Maimonide in Brooklyn aims to bring the famed medieval Jewish scholar into modern foodie life. Veganism wasn’t exactly trendy in the late twelfth century. But according to the profile in Tablet magazine, Cyril Aouizerate — the brains behind this new foodie hot spot — saw a sort of proto-veganism, or at least vegetarianism, in the ancient scholar, who relished his meat, but only on the Sabbath.
The original story of this rather unique restaurant is interesting. Aouizerate, a French-born philosopher-turned-restaurateur, says he was reading some of Maimonides’ (that’s with an “s”) old writings on the powers of different foods, particularly vegetables, and was inspired to start providing vegan food of a Jewish bent in the New World.
The profile pulls up some of Maimonides’ original writings, suggesting that a lot of contradictory interpretations could be pulled out of his nutritional imperatives. But Aouizerate isn’t trying to rewrite history. He’s just found some inspiration in some unlikely places, and he’s chosen to focus on some of the ideas that are most interesting to him.
A meatless Jewish meal sounds novel, but veganism and vegetarianism didn’t really start with trendy Californians. In many cultures low- or no-meat diets have had a long history. Going with a plant-based diet doesn’t necessarily mean giving up culinary variety.
Last year, I experimented with a vegan/vegetarian book of Japanese cookery. Some recipes were new twists on old themes. But most Asian culinary traditions have a long tradition of non-animal based dishes. Vegan sushi? Believe it or not, it works. So why not vegan matzoth?
Aouizerate also notes that even if Maimonides didn’t advocate reducing meat consumption, our modern system of factory farming does. Michael Pollan has written extensively on the subject, and so have we here at Care2. Everything from pink slime to the unnatural corn-based diet of our cattle, who evolved as grazers, is questionable from a human health perspective, leaving aside the ethical implications of their treatment.
Maimonide of Brooklyn aims to offer Jewish food to non-meat eaters, and meatless food to Jewish eaters. It is not, however, kosher. Despite kosher rules essentially affecting the types of meats that can be used, and the details of how they are slaughtered, actual kosher certification still requires a vegan kitchen to be certified by an actual rabbi, go through the motions and say the words.
Similar to a priest’s blessing of food at Easter services, this more abstract component doesn’t physically change the preparation of the food, and I can understand why the owner is hesitant to contract a rabbi in order to achieve such certification, which can be pretty pricey.
But even if rabbis can’t eat it, Aouizerate assures us that his food is “spiritually kosher”, completely in line with the ideals of Jewish and vegan eaters alike. The restaurant can be found at 525 Atlantic Avenue, in Brooklyn, New York.