3 Lessons from Shabbat on the Farm

1. Start with great seasonal ingredients, and build a menu from there.

For this Shabbat on the Farm meal, we asked the farmers what they had ready to harvest, what they had lots of, and then we set about planning a menu to showcase those ingredients.  Each course highlighted a vegetable, the preparation and seasoning just brought out the naturally amazing flavors of produce at its seasonal peak. When you’re working with local, fresh produce, you don’t want to do too much to complicate something amazing.

  • First Course: Babaganoush (smoked eggplant and tahini sauce) with eggplant chips
  • Second Course: Cucumber gazpacho with lacto-fermented cucumber relish and fennel
  • Third Course: Spicy greens mix with a mint, parsley, basil, and charred green pepper dressing
  • Fourth Course: Cooked summer squash with squash sauce and squash stem noodles
  • Dessert: Tomato sorbet with ground cherry reduction

2. The intersection of agriculture and Jewish law:

Many Jewish laws and teachings concern agriculture, in today’s modern urban Jewish communities, these laws may feel irrelevant.  But the choices we make in what we eat and where we get our food from are inherently related to agriculture, even if those farms feel very far away.  Here in D.C., we hosted our Shabbat at a farm 2 miles outside the city and almost every ingredient was sourced directly from the farm where the event was held.  By joining a local CSA or shopping at a farmers markets you can cut down on carbon emissions used to transport your food to the store, preservatives needed to keep your food fresh, and become a conscientious part of your local food ecosystem.

More than half of Jewish agriculture law concerns providing food for those in need, we are commanded to leave the corners of our field (or pe’ah) for those who need food.  By hosting our event at a local non-profit farm which provides food to residents of Prince George’s county, we were able to support the notion of pe’ah without having our own farm.

3. Don't waste, it's the law.

Bal Taschit is the biblical law against waste, it is prohibited to cut down a fruit tree even in times of war because the tree has a purpose, to produce food. The commentary goes on to say, “not only one who cuts down a fruit tree, but anyone who destroys household goods, tears clothing, demolishes a building, stops up a spring, or ruins food deliberately, violates the prohibition of Bal Tashchit, do not destroy.“ When we are attentive and treat all our resources as precious – time, money, materials, earth’s resources – we properly appreciate them all.  

At Shabbat especially, we can take time to reduce our waste and appreciate what we have. At our dinner, we used parsley stems in the salad dressing, stems from the zucchini plant to make ziti for the squash dish, and the tops of the fennel to garnish the gazpacho. Save your vegetable scraps to make a stock and your next Shabbat can fulfill the Jewish values of slowing down, gathering community, and reducing waste at the same time.

Amanda Herring

Amanda is the JOFEE fellow for OneTable, bringing food justice, sustainability, and Jewish food values to the Shabbat dinner table. Amanda has a Master’s in Experiential Education and Jewish Cultural Arts from GW. This position was made possible by a grant from The Morningstar Foundation and the United Jewish Endowment Fund of The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, through Hazon’s JOFEE fellowship program.

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