Red Vegetable Quinoa

This simple little dish turned out fantastic with very little effort and fanfare, largely thanks to excellent spices from Havat Derech HaTavlinim in Bet Lechem HaGlilit, my favorite spice shop, but you can obtain these at Middle Eastern markets and online. The combination of these red and purple spices with a lot of red vegetables yields something very special with a sweet flavor profile. This is easy to make in a lidded saucepan – it’ll just take a few more minutes.

  • 1/2 white onion, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon baharat
  • 1/2 tablespoon sumac
  • 3 big carrots, grated
  • 1 little tomato, finely chopped
  • 1 little beet, finely chopped (I used a precooked beet from lovebeets)
  • 1 cup quinoa (I used tricolor, but would’ve used white quinoa if I had any)
  • 1 cup water

Set the InstantPot to “sauté,” heat it up, and then pop in the onion and garlic. Cook for about five minutes or until beginning to be golden. Then, add the spices, carrots, tomato, and beets. Continue cooking for about five more minutes. Turn off the sauté function and add the quinoa and the water. Mix well, close the lid, and set the Instant Pot to pressure cook on high temperature for 11 minutes. When it is done, let it sit for about five minutes before depressurizing.

My Day in (the Food) Court

In 1992 I left home and moved to Jerusalem for law school. Being on my own for the first time was an opportunity to revise and question many habits, including my nutrition. The impetus for becoming vegetarian came from a humiliating (but, in hindsight, funny) incident: in my first year of law school I dated a classmate who came from Jerusalem’s academic aristocracy. His family invited me to a famous gourmet steakhouse. I had obviously not grown up eating such fancy things and had no idea how to order my steak, so I thought well-done would be safe, and they proceeded to repeatedly ask me throughout the meal in concerned tones: “Are you sure your steak is not too dry?” That meal was the last nail in my carnivorous coffin; I eschewed animal flesh that evening when I came home.

Ours was not a kitchen-centered household, and my hard-working mom would bring me food from restaurants near the courts where she tried criminal cases as a defense attorney; so, being a serious person, I decided to teach myself how to cook and eat vegetarian by purchasing my first cookbook, Phyllis Glazer’s A Vegetarian Feast. I also discovered an amazing natural foods grocery store in a nearby kibbutz, Ramat Rachel, which was a complete revelation. It was there that I encountered whole grains for the first time, as well as exotic things like tofu (promoted as “soy cheese”); I come from fairly humble beginnings and did not grow up eating such foods. My new way of life was strange to my family, who were pained by my avoidance of meat and were puzzled by the whole grain thing (gradually, they all came around.)

My knowledge of nutrition was fairly limited at the time; the reigning theories of vegan and vegetarian nutrition were the now-debunked “food combining” and “complete protein” myths, which seemed like a whole lot of trouble. I had no concept of the extent to which the cruelty to animals permeated the dairy and egg market (I did buy “cage-free” eggs after visiting an army colleague’s home and being horrified by her family’s chicken coops.) And I had no idea how to stay healthy on a vegan diet; vegetarianism was already a pretty radical step considering where I came from. So, I was a lacto-ovo vegetarian, and remained such until getting to the States in 2001.

Arriving in America was a harsh blow to my health and digestive system. U.S. food was richer, more laden in chemicals, and far less fresh and healthy than its Israeli counterpart, and throughout grad school I suffered from debilitating stomach aches and miseries that would put me out of commission for days at a time. With the help of a wonderful nutritionist I met through my Chinese medicine studies at the Acupressure Institute, I did an elimination diet and eschewed bread and dairy; I immediately felt better. Since I didn’t quite know what to substitute it with, I went back to eating fish. Meat crept back into the menu several years later, when I was training for long marathon swims. I thought I needed the protein, but the whole thing never sat well with me, morally and ethically.

Everything changed in 2014, when I saw Judy Irving’s wonderful documentary Pelican Dreams and suddenly realized that everything was interconnected–the food chain, the ecosystem, the planet, our health, the health and welfare of our nonhuman friends–and that I wanted nothing to do with the animal torture industry. I came home that very evening and told my partner I was going to be vegan from now on (he joined me not long after and we’ve been happy and proud vegans ever since, raising a happy and proud vegan son.) I became involved with Direct Action Everywhere and started writing about factory farms and open rescue. It was also, as it turned out, an easy and convenient time to go vegan, because the next generation in quality nut cheeses and meat substitutes emerged.

During the pandemic, we relied a lot on these substitutes, which were not only easy to procure and order in, but also psychologically soothing (salt and oil will do that.) My weight started creeping up to an alarming degree, and unpleasant, debilitating symptoms, which I had ascribed to perimenopause, became a way of life: relentless low-grade headaches, digestive problems, brain fog. Litigating the San Quentin case and advocating for incarcerated people during the pandemic took an enormous psychological toll, and my health continued to deteriorate. In March 2021 I fell in the street and could not get up – to this day I’m not sure if it was cardiac or something else. It was a sense of utter weakness and frailty. But at that instant, all the shame I had been feeling about my health decline turned into rage: I don’t deserve to live like this, I thought, I deserve a better life. The next day I bought all the vegetables and fruit I could think of and took a walk around the block. I juiced for 30 days, then added fresh salads, soups, and smoothies to the menu. The walks grew in length and became runs, I bought a bike, I started swimming again, I completed my lifeguard training. In March 2022, a year after I fell in the street, I completed the Oakland Marathon. At that point, all my symptoms were gone, my bloodwork cleared up, all my health metrics were transformed, and I lost 60 lbs, getting back to my high school weight. My swim and run times were, and are, better than ever in my life, and I continue seeing personal bests in the pool and on the trail.

Most of the inspiring success stories on the Forks Over Knives website involve folks who ate the standard American diet before shifting to a whole-food, plant-based plan. I’m here to tell you that it’s entirely possible to be 100% vegan and eat in a horribly unhealthy manner. I’m so glad I shifted to whole foods, juices, smoothies, chilled soups, and other vegetable-rich meals. I am sure that eating this way has saved my life. On social media, I frequent various vegan groups, and many of the posts involve a search for the perfect meat analog, faux egg, or rich cheese on a pizza; I very keenly recognize the feelings driving this quest in myself as well. It’s not just cravings from the animal-consuming days; it’s a sense of deprivation and righteousness. Whenever I crave something like this, I detect in my own thinking a sense that dammit, I’m doing the right thing here for the animals and the planet, I deserve this tasty reward.

I have found a way to set aside this righteous thinking pattern: I interrupt it by thinking, what I deserve is to feel splendid, wake up fresh and pain-free, and live many years to be with my son and to push myself to athletic heights. That’s my reward. The way to earn my “just desert” is through chilled green soups, delicious salads, and concoctions rich in healing greens. To learn more about nutrition, I’ve read up on the latest research on a variety of conditions, and taken my plant-based nutrition certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, as well as the Forks Over Knives cooking course. I feel so wonderful now that I don’t want to ever not feel this way; I wake up every morning yearning for everyone to feel this way. It’s hard to describe how profoundly pleasing it is to go about my day with everything humming and working the way it should. I want the same for you, and for everyone else.

In Memoriam: Leslie Sebba

It’s been more than a week since we lost Leslie Sebba, my beloved mentor and teacher at Hebrew University’s Institute of Criminology, and only now have I found the time to write. I spent the entire week at the Law and Society Association’s Annual Meeting in Lisbon, amidst a heatwave, and throughout the week my heart was heavy with the palpable absence of Leslie, who attended the meeting almost every year as a member of our Punishment and Society CRN. And at the same time, there was the uncanny feeling that Leslie was there, because the conversation revolved around ideas that he helped develop and interrogate throughout his professional life. We paid tribute to Leslie at some of the panels, though I was restless with grief because I was unable to attend the funeral and the Shiv’a and tell his family a bit about how inspiring, kind, and special he was.

My first encounter with Leslie’s work was as a law student at HUJI, where I took his course “rights of prisoners and residents of closed institutions.” HUJI’s law curriculum, at the time, was very German, in the sense that there wasn’t a lot of critical theory and empiricism; we sat in big hallways, 150 or even 300 of us, and were essentially lectured at by some of the era’s civil rights luminaries (Ruthie Gavison, Mota Kremnitzer, David Kretzmer.) Occasionally, they asked us a question; sometimes I managed to shine, which made me feel an inch taller, but I wouldn’t go as far as to actually ask a question myself, or (heaven forbid) bring myself to attend office hours. And here was something completely different: an elective course taught by a gentle, absentminded soul, a kind smile perpetually on his lips, a preemptive forgiveness for student laziness or poor behavior, and a gentle door always open for those interested in learning more. The whole thing was bathed in a quiet, gentlemanlike, and at the same time fervent care for the human rights of the most vulnerable people in society, and in big part planted the seed for my later decision to change affiliations and move over to the criminology side of the building. No longer a law student at a formalist, traditional institution, but rather a grad student at a small, rigorous empirical department, I proceeded to take more classes with Leslie throughout my master’s, and his penology course, in particular, was an exquisite tour de force. Leslie was one of the most knowledgeable and well-read people I ever met. It is thanks to him that my education included not just the American classics (though they were certainly there – the entire Johnston, Savitz, and Wolfgang prison canon) but also a lot of European and Pacific materials. I still credit my unorthodox approach to the American abolitionism movement to the fact that, thanks to Leslie, I’m well read on Scandinavian abolitionism from the 1970s. And it is greatly thanks to him that my own students learn a lot about New Zealand’s approach to restorative circles; he had us read primary research about that system when it was hot off the press.

Leslie’s own work, which he assigned with a light, humble hand (he could’ve easily had us read everything he wrote, which was just so, so good) touched on many of these subjects that came to interest me. For one thing, he was a true pioneer of victimology. While his HUJI colleague Menachem Amir published an extremely controversial book examining the concept of “victim precipitation” in sexual assault (and was skewered by feminists), Leslie’s interest in victims was far more humane. In his groundbreaking book Third Parties he tries to piece together the various theoretical legal and criminological strands underpinning the victims’ rights revolution of the 1980s and 1990s. Now, it all seems super lucid and obvious, but when it had just come out in 1996 it was a novel and well balanced effort to critically assess how much of the “victim bills of rights” that were cropping up like mushrooms after the rain was empty rhetoric and how much it would actually improve the lot of victims, especially of violent crime. His pioneering contributions to victimology were also in, basically, making room for the field as its own criminological school; he was the founding editor of the International Review of Victimology and taught a fascinating and popular course on the subject.

Third Parties was emblematic of Leslie’s approach, which straddled the worlds of law and criminology. Leslie possessed the rare and useful mix of someone who could analyze doctrine with unrivaled clarity and sharpness and, at the same time, entertain curiosity about how it plays out in the field and open-mindedly examine critiques. His vast international interests meant that he was preoccupied with international and comparative questions quite a bit; he looked at the worrisome trend of importing American punitivism such as Third Strikes laws and the notion of solitary confinement as an international human rights crime. He also had a crystal clear and lucid approach to Israeli penology, tracing the arc of punitivism back to the amnesties of the 1950s and constantly making the tie between domestic crime control and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Leslie, who had a keen nose for bright and innovative minds like his own, introduced us to the writings of Malcolm Feeley, Jonathan Simon, and David Garland. It was thanks to his gentle encouragement and prodding that I mustered the cojones to attend a concentrated class, in English, from a visiting Malcolm Feeley, leading to intellectual connections that would chart the rest of my professional life. Leslie saw something in me, even as I was a night school grad student in a special master’s program for cops and prison guards (the only hours I could make while working full time as a military public defender), and it is no exaggeration to say that, if I’ve achieved a modicum of success, it is truly thanks to him. While still at the Institute, I was his research assistant as well as his teaching assistant; I was green behind the ears and truly knew nothing, and he gave me responsibilities and kudos far beyond what someone at my age and experience level merited.

Leslie also exposed me to the idea that first-rate theoretical games are fun, but they are completely meaningless if they don’t improve the lives of real people on the ground. The first project with which I helped him was a collaboration with Israel’s Prisoner Rehabilitation Authority, which had just been founded at the time. We were looking for ways to enshrine the right to meaningful labor in Israeli law. Leslie’s other work, on children’s rights, was also done in partnerships, and he was a valued and respected participant and member in initiatives of human rights organizations ACRI and Adallah.

What is truly magical about Leslie the person is that all these incredible world-improving accomplishments lived within a humble, gentle, self-effacing soul. Leslie was never driven by his ego; he supported and trumpeted his students and collaborators, worked well in groups, helped organize panels, and was happy to sit in the audience when a junior collaborator presented his work. His gentle, fatherly mannerisms belied a keen mind always devoted to improving justice. And he took great pleasure in his work – while lecturing, he always seemed to be having an interesting, enriching conversation within his own mind (it was not rare for him to pose a question and, in the same breath, answer it in two contradictory ways with a bemused face.) A great light has dimmed and the world of law, criminology, and criminal justice is impoverished for his departure. What is remembered, lives.

LSA 2022 in Lisbon!

Hello, Everyone! Today I’m heading out to Lisbon, Portugal, for the annual meeting of the Law & Society Association. At the meeting I will be quite busy, participating in five panels:

Wednesday, July 13, 8:15-10:00am Lisbon time: Criminal Law. I will comment on three groundbreaking papers on topics ranging from the politics of self defense to the criminal responsibility of AI entities.

Thursday, July 14, 10:15am-12:00pm: Politics in and of Punishment. I will comment on papers examining public opinion, punitivism, and political machinations in punishment.

Friday, July 15, 2:45-4:00pm: Emotional Labour of Conducting Research. A topic near and dear to the heart of anyone doing work in and about correctional facilities, I will comment on papers unpacking the emotional toll of researching complicated settings (my comments will highlight, among other issues, secondary trauma, and provide some practical mindfulness and wellbeing tips for advocates and activists as well as journalists and interviewers.)

Saturday, July 16, 12:45-2:30pm: Punishment’s Nuance: Looking at Incarceration and Parole in New Contexts and Perspectives. I will present Chapter 3 of my forthcoming book with Chad Goerzen FESTER: Carceral Permeability and California’s COVID-19 Correctional Disaster, which surveys the pains of COVID imprisonment. Ashley Rubin will comment. The other papers of the panel are well worth hearing.

Saturday, July 16, 4:45-6:30pm: Contrasting penal trends across the Global North and the Global South III. I will comment on four papers by criminologists and social historians on the political economy of punishment across borders, and will center my remarks on the malleability of the concepts of “developed” and “developing” countries (a topic I discussed here.)

All of my panels, including locations, are listed in the event tabs of the blog. I’ve already read most of the papers I’m commenting on, and the quality is outstanding!

As the outgoing co-organizer for CRN 27, Punishment and Society, I also plan to attend our informational/social meting Wednesday (13 July) from 12:10 to 1:10 (location TBD for CRN members.) 

I am also the book review editor for Law & Society Review (until the end of 2022) and happy to discuss your new publication and how to celebrate it in our flagship journal. And, as a member of the LSA Publications Committee, am at your disposal if you want to discuss the open call for a new LSR editor-in-chief.

I do not have a Portuguese SIM, and my responsiveness to texts throughout the day will depend on internet availability. The safest way to schedule something with me is through my email (messages to this website end up in the same inbox, so you can do that, too.)