavors if you think it’s necessary, and cook for 5 more minutes.  If you like a smooth BBQ sauce then puree it, but that’s not entirely necessary.”

Marc made pizza for lunch, plus pineapple ice cream which he served in the pineapple.  I mean, seriously!  Alan contributed rainbow cookies (though he insists it’s “rainbow cake”), so that’s two weeks in a row on the rainbow cake!

It’s also two weeks in a row that I’ve spent a significant amount of time thinking about the parsha, especially surprising because this is typically the time of year where I really tune out and just kind of ignore all the talk of sacrifices.  I learned that there’s actually a tradition behind paying less attention right about now: you’re supposed to start learning the laws of Passover 30 days before the holiday, and some commentators have said that that’s in part so that rabbis have something more relate-able to talk about while all these parshas are about sometimes hard-to-relate-to sacrifices.

There are two other elements of this week’s parsha. (Tazria, by the way.  Normally when one says “this week’s parsha,” they’re talking about the one coming up.  I’m talking about the one just past.  Oh well.).  The first element is the emphasis on skin disease.  It is not easy to read about or understand, and honestly, it’s kind of gross.  But I think it forces us to think about how we treat people with any kind of sickness, and also how we welcome people back into our communities after any period of isolation.

There’s also a line of thinking that says this disease was punishment for gossiping.  Lashan hara (wicked speech) is easy to do, and avoiding it is hard, but let’s just not speak ill of people, how about that?  (Imagine coming down with a scaly white skin disease resulting in quarantine every time you share a juicy secret.  It really makes it easier to hold your tongue…)

I’ll end with how the parsha begins: the laws of purity following childbirth.  (Here’s the reinterpretation part of things.)  At first glance, the message seems to be, “women are dirty after giving birth, and they better be avoided.”  But I have a new take on it.

These laws about what happens after giving birth could be rewritten in a way that would be incredibly beautiful and empowering to women.  Rather than reading it as, “women are impure for x number of days,” (which, by the way, translates to roughly the amount of time that modern medicine suggests avoiding penetration following childbirth), we could rewrite it to read more like, “women deserve to be pampered and taken care of for x number of days so she can adjust to being a mother and allowed to heal.”  Perhaps (thanks to Alex for this one) Biblical-era women needed to be considered “impure” by men in order for new mothers not to be forced to have sex before their bodies were healed/before they were emotionally ready.

Ok, and here’s really the last thing (I know, I know, you thought you were reading a food blog): I say x number of days because the number is different if it’s a boy baby or a girl baby.  And it’s a whole lot more days of impurity if it’s a girl baby.  Yes, feminist red flags should be flying.  BUT.  From what I hear, many women bond with their babies differently depending on the sex of the little bugger, and maybe this law is allowing for the natural course of things, giving women more time alone to bond with their girls.  Presumably, in Biblical times, women would spend more time throughout their lives with their daughters than with their sons, so this could be laying the foundation for that closeness.  I’m just saying, these laws don’t have to be as bad as they might sound at first, and they could even have some positive aspects.

Thanks for bearing with this theological strain the past couple weeks.  I think I better start cooking again soon…

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One response to “April’s Food Day, and Reinterpretation

  1. Pingback: Blogstravaganza Shabbat Part 1 | 25×52

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