FEATURED: – Ringing in the New Year in Greece – #NYE2016 🍾


#AceFoodNews Dec.31: This is another great post from #LettersfromAthens and l just love all these customs as a chef .. Enjoy 🍾

Christmas may be over but the festivities are far from finished. In Greece the New Year celebrations are considered more important than Christmas, and are connected to Saint Basil, whose nameday falls on January first. This is when gifts are opened, since our Santa Klaus or Father Christmas is Aghios Vasilios or, familiarly, Aï Vasilis.

These are the main festive customs:

Βασιλόπιτα – Vasilopita (Basil’s cake)

After midnight on December 31, with the ushering in of the new year, there is the cutting of the Vasilopita, which is either tsoureki, a kind of brioche, or a cake – usually flavored with orange and sometimes containing candied fruit and nuts. A coin we call a flourí is slipped inside and, once the cake is distributed, the person who gets it is supposed to have extra good luck for the rest of the year.
In older days and in affluent households the coin used to be gold (usually an English gold pound) but nowadays it is mostly some kind of gold charm with the year etched on. Sometimes there can be a gift associated with it.

The simplest, most delicious - from last year, the new ones are not ready yet!The simplest, most delicious pita – from last year, the new ones are not ready yet!

The Vasilopita has to be entirely distributed so it is divided equally amongst those present – the family, visitors and anyone working in the house are included. Tradition varies, but the first slice is usually reserved for Christ, the second for the house and the third for the poor. Then everyone gets their piece according to age, the eldest being first (or sometimes the householder). In my home the youngest child has to choose which piece will be cut first and then we proceed in a clockwise direction. People must not look for the coin until everyone has had their piece. Then there is usually a silence – often the person who has found the coin says nothing, to prolong the suspense – and the ‘discovery’ is followed by applause, congratulations and good wishes: Χρόνια Πολλά (Chronia Polla – Many Years) or Καλή Χρονιά (Kali Chronia – (May you have a) Good Year).

The Vasilopita is considered so essential to the start of each year that one is shared out not only in each and every home, but in the workplace – in offices, shops, public organizations – and even sports clubs and other associations. Because of the difficulty of getting everyone together, pitas are cut well into February and sometimes even March!

The story behind this custom is the following, although some versions existed in even more ancient times: In the 4th century, Aghios Vasilios was the Archbishop of Caesarea, an area of Cappadocia. A local tyrant was threatening to conquer and loot the town, so all the citizens gave their valuables to Aghios Vasilios, to give the tyrant in lieu of ransom, so the town would be spared. The tyrant, however, was deflected from his goal by the intervention of another Saint, Aghios Mercourios. Vasilios had the hard task of returning the valuables to their owners, but he had no idea what belonged to each. So he asked the townspeople to bake small loaves, inside which he hid the valuables, and which he then distributed at random. Upon breaking open the loaves, the parishioners were astounded to see they had each got their rightful belongings!
The Vasilopita was not the same in every part of Greece. In many places it was a savory pie, containing different meats and vegetables, such as leeks. Various spices and flavorings were used in both sweet and savory pies.
The surface of the cake or pie bore many decorations, according to local custom and the occupation of the householders. For example, in Asia Minor, the top was decorated with the double-headed eagle, symbol of the Byzantine Empire. Elsewhere, housewives etched the top with Saint Basil’s and the householder’s initials,and with barrels of wine, sheaves of wheat, lambs and goats, plows and boats, or anything else they wanted blessed for the new year.

There is still a large variety of Vasilopita to be found, but nowadays most are sweet.

Another festive and seasonal delicacy - κυδονόπαστο (quince paste)Another festive and seasonal delicacy – κυδονόπαστο (quince paste)

Καλή Χέρα – Kali Hera (good hand)

Gifts of money are traditionally given to children on New Year’s Day. In some places, the custom was to give a gold coin, especially by grandparents to their grandchildren.

Σπάσιμο Ροδιού – Smashing of pomegranates

Another tradition thought to bring good luck for the coming year is the smashing of a pomegranate on the threshold of each house. The pomegranate is a fruit with a history going back to ancient times and figures prominently in mythology. It is widely revered as a symbol of regeneration, fertility and prosperity.
imageThe pomegranate smashes to the floor and the red grains scatter in all directions, spreading good fortune in the household, office or shop.

Κρεμύδα – Kremyda (Onion or squill bulb)

A squill bulb, or even a plain onion, sometimes wrapped in foil to deflect bad spirits, is hung above the front door on New Year’s Eve. Because of its many layers and ability to sprout even when removed from the earth it is meant to symbolize regeneration and growth; this custom is thought to have originated in Ancient Greece. On New Year’s Day the bulb is brought into the house and kept for the rest of the year.

Ποδαρικό – Podariko (First Footing)

The person who first steps into a house on each New Year’s Day is supposed to bring good luck for the rest of the year. That’s why a child, innocent and pure of heart, is often chosen to walk in, always stepping in with the right foot first. This ‘right foot’ custom extends to anyone coming to a house for the first time, especially if it is a new house.

image

The feast

Most people gather with family and friends to celebrate the New Year, and in some houses an extra place is set at the table for Aghios Vasilios. Another rich meal with a main dish of lamb or pork, cooked according to local tradition, followed by the same festive sweets as Christmas. In many places the feasting was – and still is – preceded by the killing of a pig, with everyone joining in for the confection of sausages and other delicacies.

Gambling

To while away the time until midnight, decks of cards are brought out since Greeks think it’s good luck to have a flutter on New Year’s Eve. All sorts of games are played but especially black jack and rolling dice; some people even have a roulette wheel. Non-gamblers, but not only, take the opportunity to invest in a national lottery ticket.

image

Cologne and Fireworks

Many Greeks party the night away on New Year’s Eve and in town centers the traffic is likely to be as dense at five in the morning as it is on a Saturday rush hour! In some places people walk around holding bottles of cologne, with which they spray each other. Often the municipality will put on firework displays for the enjoyment of those out and about.

Kalanda – Carols

If you’re at home on New Year’s Day you have to keep running to open the front door, as children arrive to sing the Kalanda. These are different to Christmas carols, since they celebrate the feast of Saint Basil and the start of the New Year. You have to reward the kids with some coins and maybe a melomakarono or two!

Happy New Year to all!

image

The photographs of food are courtesy of Cake & Cookie Co, who make delicious goodies!

Source: http://athensletters.com/2015/12/30/ringing-in-the-new-year-in-greece/

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FEATURED: Fabulous – OMG Lemon Drizzle Cake


image

#AceFoodNews – Dec.31: As a chef l am very choosy about recipes but tonight l had a piece of marvellous lemon drizzle cake: Then l saw this fabulous recipe post in 2013 by #Shivaay Delights – well judge for yourself —

#Shivaay’s Recipe … enjoy

I made this lemon drizzle cake following one of Nigella Lawson’s recipes. Only after devouring it I wish this recipe was mine. But it is way too good not to share. I was also lucky to get feedback on how it had turned out by my fellow mummies and daddies at my baby’s music class where I took some to sample! All I can say is that I went into the class room with a whole cake and I came out with nothing but crumbs in my cake tin! So I guess it was alright lol!

These ingredients are so already sitting in your fridge, pantry, cupboard! please I urge you to reach out for them now and bake this superb cake! Hope you are all enjoying the weekend! Also I was inspired to write about this particular cake by my teenage cousin who this morning baked a lemon drizzle cake for his family. I hope my sons will love baking too and I will get treated like that in the future!

INGREDIENTS

125g unsalted butter
175g caster sugar
2 large eggs
zest of 1 lemon
175g self raising flour
pinch of salt
4 tbsp milk
23x13x7cm loaf tin buttered and lined

For the syrup
juice of 1 ½ lemons
100 g icing sugar

For the glaze
juice of ½ a lemon
150g icing sugar

METHOD

1. Preheat your oven to 180ºc/ 350ºf/gas mark 4. Butter and line your loaf tin. Cream together butter, sugar, eggs and lemon zest, beating them in well. Slowly fold in the flour and the salt, mixing thoroughly and then add the milk. Spoon the batter into your prepared tin and bake for 45 mins or until a skewer comes out clean

2. To make the syrup ~ Put the lemon juice and icing sugar into a small saucepan and heat gently until the sugar dissolves completely

3. As soon as the cake is out of the oven, puncture the cake all over with a skewer and pour over the syrup, this way the syrup will seep into the cake. Leave the cake to cool completely before removing it from the tin

4. To make the glaze ~ Combine the lemon juice and icing sugar until it is a smooth white paste, add a little more icing sugar if needed. Make sure your cake is completely cool before drizzling with the glaze

Recipe taken from “The extraordinary art of cake”

Source: https://shivaaydelights.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/omg-lemon-drizzle-cake/

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#AceFoodNews – #Gluten free collection of new recipes for those that want them – @NDTVFood


3sbO5ayJ_normal.jpeg NDTV Food (@NDTVFood)
31/12/2015, 11:00
#AceRecipeNews – The #GlutenFree force gets stronger with new recipe collections goo.gl/dzmx3l pic.twitter.com/lcMi6fkhan

https://twitter.com/ndtvfood/status/682516641268121600

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FEATURED: In 10 Months, This Cafe Has Fed 10,000 People With 20 Tons Of Unwanted Food


Cafe_1By Amanda Froelich

#AceFoodNews – Dec.27: Are you aware that in the United States, nearly 40% of the food produced is tossed into the trash? As it makes its way to the landfill, 795 million people in the world wonder where their next meal will come from.

It’s ridiculous – as well as disheartening, which is why activists around the planet are doing their part to help reduce food waste and feed others with the discarded scraps.

This is exactly what Adam Smith, founder of The Real Junk Food Project, is doing in Armley, Leeds.

The social entrepreneur has created an empire of ‘social cafes’ through which to cook up stews, casseroles, soups and cakes with the unwanted products from supermarkets, independent grocers, and food banks.

Leeds3The most unique aspect of the business model is that it has a “pay as you feel” rule. This policy encourages patrons to pay what they feel they can pay. If that amounts to nothing, then they can work for their meal.

The Independent reports that in only 10 months, Smith has helped feed 10,000 people on 20 tons of unwanted food. In addition, he’s raised over 30,000 pounds (UK).

Leeds6Since its success, forty-seven other similar style cafes have popped up in Manchester, Bristol, Saltaire, Los Angeles, Brazil, Warsaw, and Zurich.

In the United States, a similar grocery store called The Daily Table transforms unwanted or ‘expired’ leftovers into perfectly nourishing and tasty food for customers. The founder of that endeavor is Doug Rauch, the former president of Trader Joe’s.

It’s difficult for entrepreneurs inspired to repurpose food to carry out their vision, as in many areas of the world, retailers can be prosecuted if they sell food after the use-by date. The ‘best-before’ date is allowed, which is why Smith’s organization wants the law to be changed to prevent supermarkets from disposing of so much food at the fear of prosecution.

Leeds8 LEEDS9Thankfully, progress is being made. Earlier this year, France made it illegal for supermarkets to purposely waste food. Stores must now donate unsold food to charity, for animal feed, or for farming compost.

Unfortunately, groups like Smith’s are often looked down upon because they seek food others deem not optimal for consumption. With a change of perspective, however, everyone might come to understand that a good share of food thrown into dumpsters is perfectly edible.

Recognizing this sooner rather than later would benefit everyone on the planet.

9717689-largeIn Britain, food prices have risen 47% since 2003, which is quite high compared to the United States’ 30.4%, reports The Independent. Germany’s food inflation is 22.1% and France’s is 16.7%.

When people struggle to afford the basic necessities in life, you can be certain there’s a fault – if not many – with ‘the system’.

LEEDS10The Real Junk Food Project is an amazing concept and business model which will, hopefully, inspire other social cafes to sprout and blossom, as well.

What are your thoughts? Comment below and please share this news!

This article (In 10 Months, This Cafe Has Fed 10,000 People With 20 Tons Of Unwanted Food ) is free and open source. You have permission to republish this article under a Creative Commons license with attribution to the author and TrueActivist.com

Original Article: http://www.activistpost.com/2015/12/in-10-months-this-cafe-has-fed-10000-people-with-20-tons-of-unwanted-food.html

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FEATURED: A #Christmas Treat


#AceFoodNews – Dec.24: Why not try these wonderful cookies.

After the success of my post on Christmas traditions in Greece, I thought the cooks amongst you might like to try making the butter cookies we call Kourambiedes. I found this recipe on a blog called Little Cooking Tips, which I highly recommend to those interested in Greek cooking. The authors, Mirella and Panos, post lots of yummy recipes accompanied by mouth-watering pictures. Here I re-blogged the whole post on Kourambiedes, so you can get a taste – of the blog, and the cookies! They have a unique crumbly texture and buttery taste. I like to make the cookies quite small, but that’s personnal preference.

Greek Christmas Butter Cookies: Kourambiedes
Photo and text by Panos Diotis and Mirella Kaloglou.

imageCalories (per serving): 206
Servings: 12+ slices/pieces
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Up until the last couple of weeks the weather was very kind to us here in Greece; lots of sunshine and warm temperatures allowed for long walks and enjoying the scenery. If the leaves hadn’t fallen off the trees, one may had the impression it was spring, not autumn! This changed a few days ago and it seems that the winter is finally here. The first snow has fallen up in the mountains, especially in the north, helping us get into the festive mood, which is appropriate for Christmas and the New Year celebration!

Of course, the winter was already here, providing us with lots of its yummy fruits and veggies. We especially enjoyed the quinces, made quince spoon sweet (you can read more about spoon sweets here) and cooked a wonderful ancient Greek recipe with roasted pork and quinces, which Panos learned from his grandfather (and he learned it from his own grandfather before). It’s a very old recipe and of course we’ll share it in the blog at some point.

imageFresh carrots are also amazing this time of year, and a very versatile ingredient. We used them in soups (especially fasolada bean soup), in coleslaw, made carrot cakes, and so on and so forth:)

Another delicious sweet fruit you can enjoy this time of year is the persimmon. If you haven’t tried them before, you’re missing out. They usually have a mild aroma and are very juicy and sweet. They’re packed with vitamins and full of antioxidants. You should’ve seen us devouring those like we were kids, all smiling and making a mess.

imageDo you remember the green oranges back in the summer? Check them out in the photo of this post! Ripe and sweet, this year’s oranges are perhaps the best in years. And for some strange reason the trees in Evia were very generous, we got much more than we can eat, turn into jams, preserves etc. So we started sharing them with friend, like an Orange Santa, passing by on a weekly basis.

Speaking of Santa, we’re so excited the Christmas season is here! Greek Christmas food is delicious and full of memories of older times. Just like anywhere in the world where people celebrate this season, the food this time is special, is shared with family and friends and it’s this loving setting that sears those memories in our minds and makes them so unique.

The main ingredient of the season is pork. Back in the day people didn’t consume much meat, but they raised a pig which was slaughtered around Christmas and then shared in a large table with family and friends. Some of the parts were also used in sausages, while others were put in salt or were smoked, in order to preserve some of the meat for the next weeks. By the way if you’ve never tried Greek sausages, called Horiatiko Loukaniko, you must try them at least once!

Another popular recipe this time of year is chicken avgolemono (egg-lemon) soup. It’s a creamy delicious soup, usually including rice, which is served with lots of fresh ground pepper and artisan old-school bread. Even as we type those lines and remembered all about it, we’re drooling over the keyboard 🙂

imageA big part of the Greek Christmas tradition is of course the sweet treats:melomakarona, kourabiedes and diples. Melomakarona and kourabiedes are the most popular ones, and if you’re in Greece around Christmas you’re bound to fall in love with them. You will find them in every household, any pastry shop, even in super markets and grocery stores. When you’re a guest, you know you’ll be treated a melomakarono (singular for melomakarona) or a kourabies (singular for kourabiedes). And even though you most certainly will have tasted many of them already, you will devour this treat with pleasure.

Melomakarona and kourabiedes are traditionally a made at home. When we were kids ourselves, singing carols, many neighbors were giving us kourabiedes or melomakarona as a holiday treat. Back at home of course, we also had our families’ versions.

They’re pronounced “koo-ra-bee-ye-thes”, and yes, it’s not that easy for a non-Greek speaking person to say the word! But, if you only say “kourab-yeh” to any Greek, he will know what you’re asking for, and give you the proper cookie. With a big smile on his/her face.

imageThose traditional, shortbread butter cookies include almonds, lots of powdered sugar, vanilla and usually rosewater or other flower water. Edible rosewater (or flower water), adds an amazing scent to those cookies. But we know it may be difficult to find in some places (it’s available online though). If you do buy it, you will make traditional kourabiedes with exceptional aroma. If you’re thinking that it’s something you’ll buy once and then it’ll stay on your pantry gathering dust, that’s not the case.

There are many recipes which call for rosewater, plus you can try it in cookies, cakes and other desserts you already bake and create something different and delicious! Try substituting vanilla with flower water and you’ll get the idea:) People who may not like the aroma of rosewater or flower water may also try adding bitter almond liqueur (Amaretto) which also makes for wonderful kourabiedes.

The main ingredient for kourabiedes is of course, butter. You want to use the best quality butter you can afford in this recipe. It will define the texture and taste of the cookies. The traditional way to make kourabiedes is with sheep’s or goat’s milk butter. The flavor is a bit intense for any non-Greek, plus it’s a bit hard to find abroad. That’s why we used regular cow’s butter in this recipe. Feel free to use any type of butter you prefer, or even mix of butters (like half sheep’s butter and half cow’s butter). If you can get the famous – in Greece -Corfu butter give it a try, it’s pure, excellent quality butter.

imageRegarding the shape of those cookies, some people may be confused due to the variety. There are 3 main shapes for kourabiedes: thick round cookies, crescents and balls. We think the easiest and nicest are the thick round cookies, as the shape helps in stacking up the cookies in layers, as they’re traditionally served. As for the size of the cookies, they may be large ones (about 40gr/1.5oz of dough per cookie), or smaller bite-size ones. The ones sold in pastry shops are usually bite-sized, and the homemade ones are usually larger.

So go ahead and give them a try! You won’t regret baking those, your home will be filled with the aroma of butter and rosewater, and you’ll enjoy dusting them with lots and lots of icing sugar. They’re both pretty and delicious! So follow the recipe below and make some festive Greek cookies!

Ingredients:

– 500gr / 17.5oz / 1.1 lb (4 cups) all purpose flour
– 250gr / 9oz butter (2 sticks and 1/4), softened (room temperature, see preparation)
– 150gr / 5.5oz (1 1/4 cups) powdered sugar
– 150gr / 5.5oz (about 1 cup) almonds, unsalted and toasted
– 1 egg yolk (use a large egg)
– 1 teaspoon baking powder, and more for dusting the cookies
– 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or vanilla powder
– edible rosewater or other flower water

Preparation:
Remove the butter from the fridge at least a couple of hours before using it. This will allow it to soften. Chopping it to pieces also helps.

imageIf using raw almonds, place them in a single layer on a lined baking sheet/pan and bake them for 10-15 minutes at 180C/350F (preheated oven) (pic. 1). Grind the toasted almonds in small pieces, using a food processor. Do not grind them into powder.

imageMaking the cookies:

In a large bowl, beat the butter (pic.2) for 8-10 minutes, using a stand mixer or an electric hand mixer on medium-high speed (until soft and fluffy, pic.3).

imageAdd the powdered sugar (pic.4) and beat for 10 more minutes until you get a “whipped cream” -like result (pic. 5).

imageAdd baking powder, vanilla (pic. 6) and mix with a rubber spatula. Add the egg yolk (pic. 7) and mix until it’s incorporated.

imageAdd 1 tablespoon of rosewater or flower water and mix (pic. 8). Start adding the flour (pic. 9), a couple of tablespoons at a time. Mix with the spatula each time you add some.

imageWhen you’ve added half the flour, you’ll get a fluffy, almost rubbery dough (pic. 10). At this point add the rest of the flour at once, wear single-use gloves and start mixing with your hands (pic. 11). Do not overmix. Once the flour is incorporated,stop.
Important: USE the gloves in the recipe. It will help insulating the warmth of your hands (to avoid melting the butter as you mix).

imageAdd the ground almonds (pic. 12) and fold them into the dough. Shape the cookies (pic. 13). If using 40gr/1.5oz of dough per cookie, you’ll make about 25 cookies.

imagePlace the cookies in a lined baking dish/pan (pic. 14) and bake for 15-18 minutes in the middle rack (use the oven fan in preheated oven). Remove from the oven,let them cool for 2-3 minutes, and then place them on a rack to dry out (pic. 15). Let them to cool completely.

imageSpray them with rosewater or flower water (pic. 16) and dust them with powdered sugar (pic. 17). Be generous with both.

Your yummy treats are ready, place them in cookie box or a cake stand with a lid, in layers.
Kala Christougenna and Kali Chronia!

Tips:
1. You can use sheep, goat or cow butter or mix them. In any case, choose high quality butter for this recipe.
2. You can shape the kourabiedes in thick round cookies (like we did here), crescents or balls.
3. Leave a little space between the cookies before you bake them, as they will expand during baking.
4. If you want to make more cookies, feel free to double the ingredients above. The result is exactly the same.
5. If you don’t like rosewater or flower water (or can’t find any), add some vanilla powder in the icing sugar when you dust the cookies at the end of the recipe.
6. Always wear single-use gloves when you mix the dough and shape the cookies, to insulate the heat from your hands.

Try making these for Christmas or the New Year!

Source: http://athensletters.com/2015/12/21/a-christmas-treat/

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BRITAIN: People #starving in the world & people worry about misshapen #vegetables – well Morrison’s have today put them back on the shelves – hurrah for common sense


#AceFoodNews – Dec.19: Finally common sense rules as today Morrisons has put misshapen vegetables back on its shelves following criticism for wasting food.

The supermarket chain has reported rising sales of potatoes and carrots from a trial of “wonky” seasonal vegetables in stores in Yorkshire and the north-east.

An earlier attempt to sell misshapen courgettes was branded “pathetic” by celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

The wonky vegetables are chosen by farmers because they are either misshapen, have growth cracks or are smaller or larger than average.

They are often discounted by around a third of the price because customers may need to spend more time peeling them, or might not be able to use the whole of the vegetable.

The trial began in 75 stores in December and will be expanded to another 75 stores, including supermarkets in the Midlands.

Morrisons said initial sales had been “promising“.

Independent.co.uk

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FEATURED: Everything You Know About #Latkes Is Wrong


lead_large.jpgTim Sackton / Flickr

#AceFoodNews – Dec.11: In 1927, when the word “latke” made its English debut, The American Mercury defined the Hanukkah delicacy as “luscious … pancakes made of grated, raw potatoes, mixed with flour and shortening.” Almost 90 years later, Jews are still frying the potato pancakes, and serving them up as a holiday treat. “The point of latkes at Hanukkah is not the potato but the oil,” Joan Nathan explained to her readers in The New York Times this year. “What matters is the recounting of the miracle of one night’s oil lasting eight nights in the temple over 2,000 years ago.”

Each year, Jews throughout the United States mark the holiday by frying grated potatoes in olive oil, savoring a treat that is, as Nathan put it, “traditional, nostalgic and crispy.”

Or, at least, crispy. Because there’s nothing traditional about the contemporary American latke. Virtually every element of it is a lie. Delicious? Yes. Traditional? Not in the slightest.

Let’s start with the oil. There weren’t a whole lot of olive trees in the Eastern European lands from which many Jews emigrated to the United States. In the Old World, the common cooking fat was schmaltz—rendered from chickens, geese, or beef. And, in fact, the Mercury specified that latkes were to be “fried in schmaltz.”

But on this side of the Atlantic, Jews soon began to use Crisco—memorably marketed as the miracle for which “the Hebrew Race had been waiting 4,000 years.” When shortening fell from favor, it was replaced by olive oil, allowing Hebrew-school teachers and pulpit rabbis across the country to connect the pancakes to the story of Chanukah. Because if not for the oil, why are Jews celebrating the holiday by frying potatoes in the first place?

Which is a good question. Potatoes, after all, are Andean tubers. They arrived in Europe in the 16th century, but weren’t widely cultivated in Eastern Europe for another 200 years. By the early 19th century, though, they were a staple crop in the lands with large Jewish populations, most often consumed boiled or mashed. Shredding them and frying them in schmaltz elevated a dull staple into a luxurious holiday treat.

But when the landmark Art of Jewish Cooking explained in 1958 that these were the pancakes “which the wives of the soldiers of the ancient hero Judah Maccabee hurriedly cooked for their men behind the lines,” it was off by a couple millennia. One thing we know for certain about the Hasmoneans, heroes of the Hannukah tale? They weren’t eating potatoes.

So what was a latke before the arrival of the potato? Still a pancake, but made from grain—most commonly buckwheat or rye—and fried in schmaltz. That’s what there was in the early winter in those frozen lands, as Gil Marks details in his magisterial Encyclopedia of Jewish Food.

But buckwheat and rye are northerly crops. How did Jews celebrate the festival before they migrated away from the Mediterranean shores? The latke, it turns out, has its roots in an old Italian Jewish custom, documented as early as the 14th century. That, it seems, is where Jews first fried pancakes to celebrate Chanukah. Only back then, they were made of cheese.

Cheese? Well, yes. The original latkes were, effectively, deep-fried ricotta. They honored the custom of celebrating the holiday by consuming dairy goods.

Hold on. Dairy goods? The custom was based on the story of Judith. She seduced a general named Holofernes, who came at the head of an invading army, by feeding him and plying him with wine. As he slipped into an alcoholic stupor, she seized his hair and hacked off his head with a sword. Then she tucked it in with her picnic provisions, left his camp, and presented it to the people of her town to mount on the wall. The terrified invaders fled, and the land was saved.

The 14th century, it seems, is when Jews first fried pancakes to celebrate Chanukah. Only back then, they were made of cheese.

Did you miss the part about the cheese? Well, it’s not in the standard text, or in the ancient variants—except for an obscure Syriac version. The Book of Judith—like the books of I and II Maccabees, which relate the story of Chanukah—is not even in the Jewish Bible; it’s an apocryphal text. All three, however, were included in the Bibles of Catholic Europe. Whether through an unbroken chain of transmission, or more probably, as a story adapted from the version preserved in the Vulgate, the tale of Judith began to circulate again in Medieval Jewish communities.

And in one of those Hebrew versions, Judith feeds Holofernes two pancakes, salted and mixed with cheese. That version may have reflected an existing rabbinic tradition, but more likely inserted these details as allusions to other Biblical episodes. But either way, medieval Jewish legal codes soon recorded the custom of eating cheese to honor Judith, variously the sister or aunt of Judah Maccabee.

Clear enough? Only, it turns out, there’s another twist. The story of Judith is actually set hundreds of years before the time of the Maccabees, even though many scholars now believe it was composed in the Hasmonean period. There’s nothing in it to connect Judith to Judah Maccabee, save the similarity of their names; no explicit reason to tie Judith to the celebration of Hanukkah. But without ready access to the book itself, it appears that Medieval Jews conflated Judith’s story with the Hanukkah tale.

So what’s a latke?

It’s a shredded Andean tuber, fried like a buckwheat pancake, which was substituted for Italian cheeses, once eaten to honor a mistaken reading of obscure variants of an apocryphal text.

But it’s crispy, and delicious.

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French MPs vote unanimously to force supermarkets to give away unsold food on anti-waste Bill


#AceFoodNews – Dec.11: Anti-food waste proposal, described as ‘a crucial measure for the planet’, passed unanimously in the Assemblée Nationale

French MPs have voted unanimously to force supermarkets to give away unsold food that has reached its sell-by date. Shops will also be banned from destroying food products, as they have in the past – sometimes by soaking them in bleach – to prevent them being distributed.

The proposal was passed as part of another law in May but was subsequently annulled by France’s constitutional court because of procedural faults.

Guardian.com

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Famed Cornish oysters given EU protected status alongside Stilton & Clotted cream


#AceFoodNews – Dec.11: Fal Oyster Ltd cleared to claim protected designation of origin status – the same afforded to Stilton cheese and Cornish clotted cream

For centuries fishermen and women have gathered oysters from the river Fal in Cornwall using only sail or oar to propel their vessels. Now the delicacy boasts the same sort of European Union protection afforded to the producers of Stilton cheese, Shetland lamb and Jersey royal potatoes.

Chris Ranger, who runs Fal Oyster Ltd, has been cleared to claim PDO (protected designation of origin) status for his molluscs.

Guardian.com

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Students fed up with substandard food bring their own provisions and boycott Roosevelt’s school


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#AceFoodNews – Dec.08: Students at Albany Park’s Theodore Roosevelt High School, fed up with the quality of school lunches, brought their own food to the 3436 W. Wilson Ave. school today in hopes a boycott of school lunch will bring about a change in the program administrated by Philadelphia-based food service company Aramark.

Original Article: http://www.chicagotribune.com/

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