The pleasant smell drifted not heavenward but into the O Shil Beit Chabad Itaim Synagogue, distracting the faithful from their prayers.
Next door, the Bolinha restaurant was gearing up for its usual barrage of patrons on Saturday, when Brazilians traditionally partake of their national dish, a black bean stew called feijoada. Unfortunately for the davening Jews, the recipe for feijoada includes pork chops, pork trotters, pork tails, pork ears, pork sausage and bacon.
According to some historians, feijoada was concocted by Brazilian slaves who transformed scraps from the big house into a slave-quarters delicacy.
But the owners of Bolinha, which is nationally famous for its feijoada, cite scholarly sources to make the case that the dish is really a Brazilian variation of European fare like the Spanish cassoulet and the Portuguese caldeirada.
Whatever its origin, feijoada stands as an important symbol of Brazilian heritage. That creates "tension between Jewish and Brazilian expressions of identity," according to the anthropologist Misha Klein of the University of Oklahoma.
"Brazilians with a strong Jewish identity, including some who are somewhat religiously observant," will indulge in the occasional feijoada, although it's not kosher, Klein said.
Here's a thought for Passover: We are Pharaohs to our children. We have made them our slaves. Their mud bricks are the books that fill 30-pound backpacks. Their mortar is four hours of homework every night. The straw we deny is sleep. Ask child therapists across the country about the headaches and self-starvation, and the girls who make shallow cuts in their wrists to "let the pressure out, to feel on the outside the pain I feel on the inside." Ask the school counselors about how teenagers use drugs and sex to try to escape. Ask the pediatricians and chiropractors about what those 30-pound loads have done to the children's posture. Ask the college admissions office about their nicknames for incoming students: "crispies," the 18-year-olds too fried from high school to function at college, and "teacups," freshmen too fragile to manage on their own without their parents, tutors and housekeepers.
A German corporation that used slave labor to produce some of the weapons that killed American soldiers is now building a monument in Washington to honor the Americans who fought and died in World War II.
"We have slaves to help," Jerry Rabinowitz, the Friday co-captain of the North Hollywood Interfaith Food Pantry, announces. "We Jews know something about slaves."