An urban country wedding

I had the pleasure reading is amazing story the other day. It came to me as a recommendation of the writing skills of the author... Read More

I had the pleasure reading is amazing story the other day. It came to me as a recommendation of the writing skills of the author Nicole Baute. The recommendation was from another author, a client of mine for many years. He had said to me “when you read this author’s work you are transformed by the words to the places and events she writes about”. As a bestselling author I listen, he knows good writing when he reads it and this article is no exception. Be sure to read the whole article the ending is unbelievable!

By Nicole Baute   Living Reporter

Jewish wedding is a celebration of love, and love for food

The Couple

The bride:

Miriam Streiman, 30

Chef who has worked extensively with food and media; involved in the slow food movement

The groom:

Neil Epstein, 31

High school teacher who grew up with a family farm as his second home

The goal:

A traditional Jewish wedding ceremony with an upbeat, country vibe, and a celebration of food

Even the Rabbi knows this wedding is as much about food as it is about love.

He is standing with Miriam Streiman and Neil Epstein under a canopy in front of a pond that flows into the Don River. The bride’s grandfather’s prayer shawl and cattails from the couple’s new farm are draped on top of the chuppah.

Today, Rabbi Ed Elkin says, is a celebration of Streiman and Epstein’s commitment and love for each other, but also of “food that is delicious, healthy and good for the environment.”

The guests smile. A few chuckle softly. Streiman, 30, and Epstein, 31, love food. There really is no overstating that.

And so, their wedding is about fresh, local food, country living, family, and the Jewish faith, perfectly packaged together in an old industrial building at the Evergreen Brick Works, along the Don Valley.

Birds chirp and bees buzz at the old brickyard, which has been turned into a community environment centre but still has faded bricks and shattered windows. Fruits trees and tomato plants are tagged for sale nearby.

The ceremony begins with a rollicking stroll down the aisle to an alt-bluegrass band playing Johnny Cash’s Ring of Fire, the wedding party a lively crew of mismatched brothers, sisters, cousins and babies.

It ends with a smashed glass, shouts of “Mazel Tov!” and a long, luscious kiss.

While the bride and groom slip away for photos, the guests direct their attention to the food. They mingle over bread, cured beef and duck, sheep’s milk cheeses and fruit laid out on tables covered in burlap sacks. They sip beer and water out of mason jars that will later be used for canning.

Streiman, who studied culinary management at George Brown and Epstein, a high school teacher with an engineering degree, met on blind date in Montreal five years ago.

Food has always been a central part of their relationship.

Streiman says Epstein wooed her with raspberries and award-winning garlic from his family farm in Pefferlaw, Ont. And she describes, in sensual detail, pulling beets and carrots out of the earth in preparation for one of their first meals together on that farm, soil clinging to the vegetables and their hands.

Streiman, a chef, cooks using instinct, touch and feeling. Epstein has more of a scientific connection to food – he’s eager to figure out precisely how to tap maple trees or churn his own butter.

“Cooking together, and sharing a table together, is how we show love,” Streiman says.

She has worked as a food stylist and in recipe development with television programs on the Food Network, TVO and CBC. She also helps coordinate events for Slow Food Toronto, and organized her wedding in much the same way, bringing together local farmers, chefs and community.

Last December, the couple bought a 40-hectare farm in Maple Valley, not far from renowned chef Michael Stadtlander’s Eigensinn Farm and the town of Creemore. They plan to open a bed and breakfast called Mad Maple Farm, with comfortable suites, farm-to-table brunches, cooking classes and foraging expeditions.

Their urban wedding is the beginning of their foray into the country.

While a klezmer band plays the hora and the new husband and wife are lifted up on purple chairs, roughly 20 chefs are preparing an incredible meal at five stations set up in plain view of the guests.

These are rising stars in Toronto’s restaurant industry, and close friends of Streiman’s, who knows where every ingredient in this feast has come from.

The fish was caught the day before the wedding, by Akiwenzie’s Fish & More, a small First Nations fishing company in Georgian Bay. The rainbow carrots, beets, salad greens, fennel, eggs and duck came from a co-op of 20 farms called the Kawartha Ecological Growers, as did the 128 chickens, raised just for today.

The fruit is from Niagara and the water, the Niagara escarpment. The artisanal breads were made at St. John’s bakery, part of St. John’s mission in Toronto. The cheese is from Monforte Dairy in Stratford. The beer from the Steam Whistle brewery. The list could go on.

Luis Valenzuela, chef at Torito in Kensington market, admits he pulled an all-nighter because the fresh lamb and baby chickens arrived just before the wedding. “Everything was so fresh!” he says. “So, so fresh.”

Weddings aren’t really part of the repertoire for these busy chefs, including Fabio Bondi of Parkdale’s Local Kitchen and Wine Bar, who prepared the charcuterie, starting three months before the wedding (he also grilled whitefish with salsa verde and salmoriglio sauce).

By the time dinner arrives, its sights and smells have been wafting over the crowd for a few hours.

Just before the 230 guests tuck in for the dinner of a lifetime, “roaming freelancer” and chef Joshna Maharaj leans over the roasted beet salad with an explanation.

“We are all here because we love Miriam.”

A ring with history When Epstein proposed to Streiman, in one of their favorite parks in Montreal, he told her a story she had never heard before:

Before the Holocaust, Epstein’s great-grandparents and some of their children were living in Poland, in a town called Rypin. (Epstein’s grandfather and one of his brothers were already living in New York City.)

Epstein’s great-grandfather knew the mayor, who warned him that the Nazis were coming and that they should get out of town.

The family put all their valuables in a glass jar and buried it in the dirt floor of the basement, tucking it safely away under a wall.

Epstein’s great-grandparents stayed in Rypin and were later shipped to the Warsaw ghetto, where they perished. But because they were young and healthy, the children fled to Russia. They were sent to a labour camp because they didn’t want to give up their Polish citizenship.

By the end of the war, only Epstein’s grandfather’s sister, Channa, and her husband, Barruch, survived. They had to go back to Rypin for the glass jar.

Barruch’s brother had been in the Russian army during the First World War, so the brothers went to the town wearing his old army uniforms. Posing as officers, they entered the house and retrieved the jar.

They smashed it open in an abandoned building near the old family house; they took the money and other valuables, and went back to Channa.

But Channa told them something was missing. Inside the jar there had been rings, one for each of the siblings, wrapped in candy wrappers. They had to go back.

When they returned, they found the candy wrappers in the rubble.

When he finished his story, Epstein gave Streiman the ring that was later given to his grandfather, Ben Gorman.

White and yellow gold with a diamond, it is now on Streiman’s finger.

Read Next:

Our Carbon Footprint

I had the pleasure reading is amazing story the other day. It came to me as a recommendation of the writing skills of the author... Read More

Our Carbon Footprint