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Why don't Jews eat Jewish?


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Third, the knowledge and experience needed to make traditional Jewish food well has largely been lost in the past couple of generations (based on a lot of personal experience, this is even true in the orthodox community).

This to me is a culinary tragedy. Are there any bubbes left who can cook these foods via "tradition", that is to say, having learned them passed down uninterrupted through the generations? Many years ago, in the beginning, when it seemed that the Food Network was serious about what it did, I wrote to David Rosengarten, who had made several Jewish dishes on "Taste", and suggested that it would make a great series to locate the last surviving bubbes and video them making their foods before the knowledge was lost. Nothing, of course, ever came of it.

Personally, I had made a vow with myself when I went away to college that when I returned, I was going to have my grandmother teach me how to cook all her repertoire, and she agreed to the plan. But four years later, sadly, it was too late.

When I walk down the aisles of today's markets like Fairway (in New York) and Whole Foods (just about any city), and visit all the great farmers markets and specialty stores across North America, I want to cook and eat stuff that emphasizes fresh ingredients and bright flavors.

This is an extremely interesting comment, and it's related to a thought that I have frequently, though I don't know if I can explain it.

I too am an ingredient-driven person, and I love to buy the freshest seafood and the freshest produce, and cook seasonally. I am one who buys exquisite organic (though not really) Scottish salmon and grills it over wood simply, with the freshest corn and tomatoes the market has to offer on the side. Yet, when I remember my grandmother's comfort foods so fondly and the way she was respected as a cook, I have to remember the great compliment paid her by so many people - "She could take a wilted carrot, a half-rotten onion, and an old shoe, and make you the most delicious meal you ever ate." Well, needless to say, a lot of cooking from olden times was specifically devised to mask food that was going "off", and a lot of the sauces that are traditional to many cultures are specifically "strong" to mask the flavors of the principal ingredients, not showcase them.

But what would happen if someone were to cook the traditional foods with fresh, contemporary ingredients? Would we not have even more delicious versions of stuffed cabbage, boiled beef, etc?

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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Much as I enjoy Katz's pastrami and my cousin Tamar's brisket, I think we should avoid the mistake of equating "Jewish food" with Eastern European Jewish food. Copeland Marks' The Varied Kitchens of India : Cuisines of the Anglo-Indians of Calcutta, Kashmiris, Parsis, and Tibetans of Darjeeling also includes a chapter of delicious recipes from the Jewish community of Calcutta. One really interesting thing is that because using yogurt to thicken sauces of meat and poultry (=also meat under Kashrut) dishes was out, the Jews thickened things with eggs. If you want to make some really wonderful Jewish food, check out that cookbook!

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Much as I enjoy Katz's pastrami and my cousin Tamar's brisket, I think we should avoid the mistake of equating "Jewish food" with Eastern European Jewish food.

Good point!! I'm thumbing through Claudia Roden's wonderful The Book of Jewish Food, and seeing some fabulous recipes...things like Meatballs with a Sour Cherry Sauce - a dish that, if you sub duck for the lamb in the meatballs is served at A Voce here in NY.

Pasta squares with spinach - hmmm, gnudi?

Blintzes = crepes? Kreplach = ravioli?

Brains, calf's trotters, tripe, stuffed intestines - all being made in restaurants today.

So I would argue that there's plenty of Jewish food being served today - it's just not called that. Once we get away from equating Jewish food with Eastern European Jewish food, there's a quite varied cuisine that's being served all over the world, and being made with some of the finest ingredients available!

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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The reason we equate Jewish cuisine with Ashkenazi cuisine is that about 80% of the world's Jews are Ashkenazi. And I believe the number was over 90% prior to World War II.

The only other numerically significant Jewish population is the Sephardic population, and I think there's some awareness of Sephardic dishes like hummous and the various products sold by, for example, the Sabra brand -- which of course overlaps with Middle Eastern cuisine in general. I've actually found that many of today's Ashkenazi foodies have been turning to Sephardic dishes to liven up their Jewish holiday meals.

The rest, well, there's just not enough of a critical mass of people to make them much more than study items for preservationists. The best few dishes may get captured by the global Ashkenazi-dominated cuisine or be mainstreamed, but that's about the extent to which they're likely to be enjoyed outside their limited communities, to the extent those communities even exist anymore.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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This is an extremely interesting comment, and it's related to a thought that I have frequently, though I don't know if I can explain it.

I too am an ingredient-driven person, and I love to buy the freshest seafood and the freshest produce, and cook seasonally. I am one who buys exquisite organic (though not really) Scottish salmon and grills it over wood simply, with the freshest corn and tomatoes the market has to offer on the side. Yet, when I remember my grandmother's comfort foods so fondly and the way she was respected as a cook, I have to remember the great compliment paid her by so many people - "She could take a wilted carrot, a half-rotten onion, and an old shoe, and make you the most delicious meal you ever ate." Well, needless to say, a lot of cooking from olden times was specifically devised to mask food that was going "off", and a lot of the sauces that are traditional to many cultures are specifically "strong" to mask the flavors of the principal ingredients, not showcase them.

But what would happen if someone were to cook the traditional foods with fresh, contemporary ingredients? Would we not have even more delicious versions of stuffed cabbage, boiled beef, etc?

Save the Deliwww.savethedeli.com
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as far as I know there is a lot of love in Jewish food :smile:

My father is an AshKePhart (aka Ashkenazi and Sephardic) and loves all the foods of both his mother and father's culture... he will eat well prepared "Jewish" food over any other...

both my grandmother and grandfather were deeply in love..ran off together to Montreal.. both passionate and fantastic cooks ...created the most fantastic meals of my childhood memories ...fusion Jewish!

garlic and ginger in the matzo ball soup :biggrin:

ok that said ..he is a Jew and loves Jewish foods! Eats them most of the time

I am half Jewish and eat them about half as much as he does ...

and my kids ..sadly do know how to prepare our families dishes for sure but only eat them when we gather

why am I always at the bottom and why is everything so high? 

why must there be so little me and so much sky?

Piglet 

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There are broken links in the chain of traditional Ashkenazi cuisine. My great-grandmother fermented her beet borsht in a barrel (sorry for the alliteration) - but my grandmother, married to a non-Jew, sure didn't. Grandma Esther was into French cuisine. My aunts, who never took an interest in their Jewish heritage, don't cook "Jewish" at all. My father, having become religious and integrated with the Ashkenazi community around 1940, learned all his traditional holiday recipes out of Jewish cookbooks popular at that time. If we were brought up with lekach, matzah brie, kasha varneshkes, cholent, a really awful Passover carrot candy, etc., it was because Dad and Mom studied those books.

My great-grandmother also brewed mead for Passover, as she did back in the shtiebel around 1880. In her honor, I've made a point of finding out kind of mead it would have been, and brew a version of it myself - but I had to study to learn how to do it, for there was no tradition in the family.

On the other hand, my Latin American mother's cooking was just like that of the Gentile neighbors back in the old country, within the restrictions of kashrut. Her rice and beans, picadillo, black bean soup, platanos and tostones were divine (Mom is still with us, just too old to do that kind of cooking anymore). Having learned from someone who learned from hands-on tradition, my cooking leans more toward the Latin, and so does the cooking of my siblings.

Yes, I put chicken soup on the table almost every Shabbat night, with a pretty good matzah ball if I do say so myself - and I know how to render shmaltz with the best of them. In fact, I suppose I'm a bubbeh. But the Ashkenazi dishes I cook are the ones I watched my Dad make, the ones he took pains to learn. Stuffed neck, all those brisket and flanken dishes - my Dad didn't make them, so I was never interested. Intermarriage and assimilation have to do with the thinning-out of Eastern European "Jewish" cuisine, I think; as much as certain favorite foods having gone mainstream.

Miriam

Miriam Kresh

blog:[blog=www.israelikitchen.com][/blog]

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I agree with Steven's point upthread that the important thing tying Jewish food together is more of a shared cultural experience (and, historically, adherence to Jewish dietary rules) rather than a uniquely devloped and distinct cuisine. I'm curious if anyone can point to "Jewish" dishes that are don't have a direct analogue in the non-Jewish culture from which they sprang. Below are some commonly cited examples of Jewish food which come to mind, together with the non-Jewish example in parentheses:

<blockquote>Chopped liver (countless non-Jewish liver and other meat pates)

Gefilte fish (pike and other fish quenelles)

Stuffed cabbage (not particularly Jewish in the "home culture")

Matzo ball soup (semolina dumpling soup)

Latkes (potato pancakes not uniquely Jewish)

Cholent (countless non-Jewish long-simmered stews)

Hummus (not particularly Jewish in the "home culture")

Kibbeh (not particularly Jewish in the "home culture")

Brisket (Jewish preparations don't seem particularly unique/distinctive)

Flanken (Jewish preparations don't seem particularly unique/distinctive)

Blintzes (crepes, crespelle, etc.)

Kreplach (ravioli, tortellini, pelmeni, pierogi, vareniki, etc.)

Kasha (not distinctively Jewish in the "home culture")

Corned beef (salted beef is ubiquitous to most beef-eating cultures)

Pastrami (similarly spiced meats -- sheep, pork, etc. -- ubiquitous in Romania)

Kugel (all the various types have direct anologues in the "home culture" -- e.g., lasagne al forno, mac and cheese, etc.)</blockquote>

Of these, I can see a good argument for pastrami in America growing into a uniquely and distinctively Jewish food, and some individual kugel recipes seem fairly distinctive (although, of course, a noodle or potato casserole is hardly unique). I'm just trying to think of Jewish foods that would seem foreign on the table of a non-Jew in the "home culture" where the Jewish dish originated. For example, we all think of matzo ball soup as being "Jewish" -- and yet, when I spent a summer in Salzburg, I was often fed a lunch of semolina dumplings, which have the same, slightly granular texture as matzo balls, in chicken broth. Can anyone make the case for foods/dishes that are uniquely and distinctively Jewish, to the extent that they could be changed/reinterpreted and still keep their "Jewish food-ness" to the extent that this has happened with, e.g., Italian or French dishes?

I wonder if part of the reason we associate these (mostly Ashkenazi, for reasons Steven explained above) recipes with "Jewish food" in America is that religious Jews here tended to preserve their "old country" culinary traditions and other cultural identifiers far more than other immigrant cultures, which have tended to assimilate (and disseminate their culinary traditions) far more. This may be related to the fact that Jews have historically been separated from their "home cultures" to one degree or another, partly through their own choice and partly because of various persecutions and discriminations. So, to return back to an earlier example, whereas many of the German and Austrian immigrants may have given up their culinary tradition of semolina dumplings in chicken broth in favor of keeping the sausages and beer, Jewish immigrants kept their matzo ball soup and this dish became "Jewish food" to most Americans, rather than "the Jewish version of the same dish everyone in town is making -- which is most likely what it originally was."

To follow-up on one of savethedeli's questions, this makes it hard to step out of the box and "reinterpret" too much without ending up with a dish that is more "reinterpreted Eastern European" than "reinterpreted Jewish." So, for example, what makes the Tabla soup Steven describes "Jewish" is the fact that matzoh is used in the dumplings. If he served the same dish in May with semolina dumplings, it suddenly wouldn't seem so "Jewish" anymore.

To go even further back, to the main premise of this thread: given the somewhat narrow confines of what makes us think of many of these foods as "Jewish" in America, and given the fact that most of these foods come from Eastern European culinary traditions that are increasingly unpopular (for reasons Steven has outlined well) here, and especially given the fact that these dishes as we know them come from Eastern European culinary traditions of a hundred or more years ago (which makes them all the more out of touch with current American culinary trends and preferences) conbined with the fact that it's difficult to change these dishes too much without most people feeling like they have "lost their Jewishness" -- well, that equals less eating of "Jewish food" in America. In fact, even observant Jews who live in America are likely trending their culinary preparations and eating habits away from what most Americans would associate with "Jewish food" -- they're just doing so within the confines of Jewish dietary restrictions. So, really, when we ask "why aren't people eating as much Jewish food today?" we're really asking "why aren't people eating as much Jewish versions of heavy, 19th century Eastern European food today?"

--

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To go even further back, to the main premise of this thread:  given the somewhat narrow confines of what makes us think of many of these foods as "Jewish" in America, and given the fact that most of these foods come from Eastern European culinary traditions that are increasingly unpopular (for reasons Steven has outlined well) here, and especially given the fact that these dishes as we know them come from Eastern European culinary traditions of a hundred or more years ago (which makes them all the more out of touch with current American culinary trends and preferences) conbined with the fact that it's difficult to change these dishes too much without most people feeling like they have "lost their Jewishness" -- well, that equals less eating of "Jewish food" in America.  In fact, even observant Jews who live in America are likely trending their culinary preparations and eating habits away from what most Americans would associate with "Jewish food" -- they're just doing so within the confines of Jewish dietary restrictions.  So, really, when we ask "why aren't people eating as much Jewish food today?" we're really asking "why aren't people eating as much Jewish versions of heavy, 19th century Eastern European food today?"

It's all true what you say, to my mind, and what an excellent thesis it was, too. My mouth was watering when you listed all those foods and their relationships.

But really, what I want to know is, is there a group somewhere called "The Docents of Deli" ?

I'd like to join it, no matter what its roots, relationships, or current modishness.

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Why is it that Jewish food tends to be reserved almost strictly for the holidays?  Why has it basically been reduced to brisket, matzo ball soup, gefilte fish, and kugel? 

There are thousands of recipes and variations on Jewish cooking, from nearly every corner of the globe, to suit almost any taste.  Not all of it is fat or heavy or bland (as the reputation goes).  So why is it such a rare appearance on Jewish tables and how can it be revitalized?

Talmudic questions need modern answers.

I'm coming at this question from a unique point of view. I grew up in a kosher catering company, write kosher cookbooks and recipe columns and in the last few years I set up and am operating a speciality kosher food store. From my experience, Jews do indeed eat kosher food. And it's not just at the holidays (though there is certainly a bump at those times) - and its not just the kosher set.

We produce our own knishes, blintzes, kugels, kasha, kreplach and verenekes and a variety of other ashkenazie dishes - there is a demand for all of these items all year long. Sure we have the 'kosher' customers, but we also have the young, double-income, assimilated couple who could care less if these items are kosher, but they want Jewish food.

We bring in lines of 'Jewish deli', Sabra and Shamir salads (hummus, matbucha, harissa, etc.), borekas and kibbeh that fly out the door. Buckwheat, couscous, matzo meal and potato starch are stocked daily. This is in a city that doesn't have a huge Jewish population

I've actually found that many of today's Ashkenazi foodies have been turning to Sephardic dishes to liven up their Jewish holiday meals.

I find this as well. I went to a Moroccan/Israeli Passover dinner this year and was introduced to a very different cooking style than what I would normally do.

That's what I call hitting the nail on the head.  No need to reinvent the wheel here. What I think Jewish cooking needs is some respect tossed back into it.  Respect for ingredients, for flavor and for those cooking it.  To simply toss it aside as bland and uninteresting is a cop out.  Yes, Asian and Spanish may have more flash in the pan, but what's to say that Jewish food (loosely defined) cannot? 

It really irks me that people say Jewish food as a whole is bland and heavy. Sure there are dishes that are heavy (cholent? cassoulet anybody?) Any cuisine can be bland and heavy when not done well. But that's a simple generalization that's not fair. Cook with good ingredients, do the food well, and it's a whole other story.

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I really don't think that it should only be Jews who eat Jewish.

After all, so many other "cuisines" are eaten by everyone and enjoyed by everyone.

....................................................................

Marketing. I think it comes down to marketing.

Cuisines become popular not only because of "what they are" or because of how many people exist in the area that know the food as "natives" but because of marketing, here and now in the USA.

If there were an advertising campaign launched, that would help. "A Matzoh a Day Takes your Sadness Away". Or "Kasha Varnishkes - Fill All Your Wishes."

Add a bit of underlying guilt to it all for those that would be vulnerable to it for good measure.

It makes me very happy just thinking of this.

It's all about the sizzle.

..................................................

P.S. About the "lightness" thing: Somebody prove to me that a Big Mac combo or some other similar variety of monstrosity that is eaten every day into the zillions of meals by bazillions of people is in any way "lighter" than an average deli or "Jewish-food-based" meal. :smile: I. don't. *think*. so. :rolleyes:

Edited by Carrot Top (log)
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The reason we equate Jewish cuisine with Ashkenazi cuisine is that about 80% of the world's Jews are Ashkenazi.

Right on! Well, to be polite, I was going to say that that's why I make that equation.

And I vas tinking, oy, a photo would be nice, so here's my beloved Flanken in the Pot from Rascal House, before they trashed it. At this point, the Flanken is half-eaten before I thought to snap the photo, but mmmmmmmmmmm:

gallery_11181_3830_121335.jpg

(By the way, I do realize that if you didn't grow up with an Askenazic grandmother cooking these foods, you probably won't wax nostalgic over this photo.)

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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Marketing. I think it comes down to marketing.

Yes, as in: "You don't have to be Jewish to love Levy's. Real Jewish rye bread."

Remember that? :wink:

I never understood what was Jewish about rye bread. Especially Levy's. That stuff tasted nothing like the bread we got at the (Jewish) bakery.

Re the "only eating Jewish at holiday times" stuff: well, all that was fancy holiday food. Latkes are Hannukah food; cholent is Shabbat food, as is chopped liver, challah, etc. During the week they ate bread in milk or some cottage cheese, plain stuff, so I guess there was no particular reason for that to remain.

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Or as in: "Man O Manischewitz!"

And of course kosher chickens enjoy huge popularity outside the Jewish community.

Another issue worth mentioning here: If you talk to the chefs at Michelin three-star restaurants in Europe, as well as the other top restaurants in the Western World, they will all tell you they have a substantial number of Jewish customers. At least a couple have told me they'd be out of business without Jewish tourists from the US and Israel. And certainly the institution of fine dining in the US is supported in part by large numbers of Jewish customers -- if you look at the cities with the largest Jewish populations it's basically (with the exception of Miami) the list of top fine-dining restaurant cities:

New York City

Miami

Los Angeles

Philadelphia

Chicago

San Francisco

Boston

Baltimore-Washington

Now I wouldn't say that the cuisine served at Jean Georges or French Laundry is "Jewish cuisine," but the Jewish middle class has adopted contemporary fine dining cuisine and does much to support it.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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It lays thinly sliced corned beef, folded over and around, with shavings of foie gras and chive spiked potato salad.  Very interesting and delicate...not exactly Katz's or Carnegie.

And this you call Jewish? Feh. :laugh:

Question: when does Jewish food become Goyish?

Answer: see above.

:biggrin::rolleyes:

Seriously, I suppose the question becomes: what's Jewish about it? If the origin of a recipe is Jewish (and I'm not really 100% sure what that might mean) but the recipe has evolved to something "other," is it still Jewish food? One can order the above in a restaurant and still ask the question ... "why don't Jews eat Jewish?"

Mon ami, it is quite Jewish. There's an interesting article by Steingarten about how foie gras was a Jewish creation as a result of finding alternatives to pork pate made in that region of France. So it ain't Goyish...now a Reuben sandwich, that's Goyish...a fine shmaltzy line.

From others, I'm getting a lot along the lines of "That isn't Jewish". What then should define Jewish food?

Query: was the liver chopped?

But, more seriously, I think you're stepping over the obvious answer, the one that keeps getting repeated: what is Jewish food?

I eat felafel and hummus about once a week. Very popular among Israeli Jews. Also very popular among most of the inhabitants of the Middle East and much of North Africa. If I eat my felafel at a restaurant called "Petra" for the legendary spice trading city, is it any more Arab?

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Growing up with Ashkenazic tradition has made Sephardic cuisine more interesting to me because it seems as unfamiliar and exotic as Italian or Moroccan or Chinese.

Joyce Goldstein has a few books, as does Claudia Rhodan. I have tried and enjoyed several things from these books and gotten both my foodie jones satisfied as well as my cultural heritage expanded.

So my grandma did not teach me these dishes, so what. They taste good and they are traditional.

Lauren

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I'm coming at this question from a unique point of view.  I grew up in a kosher catering company, write kosher cookbooks and recipe columns and in the last few years I set up and am operating a speciality kosher food store.  From my experience, Jews do indeed eat kosher food.  And it's not just at the holidays (though there is certainly a bump at those times) - and its not just the kosher set.

I would point out, however, that "kosher" doesn't necessarily equal "distinctly/uniquely Jewish cuisine." Take a kosher chicken and roast it with potatoes and carrots. You've got a meal that most any observant Jew would eat. However, is this "Jewish food"? Millions of non-Jews who regularly cook the same thing (with or without using a kosher chicken) say "no."

We produce our own knishes, blintzes, kugels, kasha, kreplach and verenekes and a variety of other ashkenazie dishes - there is a demand for all of these items all year long.  Sure we have the 'kosher' customers, but we also have the young, double-income, assimilated couple who could care less if these items are kosher, but they want Jewish food.

We bring in lines of 'Jewish deli', Sabra and Shamir salads (hummus, matbucha, harissa, etc.), borekas and kibbeh that fly out the door.  Buckwheat, couscous, matzo meal and potato starch are stocked daily.  This is in a city that doesn't have a huge Jewish population

This illustrates part of the point I was making... Fried or baked dough stuffed with potato (knishes), crepes (blintzes), buckwheat groats (kasha), meat-stuffed pasta (kreplach), potato-stuffed pasta (verenekes), all the Middle Eastern dishes (hummus, matbucha, harissa, etc.) and many of the ingredients (buckwheat, couscous) are hardly "Jewish" in any intrinsic way. Some of them are simply not Jewish (being either Arabic or ubiquitous in the culture of origin), and many of the others are not necessarily recognizable as "Jewish" unless one is told beforehand (are kreplach in broth distinguishable from tortellini in brodo?).

--

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But, more seriously, I think you're stepping over the obvious answer, the one that keeps getting repeated: what is Jewish food?

This you call an ANSWER??!! Oy!

I guess there are too many answers to that question. (Yes, it is a question!!) And the answers do not always agree. So much the better, it gives us more food! :smile: Stepping outside the realm of food for a minute (just for a minute): can a white person write black literature? Can a man write from a woman's perspective? If you didn't know anything about the authors, would the books give it away? So if my upstairs neighbor (Mary, by name) made zup mit luckschen every Friday night, would it be Jewish food? And what if she made it on Wednesdays?

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This illustrates part of the point I was making... Fried or baked dough stuffed with potato (knishes), crepes (blintzes), buckwheat groats (kasha), meat-stuffed pasta (kreplach), potato-stuffed pasta (verenekes), all the Middle Eastern dishes (hummus, matbucha, harissa, etc.) and many of the ingredients (buckwheat, couscous) are hardly "Jewish" in any intrinsic way. Some of them are simply not Jewish (being either Arabic or ubiquitous in the culture of origin), and many of the others are not necessarily recognizable as "Jewish" unless one is told beforehand (are kreplach in broth distinguishable from tortellini in brodo?).

Save the Deliwww.savethedeli.com
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Well, I adore the traditional Eastern European-by-way-of-New York Ashkenazi food I grew up with, but I'll give you a few extremely pragmatic reasons why I don't eat a whole lot of it these days:

1. The "heaviness" thing ... okay, I totally hear folks on the topic that Ashkenazi food does not have to be heavy; however, remember I'm a bit of a freak about my whole weight-management thing, and I find that the prized dishes of a lot of cuisines, not just Ashkenazi, can be challenging to fit into my routine. There are, however, traditional dishes I do still fit in easily and enjoy with gusto, like beet borscht (we'll leave aside for now the thoughtful subdiscussion about whether dishes like borscht are uniquely Jewish)

2. Being (currently) a single householder, there's a bunch of dishes I don't make very often because they only seem to work right if you make a big batch, and I only have so much room in my freezer. Some dishes, however--like the borscht--present no such problem, because I can hoover through a batch of borscht at an alarming clip. :laugh: And as I am (hopefully) going to be changing my living/working arrangements fairly soon such that I will be cooking for another beside myself, I may well be finding opportunity to revisit some of those big-batch recipes.

3. The few restaurants and retailers of Jewish-style food in my area are, well, adequate at best, and at worst ... well, they suck. (Insert obligatory kvetch about the sorry state of franchise "bagel" manufacturers here.)

Edited by mizducky (log)
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I'm coming at this question from a unique point of view.  I grew up in a kosher catering company, write kosher cookbooks and recipe columns and in the last few years I set up and am operating a speciality kosher food store.  From my experience, Jews do indeed eat kosher food.  And it's not just at the holidays (though there is certainly a bump at those times) - and its not just the kosher set.

I would point out, however, that "kosher" doesn't necessarily equal "distinctly/uniquely Jewish cuisine." Take a kosher chicken and roast it with potatoes and carrots. You've got a meal that most any observant Jew would eat. However, is this "Jewish food"? Millions of non-Jews who regularly cook the same thing (with or without using a kosher chicken) say "no."

I wasn't saying that kosher = Jewish. In fact, that's why I included the words 'and it's nor just the kosher set'. By that I mean that people who do not keep kosher and do not care about kashrut are still coming in regularly to buy knishes and blintzes (whether those are Jewish or not - I think they are).

I completely agree with the fact that just because the food is kosher does not make it Jewish. I also sell kosher nori and pickled ginger and other items that happen to be kosher.

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since every gentile Russian and Ukranian eats borscht...I don't think there'd be much of an argument there. ditto for a number of food items I see mentioned on this thread.

basically...what Kinsey said.

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What is Christian food? Buddhist food?

Judaism is a religion which can exist in any region. I think that makes it impossible to really define the food of a religion.

well....Jewish identity is partially separated from Judaism. but leaving that aside, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Jainism are dissimilar from Christianity and Buddhism in that they have express dietary restrictions in their orthodox forms.

(some Christian sects have dietary restrictions but they're not part and parcel of the religion's history, many Buddhists have dietary restrictions....but they're not required...even among the most orthodox. the Dalai Lama is a carnivore)

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