Walloped With Inspiration at Hazon Food Festival

Walloped With Inspiration at Hazon Food Festival

From a vibrant marketplace to informative educational sessions, food blogger Michael Bomze soaked in the scene at the second annual Hazon Philadelphia Jewish Food Festival.

Sunday started with a fitting coincidence for me. Before heading on a 20-minute ride west to Merion’s Adath Israel Synagogue for the second annual Hazon Philadelphia Jewish Food Festival, I stopped at my neighborhood farmers market on the corner of Green and Broad. I purchased some beautiful turnips, beets and Russian kale from a vendor out of Bloomsburg, and a half dozen tasty Frecon Farms apples. 

As I left for Merion, I figured it would be a nice touch to include a photograph from the city farmers market I visited along the way. I strained my camera phone to get a good image and that’s when it hit me – I was in the parking lot of Rodeph Shalom, the shul that hosted last year’s Hazon festival. I knew it was going to be a great day.

Upon arriving at this year’s festival, I was instantly beckoned by the aromas from a coffee stand overseen by the friendly, kippah-clad Jack Treatman. Treatman is vice president of Old City Coffee, a small yet consistently fantastic café serving robust fair trade brews since the '80s, with locations at both the Reading Terminal Market and on Church Street in Old City. Two eye-opening cups of a rare South Indian brew later, and my mind was at its sharpest — which would become pivotal as I was about to be walloped with inspiration over the course of the next five hours.

Hazon president Nigel Savage opened the hour-long keynote panel by introducing three of our city’s most intriguing leaders in sustainability: Judy Wicks, Nati Passow and Ari Rosenberg. Wicks spoke of climate change, Passow of the implications of the Shmita (sabbatical) year, and Rosenberg of food justice to underserved communities. Each answered thoughtful questions from audience members, including how to continue eating local even in wintertime, and what they foresee as being of greatest importance with respect to food in our community between now and the next Shmita year, 2022.

“I would love to see zero food deserts," Rosenberg said. "The more access we have, the better."

Wicks called for a sea change in our lifestyles: “We don’t need to spend a lot of dollars to fly to Hawaii or some exotic place. We can have more fun right at home, creating festivals such as the one here today, where we really feel the community and strengthen our relationships in deeper ways.”

“When we lead with love,” she continued, "we can build a more sustainable food system for all.”

Passow played off Wicks, but incorporated Jewish traditions such as Shabbat and the Shmita year, noting that these structures "are there in some ways to keep reimagining what growth looks like and to remind us that growth isn’t just about outputs and production and material wealth, but it’s about community and relationships."

Rosenberg’s words struck a chord with two Temple undergraduates sitting next to me, Abby Lowe and Mara Swift, both of whom currently are enrolled in a “Food in the American City” course taught by associate professor of history Lila Berman. Lowe, who's focusing her studies in the nonprofit sector, said she appreciated Rosenberg's comments about the intersection of race and class within food systems. "She is doing what the city should do.” 

Following the panel and a delicious boxed lunch from Merion’s Citron + Rose kosher restaurant, we had to choose two educational sessions out of 25 options, ranging from step-by-step food demonstrations to philosophical discussions.

Both sessions I attended were highly informative; one in a more hands-on kind of way (Marisa McClellan taught a large, age-diverse group how easy pickling can be – see the recipe she shared below) and another in a more spiritual way (Passow ran an interactive discussion about the Shmita and its implications as prescribed by the Torah, followed by a presentation by yet another sustainable foods pioneer, Bob Pierson of Farm to City).

At the end of the day, we converged in the shul’s multi-purpose room, where a multitude of vendors and organizations made up a jubilant marketplace. Standouts for me included Soom Foods (two words: chocolate tahini), Adamah (for their dill pickle samples) and Burning Bush Kosher Hot Sauce (for their hummus and hot sauce samples). Needless to say, I came home with a bottle of Burning Bush – a sauce not so much hot as it is packed with a delicate smoky character. I’ll be impressed if it lasts a month.

As Arielle Friedlander, a smiley holistic health and wellness coach from the Queen Village neighborhood of Philadelphia, described the scene: “It’s incredible how many different [Jewish] vendors there are around Philly who care about food justice and healthy living. It’s inspiring." 

At the shuk, I also had the chance to catch up with Rittenhouse resident Elana Silberstein, whose nonprofit Challah for Hunger was involved in the festival for the second year in a row.

"The volunteers have been really interesting people who seem to connect with our cause," she said. "It’s been a great place for similar-minded people to come together.”

The fact that I stopped by a farmers market in the parking lot of Rodeph Shalom on the way to a major Jewish food festival – completely by coincidence, mind you – goes to show some of the amazing contributions our community already is making toward building a sustainable, self-reliant region.

Savage, who was recently named one of the 50 most influential Jews in America by the Forwardpunctuated that point when he closed the keynote panel.

“The Jewish food movement has grown really profoundly over the past few years and there’s hardly anywhere in the country where it as strong as it is here in Philadelphia,” he said. 

I, for one, am already looking forward to the third Hazon festival next year, which is sure to be even bigger and more powerful.

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Quick Pickles
from Marisa McClellan (foodinjars.com)

Note: These pickles are not fermented and therefore do not require jar sterilization. Simply clean a mason jar with hot, soapy water, and make some quick pickles!

1 cup water
1 cup apple cider vinegar (or any vinegar of at least 4.2 percent acidity)
1 Tbsp. salt (Diamond Crystal Kosher salt recommended)
1 tsp. each: peppercorns, dill seed, mustard seed, crushed red chili (optional)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and halved

In a saucepan, heat the water, vinegar and salt until the salt dissolves. That’s your brine.

In a quart-sized mason jar, add the garlic, spices and all the cauliflower florets that will fit. 

Pour the brine over the cauliflower mixture and fill the jar completely.

Seal jar, place in fridge for a minimum of 24 hours (a week is when it should hit peak flavor). If enjoyed with clean utensils and kept in the fridge, the pickles should be good for up to nine months!