Chew on this: For decades, San Francisco has been home to a Jewish film festival, Jewish music festival and a large outdoor celebration of Israel. Yet there has never been a Jewish food festival in town.
The first Hazon Jewish Food Festival is scheduled to get under way at 10 a.m. March 17 at the JCC of San Francisco. It promises a full day of learning, discussion and, of course, eating. Plenty of eating.
“We think this is an idea whose time has come,” said Deborah Newbrun, Hazon’s Bay Area director. “We think this can take off in the same way as the film festival, at least in a foodie town like this.”
Newbrun expects a few hundred foodies and aspiring foodies to turn out. On tap are more than 30 workshops and panels, each in some way touching on Hazon’s core mission: to promote mindful, healthy, sustainable food practices, as seen through a Jewish lens.
There is a $36 registration fee, which includes admittance to workshops and panels, but a market featuring Jewish food vendors and crafts and the closing keynote address by Straus Family Creamery scion Vivien Straus are free to all.
The workshops cover everything from worm composting to home coffee brewing, from healing Jewish food traditions to queer challah baking. There’s one on sustainable cocktails, one on ethical hunting, one on food photography and one on growing your own mushrooms.
Newbrun and her fellow organizers broke the sessions into tracks: food justice; sustainability; Jewish text and tradition; and health and nutrition.
“We were really influenced by the Limmud mode,” she said, referring to the popular lay-led Jewish learning conferences. “Everyone speaking is a volunteer. It could be a rabbi, a restaurateur, an innovator or just someone who has a particular skill. That was one thing we wanted. It had to be by the community, for the community.”
One community member taking part is chef and food writer Rebecca Ets-Hokin, a Tiburon resident. A former j. recipe columnist, she sat on the festival planning committee and, in particular, helped select who would sell food at the event.
“We had specific criteria,” she said. “It had to be something we could relate to Yiddishkeit and, being mindful of how food is handled from seed to plate, how everyone involved in the process [of food production] is treated … We get so excited to find cheap food at Costco, and yet we don’t think about why these things are so inexpensive.”
At the festival, Ets-Hokin will conduct a workshop titled “The Jewish Life of Bees.” A backyard beekeeper, Ets-Hokin has learned quite a bit about our friend the honeybee, including surprising commonalties between apis mellifera and the Jews.
“Their social structure, their biological imperative, are so reflective of Jewish life,” she said. “The entrance to a feral beehive always faces east,” she said, just as Jews face east to pray.
Ets-Hokin noted there are more than 50 mentions of honey and bees in the Torah. “We call Israel the land of milk and honey,” she said.
A gourmet kosher vegetarian lunch, catered by 12 Tribes, will be provided for people who pay the registration fee in advance. The meal will include locally sourced organic fare such as roasted veggie sandwiches with tomato-olive tapenade; an almond butter, date and banana sandwich; and a lentil and roasted pepper salad.
Hanging out in the JCC Atrium all day will be a score of Jewish food vendors selling knishes, rugelach, wine, baked goods, chocolate bars, nuts and kosher salts.
Somehow, in the face of climate change, genetically modified foods and Pringles, Newbrun maintains an upbeat attitude about Hazon’s mission to influence attitudes for the better.
She brings up the proverbial hundredth monkey effect, which in this case posits that after enough individuals change their ways regarding food, then everyone will follow suit.
“People care,” she said. “People worried about global warming are comforted that their own Jewish community is participating in the healing process.”
Hazon Jewish Food Festival, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 17 at JCC of San Francisco, 3200 California St. $36, includes workshops and panels (and a 12 Tribes vegetarian lunch if paid in advance). Festival and shuk recommended for 13 and older. www.hazon.org/programs/foodfestival or (415) 397-7020
The Shuk in the JCC Atrium will be open all day. Free. Includes more than 20 vendors selling food, art and other goods. For details on food offerings, see Hardly Strictly Bagels
Art created for Hazon’s annual “If Not Now Society” induction event, www.hazon.org/ifnotnow