Category Archives: Family

How Yellow My Butter

Churning Butter

Got raw milk?

Over the last 10-11 years we have overhauled our pantry and refrigerator; we did away with  most of the processed foods, the polyunsaturated vegetable oils, bottled dressings, soy burgers, white flour, cold breakfast cereals, Betty Crocker, Skippy, and much more. Margarine, which we used sparingly before with meat or pareve foods, now  became a dirty word in our house. Instead, we bought cold pressed extra-virgin olive oil, coconut oil, palm oil, sea salt, whole-grain breads and flours, organic cake mixes, omega-3 eggs and free-range eggs, organic vegetables (price permitting), raw milk, organic butter, and many more natural and minimally- or un-processed foods. We started reading labels — if there were too many ingredients, additives, or other stuff that didn’t need to be in there, we put the “food” back on the shelf.  While not perfect (we all have our vices) we tried as much as we could to become (thanks to Dr. Harry Schick) adherents of Dr. Weston A. Price‘s nutritional philosophy and practitioners of “Politically Incorrect Nutrition.”

In Highland Park and Lakewood, NJ, where we lived while transforming our diet, we came to know where we could find the foods we wanted – which stores and which aisles. I got my organic butter, eggs, and vegetables in Shoprite (a large supermarket chain); organic grains, palm oil, and coconut oil from the health food stores or NPGS, a kosher supermarket in Lakewood, which also carried a selection of organic and natural foods and was often a little cheaper than Shoprite and the health food stores.  I really had it down pat by the time we were ready to make aliyah.

So, it was important to us that wherever we moved to in Israel we would have access to as much unadulterated, natural, and organic foods as possible.  Rehovot we were told, had at least 3 health food stores. But moving to a different country, or sometimes just to a different city, means that even though you had shopping down to a science before, you have to start from scratch all over again. I wasn’t quite prepared for that. Or the kashrut issues – mehadrin vs.  not mehadrin… private certifications… certifications (most) that require a magnifying glass to read… For Pesach we discovered products with two different types of certification on the same label – one certification indicating that the food was kosher but not Kosher for Passover and the  other certification specifically indicating that the item was Kosher for Passover. Huh? *

It’s gotten a lot easier since, but the first time I went to the supermarket I spent an eternity buying very few items. My knowledge of the Hebrew language  is more biblical than modern so words like resek  or tarkiz referring to (tomato) paste or sauce, respectively, were unfamiliar to me. And, a lot of additives are identified by E-numbers (probably makes it easier to hide chemicals that way).  So, besides figuring out what I was looking at on the shelf, I was checking prices, reading ingredients (to the best of my ability) and kashrut certifications (without the benefit of a magnifying glass). By the time I left the store, I had a tremendous headache and much gratitude to my new friend Rochelle who had taken me there and patiently waited while I had my first experience of supermarket shock.

We eventually found many of the items we were looking for. I was very relieved to  find yellow butter. Color is a significant indication of the nutritional value of the food; yellow is the color that butter should be, a sign that the cows were grass-fed and the butter contains the vitamins it should. It costs significantly more than the colorless Tnuva butter sold here since it’s imported, but so did the yellow organic butter we were buying in New Jersey, and I prefer nutrition. We were still searching for other items , and with yet others we weren’t sure about the reliability of their private kashrut certifications. It was beginning to become quiet distressing for me all around, until I realized that I had time. I would do what I could now and leave the rest until we were more settled, even if it was next year.

I remembered that the nutritional changes we made in the States took time… time till we absorbed the information we were reading and understood the pros and cons of the different products… time till we were able to incorporate them into our diet. It involved a lot more cooking; no more ready-to-eat blintzes, kugels, cakes and cookies with endless strange ingredients, and other prepared foods that contained ingredients nobody would have on their kitchen shelves, or ingredients I would no longer use, and canned goods were kept to a minimum. Eventually I started sprouting my own beans, soaking grains to remove the anti-nutrient phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors  which they contain, and other measures to ensure a more nutritious diet. Some things I found easier to do than others, some were more successful, and some fell by the wayside, to be picked up again at another time. It wasn’t planned this way, it just happened and I was okay with it. It was all part of the process.

Applying this “all part of the process” philosophy while acclimating to Israel, to the different variety of foods and related issues here, the different shopping experiences, and to other cultural and lifestyle differences as well, is helping to make our transition a lot easier and much more pleasant. Kol hatchalot kashot, all beginnings are difficult,  the Hebrew saying goes, but there’s no mitzvah in making it even harder by pressuring myself.

* We were told that the first agency, which certifies for the rest of the year, doesn’t certify the food for Passover; however, the second agency does. We are still stymied by this. Since the Passover labels are not  used all year round  it would be easy to remove the first certification which can only cause confusion.




We watched with much amusement Thursday afternoon as a truck was unloaded in the lot adjacent to our building, primarily used by the Chassidic school next door. What fun the students were having removing the wood scraps and boards that was its cargo. Imagine, a whole truck dedicated to delivering wood scraps for Lag Ba’Omer bonfires!

Lag Ba'Omer pyre

Lag Ba'Omer Pyre Under Construction. Photo courtesy of my daughter, Tova Lipson

On Friday we watched intermittently as they  hauled the wood  to another spot and proceeded to build a pyre. This, it turned out,  was serious business. As the first level was built probably a yard or more in height (don’t know what that is in meters), the scrap wood was encircled by what looked like a row of old window frames with a layer of wood on top, neatly covering the contents inside; the second  level built on the foundation that was the first level, was smaller in diameter, but just as high and solid. On top of that, the third level was even smaller in diameter, encircled in wood like the other two and covered on top as well. I could not fathom putting a match to that. Wasn’t that just a little bit too big to set ablaze next to the trees? (In the States they would never allow this. )

Motzoei Shabbat (Saturday night after the Sabbath was over) was the start of Lag Ba’Omer. We watched as kids lit small fires in various parts of the lot and barbeques were burning. Several families brought tables and chairs into the lot as well and proceeded to picnic.

The pyre was finally lit and as the blaze grew I could feel its heat, five flights up. The flames danced and bent in the wind, thank G-d not in the direction of the nearby tree. And the music played; there was singing and clapping and dancing. I watched the fire as it diminished but I understand that it was not totally out till the wee hours of the morning.

Sunday, all that was left was a pile of ash. Even today, a week later, remnants of that Lag Ba’Omer pyre are still evident, as are remnants of the smaller ones. Although the pyre is physically gone, I can still envision it. And I think to myself “how different the fabric of life is here”. And it fills my heart with warmth.


When the Siren Sounds

As new olim we are still often wondering “What should we do when the siren sounds?” Not the kind from an emergency vehicle, but a long siren that can be heard throughout the whole neighborhood. In Israel the siren means one of two things – it’s either a warning to run for shelter from an incoming missile (which we were told has not yet happened, thank G-d, here in Rehovot) or notice of a minute of silence. The first time we heard a siren, several months ago, we were unsure what to do but since no one outside was running to a shelter, we figured it was okay to go about our business. Apparently we weren’t the only Anglos in the dark since queries on the local Yahoo email list had others questioning the purpose of the siren as well. Ultimately it was revealed to be a test and that information could usually be found in advance about siren testing on YNet News, as well as the radio for those who are more fluent in the language. The other morning I heard a long siren and again looked out my window to see what I should do. Since no one was fleeing, I didn’t either, and went to check the YNet site for enlightenment. Realizing that it was Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, I understood that the siren had been an indication for everyone to stop what they were doing and stand still till it stops.

Not every moment of silence comes with a siren. Several months ago I was walking in the neighborhood listening to the news in Hebrew on my cell phone’s FM radio and heard something about remembering Gilad Shalit, but I didn’t quite understand the whole story. I continued walking for another couple of minutes until I came to a spot where everyone was just standing around near a truck which was unloading. It was really curious since nothing seemed to be going on and I couldn’t imagine that so many people had actually stopped to watch someone unload a truck. So I stopped, stood there, and waited, expecting that I’d eventually find out what was happening. Fortunately, enlightenment wasn’t too long in coming as the woman next to me was soon explaining to an inquiring newcomer – five minutes of silence for Gilad Shalit. Having heard the news before, it all fell into place, and I felt privileged to be able to participate for the remaining time.

a moment of silence during memorial day for th...

A Moment of Silence During Memorial Day. Image via Wikipedia Commons

I was prepared for the siren at eight o’clock last night, this one in commemoration of Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day. Many commemoration activities were taking place at that time and they began with a minute of silence. Although I was not able to attend, Andy and Tova did. Rav Simcha Hakohen Kook, Rehovot’s Chief, Rabbi spoke and although they did not understand everything that was said in Hebrew, they were there and counted. Whereas Memorial Day in the States has become another reason for stores to hold sales, in Israel it’s taken quite seriously. In fact, as the blog  A Soldier’s Mother explains:

It is sadly a bit unique in the world in that it is truly a day of mourning. There are no barbecues, no sales, no discounts, no playing on the beach. It is somber, it is heartbreaking, it is agonizing. Cafes, restaurants, movie theaters, etc. are all closed – by law and by desire, there are no places of entertainment open.

In this fledgling state that’s still fighting for its survival, too many people have friends and loved ones who have fallen. Even though we’ve only been here for 8 months so far, there is a great feeling of unity when the siren sounds as we have intertwined our destiny with all those who are living here. The siren sounded promptly at 11 AM this morning. We stood still for the duration.

Tomorrow we will celebrate Yom HaAtzmaut, Israel Independence Day. One would think these two couldn’t be farther apart, but in fact we only have one because of the other.