Sunday, November 28th 2021   |

Jewish Trivia Quiz

from RASHI, RAMBAM and RAMALAMADINGDONG: A Quizbook of Jewish Trivia Facts & Fun by New Orleans native Mark Zimmerman

Yom Kippur

A tradition in some ultra-Orthodox communities before Yom Kippur is kaparot, the ceremonial swinging of a chicken over one’s head three times before slaughtering the bird. This act is a symbolic transfer of one’s sins to the animal, which is then donated to the poor. What other ceremony involving an animal is associated with Yom Kippur?

Kaparot ceremony

Kaparot by Government Press Office is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

AIn some Sephardic communities, there is a ceremony similar to kaparot. However, the bird that is slaughtered is the stork, which is commonly found in Arab countries of the Middle East. The bird is ritually slaughtered even though it is not a kosher animal, and is then donated to non-Jewish neighbors as the giver recites the command from Leviticus 9:18, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

B. The prophet Jonah was swallowed by a whale sent by God as he had disobeyed God’s command. In the belly of the fish Jonah repented and was saved. The Book of Jonah is now read every year on Yom Kippur afternoon, reflecting Jonah’s teshuva, or repentance, the primary Yom Kippur theme. Jonah is said to have been buried in Mosul, Iraq. Traditionally, Iraqi Jews have included a fish as part of their break-the-fast meal after Yom Kippur. Baked inside the fish is an apple, which both represents Jonah inside the whale as well as the completion of the Days of Awe, which began with apples dipped in honey.

CIt was traditional in some Jewish communities in Spain and Portugal around the 12th century to not only fast for Yom Kippur, but to ceremonially sell all of their food to a non-Jewish neighbor, similar to the Passover selling of chametz. The custom was elucidated by Maimonides in the Mishne Torah, and included a specific requirement that before selling the food, the Jew must ensure that he had fed all of his animals. The message was that caring for animals was the highest priority, even more important than one’s preparation for the Yom Kippur fast.

D. In Leviticus chapter 16, we read of the bringing of two goats to the High Priest in the Temple on Yom Kippur. One goat was sacrificed to God. The Priest then would lay his hands upon the second goat while confessing the sins of the Jewish community. That goat was then thrown to its death off a hill in the Judean desert, taking the sins of the people with it. This goat became known as the scapegoat.

EBalaam, known for his blessings and curses, was traveling on behalf of Balak, the leader of the Moabites, to curse the Israelites. As Balaam rode on his mule, an angel sent by God appeared in the road, so the mule stopped. The mule saw the angel though Balaam did not, so he hit the mule, attempting to get her to continue. God enabled the mule to speak, and she criticized Balaam for his harsh treatment. Balaam’s eyes were opened to his bad behavior, and he asked God’s forgiveness. God accepted his teshuva, and Balaam continued on his journey, but only to bring God’s blessings to the Israelites, not the curses intended by Balak. On Yom Kippur in 1853, Russian Rabbi Smirnoff ben Stolichnaya created a drink in recognition of Balaam’s repentance, which he dubbed the Moscow Mule, and Russian Jews to this day break their Yom Kippur fast by drinking this concoction in copper cups.

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Rosh Hashanah 5782

Jews worldwide begin the celebration of Rosh Hashanah 5782 at sundown tonight. For the second year in a row, congregations are struggling to find appropriate ways to celebrate in a time of ongoing pandemic. Many synagogues are only holding online services, while others are meeting outdoors or limiting indoor attendance, or excluding those who are unvaccinated. But all are looking for a way to come together, as communities, as friends, as families, to celebrate the start of the new year. Some Sephardic and Mizrachi communities have traditionally included a seder as part of their Rosh Hashanah celebration. The tradition comes from the Talmud, Horayot 12a, where Abaye suggests that people should eat a variety of foods, including pumpkins, leaks, and dates. What else is traditionally included on the Rosh Hashanah seder plate, and why?

Apples, honey, and pomegranate

Rosh Hashanah | ראש השנה by Lilach Daniel is licensed under CC BY 2.0

AA sheep head, symbolizing our wish to be heads and not tails, that is, leaders and not followers.

BA cabbage head, which consists of multiple leaves tightly wound around each other, symbolizing the importance of the Jewish people embracing each other tightly for protection and support.

CA chicken head, as a symbol that while we eat the body of the chicken, it is the head (in effect, the brain) that is the most important part of the animal, and by extension, humans.

DA fish head, as a symbol that we should be fruitful and multiply like fish.

EA horse head, symbolizing that when God (father) makes us an offer, we can’t refuse.

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Charlie Watts, RIP

Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts died at the age of 80. Unlike his flamboyant bandmates, Watts was known to be relatively reserved, providing a solid percussion groove informed by his jazz background and instincts. He toured with the Stones until just two years ago, providing a beat that defined such songs as (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction, Paint It Black, and Honky Tonk Women. What was a Jewish connection in Charlie Watts’s life?

Charlie Watts

Charlie Watts, Statesboro, Georgia, May 4, 1965 by Steve Denenberg is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

AThe Rolling Stones played a concert in Tel Aviv in 2014, and on that trip Charlie Watts and guitarist Ron Wood visited the Western Wall. Said Watts, “As I walked toward the wall, an old bearded guy approached me and asked if I was Jewish. He was holding some things in his hands with leather straps. I was really tempted to say yes just to see where this was going. But Ronnie jumped in and said we weren’t, and that was the end of that.”

B. Charlie’s best friend in secondary school (middle school in England) was a Jewish boy named Eddie Goldberg. Said Watts, “I remember going to his house for a seder. I never saw food like that. I was used to bangers and mash. That gefilte fish was too much for me.”

CWatts originally trained as a graphic artist, and he used this skill to contribute to the Rolling Stones stage sets, merchandise and album covers. While still a student at the Harrow School of Art in London, one of his first projects was to design a ketubah for the upcoming wedding of a fellow student.

D. One of Watts’s first professional gigs was as the drummer for a band who primarily played at Jewish wedding receptions. Said Watts, “I never knew what the hell was going on.”

EEarly in the band’s history, they were playing at a Purim party for the London Maccabi GB Youth Organization. On a break the band went to get some food from the buffet table, and Charlie was disappointed that one of the trays was empty. He went off to speak to a catering employee who explained that those were hamantaschen, but that there were no more left. Angry, Charlie went back to Mick Jagger to tell him of the conversation, but he had difficulty remembering what the food was called. “Mick,” he said. “I can’t get no...I can’t get no...I can’t get no...hamantaschen. No hamantaschen. NO HAMANTASCHEN!”

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Governor Ron DeSantis

Following the lead of Governor Ron DeSantis, the Florida State Board of Education has threatened to withhold funds from the school boards in Broward and Alachua counties, where local officials want to enforce mask requirements for their students. Governor DeSantis has stated that mask wearing should be an individual choice, and even said, against all scientific evidence, that “It’s not healthy for these students to be sitting there all day, 6-year-old kids in kindergarten covered in masks.” Meanwhile, the positivity rate in Florida hovers around 20%, and Florida’s childrens’ hospitals are overwhelmed with young COVID patients. Governor DeSantis ran for office promising to be the nation’s most pro-Israel governor. When DeSantis visited Israel, he placed a note in the Western Wall with a prayer, asking God’s protection for Florida. What specifically did Governor DeSantis request of God in his note?

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis

Ron DeSantis by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

AThe governor’s note read, “Good Lord, spare us hate and spare us evil this year.”

BThe governor’s note read, “Good Lord, spare us hurricanes this year.”

CThe governor’s note read, “Good Lord, spare us your wrath and shower us with your blessings this year.”

DThe governor’s note read, “Good Lord, spare us pandemics this year.”

EThe governor’s note read, “Good Lord, spare us abortion, gun control, Democrats, immigrants, critical race theory, LGBTQ rights, tax increases, Obamacare, minority voting, DACA, sanctuary cities, removal of Confederate monuments, and oh yeah, vaccinations and masks this year.”

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With the imminent final withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban is quickly taking control of the country. The Jewish history of Afghanistan goes back at least to the 7th century, with some claiming that Afghani Jews were descendants of the so-called lost tribes of Israel. Jewish life eventually settled primarily in the community of Herat, though there was a Jewish quarter in Kabul in the 12th century. Most Afghani Jews fled the country in the 1900’s because of an oppressive regime which had forced them into ghetto-like conditions, where they were subjected to riots, rape, and forced conversion. Most emigrated to the United States and Palestine (and after 1948 to Israel). Which of the following is true about the Afghani Jewish population?

The Jewish cemetery in Herat, Afghanistan

Herat_Jews_Cemetery is in the Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

ADost Mohammed Khan was the founder of the Barakzai dynasty in Kabul in the early 19th century, gaining the title Emir of Afghanistan in 1823. Unlike many earlier leaders of Afghanistan, Khan was relatively accepting of the Jewish community, and in fact a Jewish merchant, Yacob Nasirov, was appointed Chief Minister by Khan in 1832.

B. While there is much speculation that Noah’s ark came to rest on Mt. Ararat in western Turkey, there is an opposing view that has long been held by Afghani Jews, that Noah’s ark came to rest on the Sakar Sak peak in the Hindu Kush mountain range of western Afghanistan. While no archaeological evidence has been found to support this theory, it is known that early Jewish merchants traveled across this range on the Silk Road trading route between China and the Mediterranean region, dating to the period of the Temple in Jerusalem.

CIn addition to the Jewish community in Afghanistan, up until the early 20th century there was also a small group of Pashtuns known as the ibn Yirmiyahu who claimed a connection to the lost tribes that supposedly settled in Afghanistan in Biblical times. While they were practicing Sunni Muslims like most Pashtuns, they maintained a number of Jewish customs including the lighting of candles on Friday nights and the performance of circumcision on male children at 8 days, unlike other Muslim communities who do circumcise, but at a later time. Eventually, in particular because of the anti-Semitic policies of Afghani leaders, most members of the ibn Yirmiyahu community abandoned their Jewish customs, though a small number did move to Palestine where they eventually converted to Judaism.

D. Only one Jew currently remains in Afghanistan, Zabulon Simentov, who has been the caretaker of a delapidated synagogue in Kabul for many years, though his wife and children emigrated to Israel in the 1990’s. He recently announced that he plans to leave for Israel prior to the Taliban takeover of the country.

EThe second-to-last Jew in Afghanistan was Ishaq Levin. He lived in the opposite end of the same synagogue where Zabulon Simentov lived. In stereotypical Jewish fashion, the two could not get along. They prayed in separate parts of the building, and neighbors complained that they heard them yelling at each other all night.

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Tokyo 2020 Olympics

The just completed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games included, for the first time, an official memorial to the 11 Israeli athletes murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Israel had her most successful Olympics participation with 90 athletes competing, a record for the country. Israel also set a record for medal winners with four–gold medals for rhythmic gymnast Linoy Ashram and artistic gymnast Artem Dolgopyat, plus bronze medals for Avishag Semberg in taekwondo plus the 8-member judo mixed team. There was some controversy, however, as a result of what action by an Israeli athlete or athletes?

Israeli Olympic team with then-President Reuven Rivlin.

Reuven Rivlin gives his blessing to the Israeli Olympic and Paralympic delegations to the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics Games by Amos Ben Gershom / Government Press Office (Israel) is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

AJapan provided beds made out of cardboard for the athletes, and the rumor spread that the beds were designed to only support one person in order to discourage their use for “intimate behavior.” The Israeli baseball team posted a video on TicToc as they jumped on one of the cardboard beds to see how much weight it could actually hold. The bed collapsed at the point that 9 team members jumped on it. They were criticized for showing disrespect to the Olympic hosts.

B. Members of the Israeli gymnastics team posted pictures on Instagram showing them eating the Ebi Filet-O sandwiches at a McDonald’s restaurant. The sandwich is a shrimp filet sandwich that is only available at McDonald’s franchises in Japan. Israeli officials were not happy with the publicity surrounding their athletes eating the non-kosher meal.

CPeter Paltchik, Israeli judo competitor, wore a headband that read Jew-Do. Though he meant it to be amusing, others thought that it was a joke in poor taste.

DMembers of the Israeli equestrian team competed but lost on Friday afternoon, August 6. Later that evening, the team members were shown on the television broadcast watching the finals in that event. They were wearing their team uniforms at the time, leading to some criticism. While Israel does not impose Shabbat restrictions on its athletes, they do ask their Olympic participants not to wear identifying clothing if they are out on Friday night or Saturday to show respect and sensitivity to religious Israelis on the Sabbath.

EMalechi Yakstein was Israel’s entrant in the Canoe Slalom competition. When it was his turn, he sat in his canoe, looked at the front and back of the craft, and said hello to the boat in Hebrew, after which he exited the boat and took a bow, saying goodbye to the boat in Hebrew as he walked away. Asked why he never paddled through the canoe slalom course gates and rapids, Malechi Yakstein replied, “Ohhh. Canoe SLALOM. I thought it was Canoe SHALOM!”

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Ben & Jerry’s

Ben & Jerry’s announced that it will no longer sell its ice cream products in the West Bank and Gaza, noting that selling in the occupied territories would be inconsistent with the brand’s liberal and social justice values. The ice cream will continue to be sold in Israel proper. Ben & Jerry’s first came to Israel over 30 years ago, when Israeli entrepreneur Avi Zinger flew to Vermont and met with co-founder Ben Cohen to make an agreement. The Israeli production plant is one of only two locations outside the United States, and produces ice cream for most of the European market. Among the company’s products have been two kosher for Passover flavors available only in Israel–Matzah Crunch (vanilla mixed with bits of chocolate-coated matzah) and Charoset (creamy vanilla ice cream with a swirl of charoset). There has been huge criticism in Israel and in the Jewish community over Ben & Jerry’s decision to not sell in the occupied territories, including calls to boycott the company, though some in the Jewish community support the change, saying that it is a political statement about Israel and the Palestinians, but not an anti-Semitic action or a BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) effort. Which Ben & Jerry’s flavor has not caught on in Israel despite the efforts of Avi Zinger to sell the flavor?

Ben & Jerry's

Ben & Jerry's by Q Family is licensed under CC BY 2.0

AColin Kaepernick’s Change the Whirled (Caramel Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert With Fudge Chips, Graham Cracker Swirls & Chocolate Cookie Swirls), because Israelis are generally not supportive of Kaepernick’s protest tactics.

BCherry Garcia (Cherry Ice Cream with Cherries & Fudge Flakes), because Israelis simply did not like the taste.

CKaramel Sutra Core (Chocolate & Caramel Ice Creams with Fudge Chips & a Soft Caramel Core), because Orthodox Jews thought it would be inappropriate to eat ice cream named after a text with religious and sexual overtones.

DWhite Russian (Coffee Ice Cream with Kahlua Coffee Liqueur), because Israelis of Russian descent want nothing to do with their former country.

EYummy Kippers (Vanilla Ice Cream Dotted with Small Pieces of Herring), which did not sell because it reminded people of the biggest fast day of the year, not to mention that it sounds disgusting.

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Jackie Mason, z”l

Jackie Mason, the Borscht Belt comic who started his career as a rabbi but eventually achieved great fame as a comedian, passed away at the age of 93. Mason had a career of highs and lows, including being banned from The Ed Sullivan Show for allegedly giving the host his middle finger, yet ultimately appearing on Broadway multiple times, winning a Tony and an Emmy award, and doing the voice of Rabbi Hyman Krustofsky, father of Krusty the Clown on The Simpsons. Controversy often swirled around Mason, who was criticized for referring to New York Mayor David Dinkens with a derogatory Yiddish word, for which he apologized, though he used the same word later about President Barack Obama. Mason also called for the expulsion of all Palestinians from Israel, the West Bank and Gaza, and he was an admirer of Rabbi Meir Kahane and also of Donald Trump. In the 1970’s, Mason had an affair with Ginger Reiter, leading to the birth of a daughter whom Mason denied was his. Ultimately a paternity lawsuit led to his providing child support, though he had little to do with his daughter, Sheba Mason. Which of the following is true about Jackie Mason’s relationship with Ginger Reiter and Sheba Mason?

Jackie Mason

Jackie Mason by Carl Lender is licensed under CC BY 2.0

AGinger Reiter met Jackie Mason in 1977 when he performed at a restaurant in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida called Wolfie Cohen’s Rascal House.

B. During the time that Ginger Reiter and Jackie Mason were dating, Reiter said, “He would leave some of his suits and ties in my closet. But little did I know that there were women all over Miami Beach with his suits and ties in their closets.” Reiter later introduced those suits and ties as evidence in her paternity suit against Mason.

CGinger Reiter had trained as a teacher of hearing impaired, but later gave up that career and became a writer, performer and producer. Her first show, Oh, Jackie, Oh, premiered in 1983, about her relationship with Mason before their daughter was born. Jackie Mason saw the first version of the show Oh, Jackie, Oh at a Florida synagogue, and gave it the following review, according to Reiter: “I don’t understand why you think this is so interesting. A man and woman, they go out. They go to an early bird special. What’s so interesting about it?”

D. Ginger Reiter’s first show, Oh, Jackie, Oh, was revived and rewritten more than once, and ultimately ran off-Broadway in 2014 with a new title, 702 Punchlines & Pregnant: The Jackie Mason Musical, with songs including Ode To The Early Bird Special and I Never Met This Yente. Reiter said the 702 in the show title referenced “the exact number of times that I was with Jackie.”

EThough Mason had little to do with his daughter Sheba, a comedian and actor, he did once run into her in Manhattan, where he complained about a joke she had made in her stand-up comedy act, where she said: “Sometimes I wish a better-looking comedian was my father, like Woody Allen or Rosie O’Donnell.”

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Richard Branson

Richard Branson successfully flew into space on a supersonic plane developed by Branson’s company Virgin Galactic. The flight, with Branson, two pilots, and three other Virgin employees, flew more than 50 miles above the earths surace with passengers momentarily experiencing weightlessness before returning to earth and landing safely in New Mexico. Branson has expressed support for Israel in the past, saying that Israel is a country of “great entrepreneurs doing incredible things.” He supports peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and opposes BDS efforts. When Branson visited Israel in 2019, he kissed the ground upon disembarking from his flight. Virgin Atlantic, Branson’s commercial airline company, began flying from London to Tel Aviv in 2019. What steps did Branson take to promote the success of the Virgin flights to and from Israel?

Richard Branson

Richard Branson by Dan G is licensed under CC BY 2.0

ABranson met with representatives of the major Chassidic sects in Jerusalem, including the Lubavitchers, the Gerrers, and the Satmars, and agreed to hire kosher caterers who were under their supervision for the kosher food service on his flights. He also promised that Chassidic men would not be made to change seats to avoid sitting next to a woman.

BBranson hired a law firm in Israel that had ties to Yair Netanyahu, son of then Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. There is speculation that because of this connection, Branson was able to get landing rights for Virgin Atlantic without going through the typical long, complicated, and expensive application process.

CVirgin Atlantic will not fly to and from Israel on Shabbat, Friday night and Saturday. By following the policy of El Al rather than other carriers such as Delta and British Airways, Branson insured that Orthodox and Chassidic travelers would consider his airline for their travel plans.

D. Branson set up a stall in the Jaffa Market, where shoppers are accustomed to bargaining for their purchases. He personally negotiated with customers, in one case agreeing to a purchaser’s offer of $45 instead of $450 for his ticket.

EAccording to Exodus Chapter 22, verses 15-16, if a man seduces a single (virgin) woman, he must marry her or pay her father compensation. Based on this, Branson established the Virgin Virgin Discount Program, offering a cost reduction to fathers of single (virgin) women on flights to and from Israel.

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Donald Rumsfeld, RIP

Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense under Presidents Gerald Ford and George W. Bush died last week at the age of 88. Following the September 11 terrorist attacks, Rumsfeld led the planning and execution of the Afghanistan invasion and then the Iraq War which led to the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Rumsfeld was one of the prime advocates for going after Saddam Hussein even though there was no evidence that he had anything to do with the terrrorist attacks. He later referenced his claim that “We know where they [weapons of mass destruction] are. They're in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad” as a misstatement. Rumsfeld was an admirer and strong supporter of Israel and a critic of PLO leader Yasser Arafat, who he felt had not really transformed from a terrorist to a statesman. However, what is one area where Rumsfeld did not support Israel?

Donald Rumsfeld

rumsfeld_d_h by Cody McComas is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

ARumsfeld strongly opposed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plan to annex large sections of the West Bank in mid-2020, a plan that was supported by President Donald Trump. Said Rumsfeld, “I recognize that Israel gained the West Bank in a war launched against her by neighboring countries hoping to wipe her off the map. But I also believe that annexation will only complicate U. S. efforts to broaden support among Arab counties against Iran, so I hope annexation plans will not be carried out at this time.”

B. In 1982, Israeli forces invaded Lebanon with a goal of destroying the PLO, whose leadership was centered in Beirut. While Rumsfeld was a strong opponent of the PLO, he did not think Israel’s invasion of the sovereign nation of Lebanon was a wise idea. The PLO ultimately moved their headquarters to Tunisia, where they continued to promote terrorist acts against Israel, while Israel received international criticism after Lebanese Maronite militia supported by Israel carried out the Sabra and Shatila massacre. Rumsfeld wrote in his memoir, “I regret that I was not in government at that time, so that I might have been able to convince Prime Minister Begin not to take these actions in Lebanon.”

CFor many years, Rumsfeld strongly advocated against the release from prison of Jonathan Pollard, who had pled guilty to spying on behalf of Israel in 1986. As early as 1988, Israel began numerous efforts to bring about Pollard’s freedom. Rumsfeld organized a letter in 1998 to President Bill Clinton and signed by six other former secretaries of defense opposing the release, and in 2001 he sent a letter to President George W. Bush urging him not to support the freeing of Pollard. In 2015, Rumsfeld referenced those correspondences when he tweeted “Releasing Pollard was a bad idea in 1998 & 2001. It is not a better idea today.” Pollard, however, was paroled in late 2015, and following the end of his parole period in 2020, he emigrated to Israel.

D. The Israeli government under the leadership of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon proposed in 2003, and implemented in 2005, the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Many setters left voluntarily, but those who did not were forcibly removed by the Israeli military. United States President George W. Bush supported the Israeli action as a positive step towards peace. But Benjamin Netanyahu, then Minister of Finance, and Natan Sharansky condemned the plan, leading Rumsfeld to say, “I firmly support peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors. But I also believe that Benjamin Netanyahu and Natan Sharansky should be listened to, as they are right that this withdrawal will only lead to more bloodshed.”

ERumsfeld read an article in the New York Times Travel section which extolled the state of Israeli cuisine and dining opportunities. He wrote a letter to the editor stating, “You know, when it comes to Israeli cuisine, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. Like falafel balls. We know they’re delicious. A mechayeh. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. Like what the hell is sabich? Who came up with that? That’s definitely a known unknown. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don't know we don't know. Like ful. Not only do we not know what that is, we don’t even know if it is a real food, or just something someone made up. A completely unknown unknown. I mean, they claim it’s like hummus made with fava beans instead of chickpeas. But why would you do that? Hummus is perfect the way it is. And the only way I like fava beans is with Saddam Hussein’s liver and a nice Chianti.”

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