Thursday, June 26, 2014 | return to: food, the organic epicure


the organic epicure |  Berkeley goats give kids hands-on Torah lesson — plus cheese

by alix wall

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“The Talmud says that you can’t feed yourselves until you feel your animals,” Ariela Ronay-Jinich explained on a recent Sunday morning. And with that, children scrambled to pick stray plants on the grounds of Urban Adamah, the farm in downtown Berkeley. The plants would be fed to the goats.

Wall-Alix_NEW_2014_USE_THISOr rather, as Ronay-Jinich put it, “We’ll give the goats a snack to thank them for the milk they gave us.” The goats clearly appreciated the exchange as they craned their necks through the fence to greet the children.

Along with two other educators, Ronay-Jinich, who is the senior farm educator and Hebrew school director, led a goat cheese-making workshop on June 8, timed to Shavuot, the holiday on which it is traditional to eat cheese and dairy products. The event was part of Urban Adamah’s Family Program Series.

While participants did not learn how to milk the goats themselves, they got to feed them and hear how one goat in particular, Fiona, needs to be milked twice a day. “If we don’t milk her, she wobbles, because her body hurts so much,” said Ronay-Jinich. Fiona produces up to a gallon a day.

While Urban Adamah gives away nearly all the produce it grows, it is not allowed to give away or sell its goat’s milk because it’s raw, or unpasteurized. The staff and the fellows drink it. Or, in this case, use it to make cheese.

The milk was heated on a portable stove, and then at just the right moment, Ronay-Jinich poured in a few capfuls of apple cider vinegar.

Janna Lipman Weiss and her daughters, Maya (left) and Simone, watch Ariela  Ronay-Jinich at work  photos/alix wall
Janna Lipman Weiss and her daughters, Maya (left) and Simone, watch Ariela Ronay-Jinich at work photos/alix wall
“When you add apple cider vinegar to milk, magic happens,” she said, as families looked on to see the curds separate from the whey, as she invoked Little Miss Muffet.

Then an adult poured the hot liquid into a strainer, and the curds left behind were used to make cheese. Ronay-Jinich explained that some like to cook grains in the leftover whey.

While a few adults were willing to try the raw goat’s milk, they didn’t find it particularly goat-y. Ronay-Jinich explained that the longer it sits, the more goat-y it becomes.

Meanwhile, the kids showed off their Bay Area foodie cred with the questions they asked. “Can any kind of acid be used?” asked one, while “Is it like chevre?” came from another.

Another declared, “It smells like cheese!”

The kids were split into three groups and picked herbs growing on the farm to add to the cheese. One group flavored theirs with lavender, oregano and lemon zest; another did onion, dill, basil and fennel, while the third went more minimalist and did fennel and thyme. All added salt.

Since the actual cheese-making process took only a few moments, the groups rotated among two other activities: barley harvesting and threshing, and a drama game in which groups acted out various biblical and talmudic laws regarding the treatment of animals.

Program associate Zach Friedman discussed the three harvest festivals in Judaism, Shavuot, Sukkot and Pesach, and explained that it is traditional to harvest barley at Pesach and wheat on Shavuot.

But farming can be unpredictable, and the harvest didn’t happen as planned. “We planted the seeds and watered them, and waited, but they weren’t ready by Pesach,” he said. “And by Shavuot, the wheat wasn’t ready but the barley was.”

Lila Hochman feeds the goats at Urban Adamah.
Lila Hochman feeds the goats at Urban Adamah.
The variety of barley they grew came from seeds that were a gift, and the supply was limited, he explained.

After harvesting some barley, Friedman demonstrated how to thresh it by hand. “With a kale leaf, we can just pick it from the ground and eat it,” he said, “but it takes a lot of processing to eat this.” He took a stalk and rubbed it between his hands, allowing the grains to fall out. Rubbing it against a mesh screen was another method, allowing the grains to fall on a tarp below.

While larger operations have machines to do this, he said, another method is to put the stalks in a potato sack and jump on it. Then the leftover material can be used to make a cob oven.

Some children complained that the cheese-making wasn’t as hands-on as they would have liked. Maya Weiss, 11, of Walnut Creek, initially expressed her disappointment. On an earlier volunteer day visit this spring, she was able to help plant fava beans, “because they put nitrogen into the soil” before the other summer crops are planted, she explained, sounding like an old farmhand. Nonetheless, she was happier with the barley threshing, since she actually got to get her hands dirty.

At the end, as everyone feasted on crackers with the just-made cheese, Friedman asked if the children felt now that this was their farm, and welcomed them back any time. “This is our farm!” they yelled.

“I love spending my days here, and hope you do, too,” he said.

With sadness, we say goodbye to Rebecca Joseph, aka the rabbi chef, who launched 12 Tribes, the “dinnerculture” service that later morphed into a kosher caterer. Joseph is moving to Greensboro, N.C., to work as Hillel director and associate chaplain for Jewish life at Elon University. We can’t help but wonder whether the Shabbat dinners there will improve under her watch or whether she’ll stick with just being rabbi.

“Though it lasted just four years, 12 Tribes was a success beyond anything I ever imagined,” she said. “Now others need to carry on the work and take it to the next level, here and across the country.”

Alix Wall is a personal chef in the East Bay and beyond. You can find her website at Please send story ideas to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


Posted by Didi
06/29/2014  at  06:53 AM
Look them in the eye

I grew up eating milk, eggs and meat. When I was about 15, I went to the home of a friend of my mother’s a couple of times in the spring. The first time, there was a sweet, gentle, shy lamb in the hallway. The next time I went, the lamb was gone, but we had lamb chops for lunch. I was shocked, and even after everyone had sat down and served themselves, I could not force myself to eat the flesh of what had been my friend the previous week. I haven’t eaten lamb since, and I shortly after stopped eating beef, chicken, and pork. I’m of the Christian faith so my family eats pork.

Eating meat is deeply embedded in our society, but we need to be able to look at ourselves and reassess on an ongoing basis whether our traditions are healthy and worthy, or not. To not do so is ethnocentric, which can lead to racism and speciesism. For the most part, our society functions well and meets the needs of its members, but the way we treat our animals is, as my daughter says, barbaric. She is convinced that in hundreds of years, people will look back at our culture and think how cruel they were, in the same way we look back at the Romans and the gladiators who were forced to fight to the death, and think why did they do that?

Meat, cheese, milk, omelets and so on are all acquired tastes and many people enjoy them, but eating animals products is totally unnecessary. I have discovered that giving up meat (I’ve been a vegetarian for over 30 years), and eggs and milk (vegan for five) has not meant depriving myself of good food. My friends call me a great cook, and I enjoy a wide variety of foods based on dishes from a wide variety of ethnic groups. However, I do wish that vegan food were more available in restaurants and prepared, in grocery aisles, since I’m busy and would like to have fast food sometimes. I also wish my parents were more sympathetic, understanding, open-minded, and respectful, but they are still carnivores who insist upon trying to serve me animal products on a regular basis.

Some people ask me, where do you get your protein? It’s become a bit of a personal joke. I reply good-naturedly most of the time: from beans, nuts, grains. I should add that people often think I’m ten or twenty years younger than I am, and I attribute this in large part to eating a plant-based diet.

So I encourage you to have a critical look at what is worth keeping among Jewish traditions and among society’s traditions more broadly, keep the good ones and let go of those, like eating animals and animal secretions, that are not worth keeping. Some people, like my parents, are, I think too stuck in their ways to look critically at their beliefs, but if you have the courage to look the truth in the eye—to see the animals for what they are as you slit their throats—you can avoid violence to these innocent creatures and make the world a better place.
Respectfully yours,
Edelweiss D’Andrea

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Posted by robertgrillo
06/29/2014  at  08:53 AM
do they really "give" us their breast milk?

“We’ll give the goats a snack to thank them for the milk they gave us.”

I’d like to address the anthropocentric idea expressed in this quote by the author that animals, such as the goats described here, “give” us something, willingly and allegedly with their consent.

It is first important to recognize that myths about animals willingly making sacrifices for us are as old as storytelling itself and are easy to find in all cultures of the world, including the Jewish one. And they are still being perpetuated by even progressive groups with little to no critical thinking behind whether they are even valid and relevant to the age we live in.

But if we can put aside our cultural conditioning for a moment to think a bit more critically, it becomes abundantly clear that domesticated animals, regardless of the size or nature of the farm, who are exploited as a resource, are neither acting on their own free will, making a choice, or communicating their consent to us to be subjected to domination, enslavement or killing. Moreover, it is impossible to fairly describe such a situation as a sacrifice. What we do know for certain, based on observing their emotions and reactions, is that all animals have the same will to live freely that we have, as demonstrated by how tenaciously they fight for their own lives, for those of their immediate family and even for members of their extended social groups.

Even for indigenous people, who live on subsistence hunting and gathering and who kill animals for food out of necessity, the necessary act of killing does not constitute a sacrifice. Author Sherry Colb describes this as “a ritual of denial,” a ritual intended to absolve the guilt one feels for having caused another sentient being harm. “[I]ndigenous people — like us — created ways of coping with their own violence against animals through rituals of denial. Some indigenous hunters have given thanks to animals for gifts the animals never consented to bestow…,” writes Colb. “We have consumed the flesh and secretions of animals in restaurants carrying the names and images of ecstatic, celebrating versions of those same animals painted on the entrance.” (1)

Whether in the past or in the present, the notion that animals are willing to have their secretions stolen — that nature intended for their young — or to be harmed in any way or killed under the pretext of a “sacrifice” to us, is, not only anthropomorphic and incredibly arrogant, it is an irrational way of justifying harm that we know in our hearts is wrong and gratuitous. We won’t die of malnutrition without the goat’s milk cheese, will we?

Finally, to pass on these same fictions to children who are so influenced by us, without providing them with a broader context which might even include more sensitivity to the animal’s point of view, seems so very myopic.

(1) “Mind If I Order the Cheeseburger? and Other Questions People Ask Vegans,” by Sherry Colb

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Posted by Veggie18
06/29/2014  at  11:35 AM

Hazon and Urban Adamah are eco-hypocrites.  The two above comments address the issues of cruelty to animals and teaching that cruelty to children, both of which are not Jewish values.              See article on Adamah goat killing event:        Millions of dollars spent by the Jewish community to teach cruelty and hypocrisy.  Shameful. So, I’ll just add the fact that if these groups truly cared about environmental sustainability, they’d promote a vegan diet and just grow vegetables for the community.  This weekend’s Huff Post article makes that point clear with EPA statistics that are quite staggering.  Vegan diets cut dietary greenhouse gas emissions by 100%! See:

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