Category Archives: Genesis

Back to Basics: Farm-to-Table Food

The first supermarket supposedly appeared on the American landscape in 1946. That is not very long ago. Until then, where was all the food? Dear folks, the food was in homes, gardens, local fields, and forests. It was near kitchens, near tables, near bedsides. It was in the pantry, the cellar, the backyard.

Joel Salatin, Folks, Farmer and Author of This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World

Genesis Culinary students began day two of their course with a reading and discussion of the above quote. This short yet poignant observation of our modern food system begs the question: Why is there such a disconnect between the land and the supermarket and how does this disconnect affect how we eat or think about food? As curious cooks and aspiring home-chefs, these are the questions we must ask ourselves whenever we prepare a meal.

image1To dig deeper into the subject, we went straight to the source and paid a visit to Brandeis University’s extraordinary rooftop farm. Located on a hidden mezzanine near the science labs, the rooftop farm grows entirely from milk crates filled with soil and provides enough produce each week to feed over a dozen families and has the potential to feed many more. Launched in 2015 thanks to a student-led initiative, the farm is maintained by a group of volunteer student organizers, one of whom gave us an in-depth tour of the rows of kale, melons, cucumbers and tomatoes currently in season.



Participants harvested sweet and hot peppers, tri-colored carrots and a range of fresh herbs to bring back to the kitchen classroom, where we paired up and honed our knife skills. Quietly and patiently we improved our dicing and mincing.  We learned to julienne peppers and chiffonade herbs and the room filled with the incredible aroma of hyper local vegetables. Tonight, as we settle into dinner in the dining hall, we will no doubt think of the farm, and the farmers, that made our meal possible.


Liz Alpern

Genesis Culinary Art and Anthropology

BIMA/Genesis Kavanot – Primal Scream

This summer, I had the opportunity to offer one of my favorite meditation exercises, the primal scream. It is an activity that I developed when I was a participant here in 2011, and have been working on and returning to ever since.

Meditation exercises often focus on silence and tuning out other noises. However, I often struggle to find ways to focus on being silent while I am meditating. The Primal Scream emerged from the need to draw contrast between my ability to produce noise — by screaming — and my ability to be silent and focus on the silence and the noises around me that are out of my control.

The Primal Scream, however, is more than just screaming. We focus on different breathing exercises, alternating between silence and screaming. We also took meditation exercises and adapted them to screaming, such as using our voices and our noise to propel our problems away from us. As with all good primal screams, we ended with a long run down Chapels Field, screaming for as long as we could.

After that, when we had been able to hear both our noises, our voices, and our silence, we gathered back together to appreciate the silence. We then read a passage from I Kings about Elijah the Prophet, who sought to find God through wind, earthquakes, and fire, but instead encountered God in a “Small, still voice,” or in silence.

The Primal Scream is much more than just uncontrolled screaming. It is, at its core, using noise and silence to find connections with something bigger than us. Some of us might call that God, while others might not. Despite that, the Primal Scream is one of my favorite meditations, and one that I was glad to share with participants this summer here at BIMA and Genesis.

– Community Educator Amram A.

Tisha B’av and the Process of Mourning

This past Sunday, we at BIMA and Genesis gathered to commemorate Tisha B’av, a Jewish day of mourning. I personally struggle with how different rituals that I perform on Tisha B’av — namely fasting, sitting on the floor until midday, and refraining from listening to music — help me evoke the sense of brokenness that we are meant to feel.

From that struggle came the idea for my session, where I sought to compare the ways in which mourning is ritualized on Tisha B’av, a very old day, and 9/11, when we remember the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Ritual is meant to evoke particular feelings and emotional responses. They are just as much a response to tragedy as they are a way to remind us of the tragedy.

We began by listing the different ways in which these two seemingly very different dates are marked. From there, we transitioned into a discussion about the ways in which these different rituals affect us, or not. Some participants in the discussion expressed frustration at the ways in which 9/11 was not discussed at all in their schools. Others felt uncomfortable with the ways in which we mark Tisha B’av.

Both of these days are rife with different rituals of mourning and reflection, although both of these are days that many of us do not remember personally. However, there are also significant differences. Tisha B’av is a day when we remember how our actions led to disasters– the rabbis of old blame us and our actions for the destruction of the Temples, not the Babylonians or the Romans who carried out the physical destruction. In contrast, 9/11 is a day when we mark what others have done to us.

This, in turn, spurred a discussion of the ways in which rituals — actions — function in time and place. It is not just enough to fast on Tisha B’av or hold a moment of silence on 9/11. These must be done in the context of other people and on certain days for the desired effects, whatever they may be. Ultimately, what emerged from this discussion were new ways of thinking about ritual in relation to tragedy, and also how we use rituals to connect with events which we still feel the effects of.

 – Community Educator Amram A.