First-time writer-director Rama Burshtein’s moody matrimonial drama Fill the Void takes us into a religious and cultural world so insulated few outside its influence would even recognize it. Shot in Israel among the Haredim (the most conservative of Hasidic Jewish sects), it is a foreign film in every sense of the word.
From the very first frames, viewers can tell the adult-oriented French cartoon The Rabbi’s Cat is going to feature some lovely, bright animation and an exotic setting. That’s almost but not quite enough to leaven a muddled story that requires a bit too much contemplation. The film is based on the work of French comic book artist Joann Sfar, who wrote and directed the lavishly animated, mostly successful biopic Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life. Sfar co-writes and co-directs The Rabbi’s Cat, ensuring the artist’s vision is, for better or worse, fully preserved.
When I reach Joan Nathan at her home in D.C., I hear the rattling of pots and pans. She’s giving instructions to someone in the kitchen. “Is this a bad time?” I ask. “I can call later.” She tells me it’s fine—she’s just picking up after a fundraiser she hosted the previous evening with guest chef Alice Waters of Chez Panisse. Nathan, a two-time James Beard award-winning cookbook author and New York Times food columnist, is well-known for her PBS series "Jewish Cooking in America with Joan Nathan." We settle down to discuss her latest opus, Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France (Knopf, 2010).
It’s Hannukah. My parents invited the children up to their place last night to celebrate with a glazed ham. We’re those kinds of Jews. That is to say, we’re the Albuquerque sort of Jewish, which is much like the Albuquerque sort of Catholic—we love the gift-giving holidays and the food and the iconography, but we really can’t deal with the actual religion part. Also, we’re half-Catholic.
Pork is treif, off-limits to the chosen sons of Abraham. This is also proof that God has a terrific sense of humor, since He gave everyone I’ve met in His minions an unrequited love for bacon.
For Hannukah, since I have some making up to do, I give to you “In the business of making traif: My year in a pork rind factory” on JWeekly.com. I also give you Jews4Bacon.com, a store that peddles merchandise emblazoned with the baconated Star of David (or “Star of Bacon”) below:
Deuteronomy may have been right about a few things. It’s true, we shouldn’t have eaten pelicans, and we still shouldn’t. But bacon is delicious, and pigs are a lot cleaner than you think. Chickens and cows are dirty at least. And we’re allowed to eat stuffed derma? Derma? Who made these rules anyway? I don’t think they’ll make anything delicious out of pelicans, but c’mon. Bacon? Show your support for bacon and its deliciousness and buy some of our great and ever-expanding line of merchandise. JEWS FOR BACON—because they didn’t have bacon back then.
And finally, I give you a picture quiz that identifies some of the animals that are verboten to snack on in Judaism. I like how when you pick the wrong answer, it tells you “No! Bear meat is not kosher!” Just like grandma used to.
It's Week Two of the Cold That Wouldn't Die. You haven't experienced flavor in just as long, thanks to your suicidal sinuses. You're achy all over. And as your former loved ones will attest, you've maxed out the credit on your Whining Card. It's time to take this thing down for the count. It's time to make Jewish chicken soup—bubbe's way, with the whole chicken and the dill. Even if your schmutz doesn't disappear completely, once you see how easy from-scratch chicken broth is, you'll never go back to canned.