Where to Shop, Cheese and Crackers and the Post-Apocalyptic Book Club

Sharon October 6th, 2008

Ok, various and sundry this morning.  The first issue is that it is Monday morning – where is your post-apocalyptic novel discussion?  I’m really sorry that we never did get to Caryl Johnston’s _After the Crash_ – unfortunately, the first copy I purchased was missing large chunks of the pages, and was unreadable, and I still have not received the replacement.  And, of course, we’re on to a new month.  I will fit it in somewhere, though, so don’t feel bad if you’ve read it. 

And, of course, in the chaos I forgot to tell everyone what were reading next.  This is October, our “Reader Choice” month, and you voted that we should read novels about societies that regress to indigenous/hunter gatherer levels.  So we’re doing that.  First up in George Stewart’s classic _Earth Abides_ and that will be followed by Ursula LeGuin’s _Always Coming Home_.  I think it will be a good month, and we’ll start up again next Monday.  Apologies for my failure to be more organized.

 Next, I was hoping I could draw upon my reader’s copious wisdom. I’m running an event at my synagogue, Congregation Agudat Achim in Niskayuna, NY, that I’m very excited about – we’re bringing Rabbi Everett Gendler, founder of the Environmental Jewish movement to our shul to discuss both Green Judaism and his work on non-violent resistance with Tibetan Refugees.  And this is part of an overall transition my synagogue is making towards environmental awareness – we’re offering local foods menus, working on a retrofit and making better use of the greenspace, and talking about solar panels.  It really pleases me to be able to be part of a small-scale, community level move towards a more aware and secure Jewish life.

 Why am I telling you this?  Well, if you are interested and live in the area, you might want to check it out the weekend of November 9th – and I’ll post more info about it a bit later.  But right now, I need some help.  Because I need to help find reasonably local cheese and crackers (yeah, ideally we’d make them, but it isn’t going to happen) that are also KOSHER.  I don’t know what cheeses made within 150-200 miles of New York are kosher (because we’re slacker conservative Jews and eat cheese without certification ;-) ) - that means Vermont, Massachusetts, the adjoining parts of Canada, Long Island, Eastern PA and Northern NJ.  We’re also looking for crackers, ideally made from local ingredients but we’ll settle if everything isn’t local, also kosher.  And I need to know what the heksher is on both cheese and crackers (a heksher, for those not in the know, is the little symbol on any processed food that indicates it has been made in a kosher way and facility – you’ve seen the little U with a circle around it and other variations before) – because some are not acceptable.  So I need to know the name of the brand, where to get it, and what the little symbol is (often they have a K, V or U on it, if you are trying to figure it out).

So if you have any brilliant suggestions (and even better, for ones that *TASTE GOOD*) I’d be very grateful if you’d post them in comments or email me at [email protected].  I swore to the committee that I could find us local, sustainably produced, kosher crackers and cheese, and I’d hate to go back and admit I couldn’t do it ;-) .  So I throw myself on your generosity.

Finally, I do want to reiterate something for new readers.  I’ve done several posts in the last few months about buying emergency stores at supermarkets, chain stores, warehouses etc… And I do want to just remind people that that information is out there for people who have no other choices, either because they haven’t prepared in advance or because they truly must buy the cheapest option.  I don’t want to sit in judgement of the poor, who need food of any kind.  But I do want to remind you of what my regular readers will remember has been a consistent message – that where you buy your food matters. 

But it is really important to remember that the money you invest in food represents a vote with your dollars for the kind of food system we’re going into this crisis with.  If you spend thousands of dollars at CostCo, you will be putting money into the industrial food system, reinforcing it, sustaining it, and not putting those dollars into the local farmers who you may rely on in the coming years. If enough people do this, they may not be there.

There are times and people for whom spending more isn’t a choice.  But if you aren’t one of them yet, it is important to remember that where you get your reserve is as important as having it.  Buying from local farmers, or even not-quite-so-local independent farmers, buying direct from producers or through coops and fair trade programs is essential.  If we don’t, we risk being less prepared going into this.

Even those struggling financially can sometimes find sustainably produced choices that are inexpensive – you can glean fields, gather fruit from trees that would otherwise land on the ground, dumpster dive, buy produce at the end of the day, make use of parts of plants and animals that others don’t know what to do with.  It is a challenge – but that challenge is not only worth it in a moral sense, it is essential to our future security.  So yes, build your stores.  But remember that how you build them matters – you can build local systems or you can destroy them with your dollars.  All of us sometimes make destructive economic choices.  But our responsibility is to reduce that impact, to do less harm, to minimize what we are doing, and to do as much good as we can with our dollars and our time.


27 Responses to “Where to Shop, Cheese and Crackers and the Post-Apocalyptic Book Club”

  1. Hummingbirdon 06 Oct 2008 at 8:18 am

    OK about the book club. I couldn’t find a copy of Caryl Johnston’s book and had decided not to buy one. Fortunately I read Earth Abides decades ago and remember it pretty well, because that is not in my library either, though the Le Guin is–however I couldn’t do more than skim it because of the unreadable format. Surprising, because I have been a Le Guin fan of her other books. Looking forward to next week’s discussion.

  2. MEAon 06 Oct 2008 at 8:24 am

    In the 80s there were kosher delies in NYC that made mozeralla on the premises — but I don’t know where the milk came from or how to track this down. Do you have contacts in NYC who might know?

    MEA the lazy

  3. Colleenon 06 Oct 2008 at 8:27 am

    Hi Sharon-
    Vermont Butter & Cheese offers some kosher items; looks like mostly butters and soft cheeses. The website list the items as KOF-K.


    I think their cultured butter is yummy.
    I hope this helps. Good Luck in your quest.

  4. MEAon 06 Oct 2008 at 8:29 am

    This might help — not the small cottage industry we were hoping for with happy local goats running free on mountians, but it sounds as if the milk comes from NJ and NY.

    “In recent year�s World has faced competition from Brooklyn-based Ahava Foods, owned by Iranian born Moshe Banayan. In the late �80�s Banayan made waves when he sought to break the price monopoly of several Cholov Yisroel milk companies. He teamed up with New Jersey-based Farmland Dairies, who solicited the support of the Orthodox Jewish community, headed by New York City Councilman Noach Dear, in winning the right to sell milk in New York State in return for his promise to introduce cheaper Cholov Yisroel products. Marc Goldman made good on his pledge by introducing Goldman�s Milk, which Ahava distributed to the Orthodox Jewish community. The milk was heavily marketed as being of better quality and fair-priced, which soon helped Ahava expand the market even in modern Orthodox neighborhoods which previously bought non-Cholov Yisroel milk. Prices for all Cholov Yisroel soon dropped and Banayan was hailed as a hero in some circles.

    Ahava next took on the giant Tropicana with his newly introduced New Square brand, which also became the brand name for his milk, when he severed ties with Goldman�s and bought his own milk production plant. His newly purchased upstate New York Lewis County Dairy soon gave him the production capacity not only for milk but for ice cream mix and cheese as well, cutting into the share of his competitors in all segments of the kosher dairy industry. Although a very old plant, Banayan slowly brought it back to life and after several managers is said to have retained a renowned and skilled manager. Industry sources say that the Thurms attempted to buy the cheese portion of the Ahava business, but Banayan refused. His Rabbi is said to have ruled that although profits were important, Banayan was to keep prices down for kosher consumers.

    From http://www.jewishworldreview.com/kosher/cheese1.asp

    MEA who is not only lazy, but really, really bored doing re-cats at work.

  5. MEAon 06 Oct 2008 at 8:41 am

    Is Westchester county local to you? Five Spoke Creamery — they use vegetable enzymes. No idea what sort of kosher they are, though, so I’ve emailed them about the heksher.

  6. WOW Traineeon 06 Oct 2008 at 8:56 am

    Off topic but possibly helpful. Near Nevada, Mo is the Kirthcart Orchard whose owners can really use help. The 80 some year old owners have heavily loaded apple trees. Due to family illness & death, they have limited resources. For about $10/bushel, the owners will allow you to gather as many apples as you wish. Even with travel expense, this might be one of those saving/storage opportunities. The owners also make great tasting cider. Right now, lots of beautiful apples are falling to the ground and rotting. Helen

  7. WOW Traineeon 06 Oct 2008 at 9:23 am

    Still of topic but on to food & storage. In this area are a number of Conservation Areas and State Parks camping. A number of the camp sites have electrical access and of course potable water. I envision camping and preserving local grown foods. The surrounding area is rolling wooded grasslands. The real Ozarks are further south. There’s also good fishing and hunting areas here.
    So far, the fall weather staying comfortable. I can see how this might be a working getaway. It’s possible that people can locate other nearby places.

  8. Brendaon 06 Oct 2008 at 9:38 am

    Sharon – consider yourself lucky to not have read After the Crash. Seriously, don’t. It’s one of very few books where I wish I could get the time I spent reading it back. And my money. Best, – B

  9. Charleyon 06 Oct 2008 at 9:39 am

    If it is a conservative congregation then it may be possible (consult the Rabbi) to simply use cheese with microbial rennet but no supervision. CJLS has passed a tshuvah that microbial rennet is acceptable, see:

    Kassel Abelson, “The Kashrut of Microbial Enzymes” YD 87:10.1994

    about a third of the way down the page under Meat and Milk

    You (or you and the Rabbi) may want to call a local cheesemaker and inquire as to their production methods, if they use only microbial rennet then the Rabbi has the prerogative to accept it in the shul’s kitchen.


  10. Anion 06 Oct 2008 at 9:41 am

    re; kosher cheese and crackers-can’t think of any here in Vt that have a heksher off the top of my head- although someone on the list said some of VT Butter and Cheese products do, so perhaps- what I do for my visiting kosher keeping pals is offer them cheese made by people I know who use vegetable rennet- no heksher but I can vouch for their process(I used to do organic certification inspections so am familiar with their processes). No idea of any kosher local crackers either…

    I think Mass.might be a possibility for crackers though…..

    but why don’t you make the cheese and crackers??( in your spare time of course ;-) )

  11. Rosaon 06 Oct 2008 at 10:03 am

    Hummingbird, Always Coming Home is my absolutely favorite LeGuin book, but I like digressions and footnotes and anthropological stuff.

    That said, you might like it better if you don’t read it in order – go through and mark all the Stone Telling chapters with post-its, read those, and then go back and read whichever parts interest you (I like the play/ballet, and Pandora’s notes might be more interesting after you finish the story part, and there’s a section about how young people become adults that I think is outside the Stone Telling part that’s really beautiful.)

    Also, i just had to say that I finally finished Dies the Fire and I wish someone had said “Just don’t read the last chapter.” SO CHEESY. Jeez. It was so slow at the beginning and then things picked up a lot but, really, I was getting the mythic parallels on my own without the baby naming ceremony.

  12. Sharonon 06 Oct 2008 at 10:09 am

    Thanks for the info, everyone. I’ll take any recommendations you have.

    Because our shul’s caterer sells food to the wider Jewish community, Conservative cheese standards aren’t sufficient – we need certification and specific certifications, I’m afraid. Which is also why I can’t make it, even if I had time, which I don’t – my kitchen is not Rabbinically supervised ;-) .


  13. Susan in NJon 06 Oct 2008 at 11:33 am

    A very good Vermont made soda/saltine type cracker (round or square) is made by Westminster Cracker in Rutland and marketed at retail as Olde Cape Cod. I asked my partner (remotely) to check the box for kosher markings and he couldn’t find any, I’ll look when I get home or you might try emailing them. The fat is high-oleic canola oil (trans-fat free), the label is “all natural”, these are not organic or wholegrain by any means but quite tasty in a subtle way. There’s no dairy or meat products in the cracker (I know that doesn’t make them kosher but just pointing out why they might be worth checking out). Retail we buy them at Christmas Tree store and have also seen them recently at other groceries. They are available by mail from various Vermont specialty retailers.

  14. Adam Ekon 06 Oct 2008 at 11:44 am

    I really like Cabot Cheddar (Hunter seriously sharp and Extra Sharp). It’s made by a farmer’s co-op in northern Vermont. It normally has a Tablet-K hecsher, but they also make a batch of OU once a year.

    Some of their mixed and flavored cheeses are not kosher due to the flavorings.

  15. Anion 06 Oct 2008 at 11:52 am

    wow- Adam- I looked at my Cabot cheese label again and you are right- I don’t know anything about the tablet-K heksher though-but worth following up on Sharon- Cabot makes loads of cheese right here in North Central Vermont-

  16. kateon 06 Oct 2008 at 12:15 pm

    Wow. Here is a third vote for Vermont’s Cabot cheese. I am a big fan of Hunter seriously sharp — eating it as I write!

    Sharon, if you need anything in Vermont that is sold in Rutland, I can see about picking it up for you, and you can pay me back later. We’ve never met, but I’m local (Albany) and have a camp 15 miles outside Rutland. (My sis used to teach in the BKW school district, so I know a bit about your area.)

    I thought it was a way to stay local and reduce a carbon footprint, since I am going anyway. I will head back to VT this weekend, and probably make one or two more round trips before you need everything.

    Just a thought.

    I put the November event on my calendar.


  17. [...] Casaubon’s Book » Blog Archive » Where to Shop, Cheese and Crackers and the Post-Apocalyptic Boo… Ok, various and sundry this morning. The first issue is that it is Monday morning – where is your post-apocalyptic novel discussion? I’m really sorry that we never did get to Caryl Johnston’s _After the Crash_ – unfortunately, the first copy I purchased was missing large chunks of the pages, and was unreadable, and I still have not received the replacement. And, of course, we’re on to a new month. I will fit it in somewhere, though, so don’t feel bad if you’ve read it. [...]

  18. SurvivalTopics.comon 06 Oct 2008 at 1:39 pm

    Yes, you vote with your dollars. Make the right choices – buy locally when possible, then from your region, then from America, and lastly from China.

  19. AnnMarieon 06 Oct 2008 at 2:28 pm

    I haven’t been reading you all that long, so perhaps you’ve addressed this, but there’s something I’m wondering about food storage that I haven’t seen addressed. Particularly from those who advocate an entire year’s worth of storage, then “eat from storage” in order to rotate (I don’t think you’ve said that, but I’m reading a lot of these blogs and not certain I keep everyone straight).

    I eat seasonally. So I pretty much only eat tomatoes from June-Sept with the exception of those I can and some purchased tomato sauces (very little). I rarely eat soup from a can, making my own from fresh, frozen, or dehydrated veggies from my garden. I eat apples from Oct-April, when my winter stores finally end, plus some cider and applesauce which usually runs out in June. When the fruits frozen in summer end, we don’t buy at the store. And so on. When we do eat veggies from the store, it’s usually frozen veggies not canned. (I also do some canning, drying, freezing of my own so we do eat a variety throughout the winter.)

    Do I only store things like beans, rice, pasta, wheat, peanut butter, and other items I would never grow on my own? Or should I also stock up on soup, stocks, and canned veggies? But what happens when they aren’t eaten in a year, since we wouldn’t usually eat them? Do I hope that my garden (and the farmer’s market and CSA) will still be viable should emergency happen and just focus on things I can’t find in those manners? Or should I perhaps have a month’s worth of store-canned foods around just in case, and then donate them to a food pantry once a year and stock up again?

    I LOVE your blog! I remember running across it a year or so ago but didn’t follow up on subscribing. Someone rec’d it again to me recently and I really wish I’d subscribed a year ago!!!!

  20. AnnMarieon 06 Oct 2008 at 3:08 pm

    Okay, I decided to take the time to read through some of your categorized posts and I think I get it more now. I did come to the right place to start asking the question as it sounds like your family eats like my family is (trying) to! I’m still not sure whether to stock up on canned stuff for the “oh my god” sort of emergency though. Then again, I’m still going through old posts and that might come up……again, wish I’d started reading long ago!

  21. Anion 06 Oct 2008 at 3:28 pm

    Ann Marie-

    Your eating habits sound kinda like mine- I grow all my own produce pretty much and also have eggs from the chickens. My “stocking up” tends to amount to mostly stuff I don’t grow- flour, honey, oils, peanut butter, coffee, chocolate, pasta- that sort of thing. I store potatoes,onions,dried beans, etc, plus the fruits and vegies I dry, can or freeze- and that’s pretty much it. I have the occasional can of soup or something around- but never usually get around to eating it- actually whatever I’ve got of that sort must be really old- I should look it over- must be a couple of cans around in the pantry-since I too make my own soups etc- I haven’t figured there is much point to storing that sort of stuff as I don’t like it and I have the ingredients to cook from scratch anyway…..

  22. Anion 06 Oct 2008 at 3:29 pm

    Sharon- if you need anything from here in VT, let me know….

  23. Susan in NJon 06 Oct 2008 at 5:32 pm

    The Olde Cape Cod crackers have a U.

  24. Sharonon 07 Oct 2008 at 7:48 am

    Thank you all for the help – this is enormously helpful!!! I really, really appreciate it.

    Ann Marie, like you, I mostly eat seasonally, although I do preserve food. If you are root cellaring or storing squash, cabbage, turnips, onions, potatoes, carrots, etc…. there probably isn’t any need to store anything but basic staples. If worst comes to worst, and you can’t get any greens, you can always sprout your wheat. If you are really worried about not having enough vegetables, and you haven’t canned a lot, the three canned things that I find most innocuous with the maximal amount of nutrition are 1. Canned pumpkin/sweet potato – high in vitamin A, canned pumpkin or sweet potato puree (not the icky stuff with sweet sauce) is not dissimilar to baked pumpkin and can be used almost any way. 2. Canned mustard greens. These are in no way like fresh greens, but are the least repulsive of the canned greens, and if you add them to beans and rice (along with the liquid that has most of the nutrition) are barely noticeable 3. Canned pineapple – not even remotely the same as fresh, still, it is good and good for you.

    So if I were going to buy canned goods, on the panic that I might not have any vegetables, those would be the ones. But I still prefer root cellared foods and home preserved, if that makes sense.


  25. Texicalion 07 Oct 2008 at 9:16 am

    I managed to read After the Crash, and I agree with Brenda. The future may be full of depressed and morose people who are filled with regret, but they dont make for a very good read. Not a whole lot to teach either, except that there is a future is scavenging. Which one might have guessed. Main story line included communal book writing, perhaps a good way to gather information; but more likely the committee from hell in my opinion. But then this being before the crash I will presumably understand in the future. If after the two rapturous reviews anybody still wants to read it, I am willing to mail you my copy.

  26. Evaon 07 Oct 2008 at 9:38 am

    Thanks for bringing the subject of conscious buying up here in your blog, Sharon.

    It would be a shame if in the rush to buy “a lot” food “cheap” we forget the very people who work so hard to bring us good food (small, local farmers).

    If we don’t support these farmers as a supplement to growing our own food all we’re left with is agribusiness with is a frightening prospect for many reasons (environment, sustainability, choice, rural employment, human rights, biodiversity, corporate power).

  27. Susan in NJon 07 Oct 2008 at 9:47 am

    I found a draft(?) partial (?) on the internet of After the Crash. It was enough for me too, too much really. The one thing I liked was people trading leg time on the bicycle generators in return for services/goods.

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