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Jan 30, 2010 06:54 PM

Jewish Cuisine "Updated"

Hey chows,
I am doing a project on Jewish Cuisine, so obviously Kosher eating is a large part of that.. I just wanted to get some people's thoughts and opinions on how traditional Kosher, "Jewish food" is interpreted and/or updated in American/Canadian culture?
Thanks in advance!

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    1. The original comment has been removed
        1. re: GilaB

          ooooooo I think Melly's thread on her Jewish Menu was the one that generated the most lively posts. Shame a whole bunch got deleted.

        2. Hungreyabbey, just to give you a heads up before this thread quickly devolves the way others have, there is no single cuisine known as Kosher or Jewish. Given that you're looking into the American influence on kosher/jewish food I think you can understand that Jews have had their food influenced by the regions they have lived in throughout history. Rather than asking an overly broad question I think you are better off focusing on how Eastern European Jewish/Kosher food has been influenced by America, or Middle Eastern food, or another region. In fact you could even pick individual countries and track how immigrants from those countries had their cuisine influenced by America/Canada.

          If you keep your focus narrow and ask specific questions I think you can get a lot of good answers, but if you stick with the overly broad Jewish/Kosher cuisine then you will likely end up with arguments, name calling, and half the thread deleted.

          17 Replies
            1. re: avitrek

              In my home, I serve lots of Middle Eastern traditional foods.. but also lots of American style foods. My husband prefers me to cook American foods or foods inspired by other cultures- as he puts it- he can get rice and lentils or jibin at his mother's house.

              Middle Eastern spices and cooking techniques find their way into lots of other dishes in my house. Salt, pepper, and cumin are always in the front of my spice cabinet. Techinques and ideas are a part of my everyday cooking- my grandmother makes everything from scratch and that's the way I think. When I had a Mexican themed party recently, it didn't occur to me to buy the tortilla chips and salsa. I only thought to make them myself. Maybe that's not necessarily a technique... but it's a way of thinking.

              Traditional foods are sometimes paired with foods from other influences. Rice with chickpeas (traditional) and eggplant parm (not really traditional) are a typical Thursday night meal. Hummus is always on table of appetizers, but I serve it with jicama and other vegetables. I top homemade pizza with za'atar...

              1. re: cheesecake17

                Okay, my two cents here:

                I think a lot of kosher cuisine in America today is merely a reflection of various food trends. On this board, we seem to spend a lot of time trying to jimmy-rig treif recipes to be kosher, or dairy recipes to be pareve. There are an astounding number of posts on where to find kosher fish sauce, or what to use in lieu of it, what margarine is the best replacement for butter and kosher/pareve replacements for various pork products. Or than there are the almost 200 posts on where to get the "best" kosher pizza.

                There is also a significant subset of people who are pining for pop-tarts and cheetos to be kosher.

                1. re: vallevin

                  Very true- and I have put my two cents in on where to find the best kosher pizza. I've also attempted to make dairy recipes parve and find kosher chipotle peppers. I don't think kosher cuisine today is a reflection of food trends- but rather a way to learn about other cultures through food. Sometimes those learning experiences have to take a roundabout route- by making the pad thai at home rather than eating it in a restaurant.

                  My opinion- the whole fascination with kosher cheetos and the like is merely that. Everyone wants to taste the 'forbidden fruit.' Doesn't necessarily mean that once it's produced and available to the masses that it'll be good or even craveable again.

                  1. re: cheesecake17

                    I recently found a few brands of kosher chipotles in adobo sauce. The one that comes to mind with the most recognizable hashgacha is Roland's which has a Star-K.

                  2. re: vallevin

                    "a lot of kosher cuisine in America today is merely a reflection of various food trends."

                    All of kosher cuisine, everywhere, has always been merely a reflection of the local cuisine and food trends. There is no real "Jewish food", except perhaps charoset, which isn't really a food, since it's supposed to be shaken off the maror before eating. Even matzah wasn't invented by us; we just gave it a historical meaning. The main Jewish role in cuisine has been in adjusting the local recipes to kashrut, and then migrating to other countries and bringing the modified recipes of our old homes with us.

                    1. re: zsero

                      That is kind of the information I was looking for..
                      I dont want to necessarily specify "middle eastern" cuisine vs american, etc because I am looking at the food/recipes that are a part of Jewish tradition based on specific meaning (ie. challah to represent the manna distributed on Sabbath tothe children of Israel during their escape from Egypt.. latkes.. charoset... cholent etc). I know that Jewish cuisine is a reflection of the region (hence the differences in Sephardic vs Ashkenazic) but I was wondering more how you thought non-Kosher restaurants have "updated" the classics to please the masses..

                      1. re: hungryabbey

                        Pretty much by definition, the people who hang out here don't really eat in non-kosher restaurants, so I don't know that we're the best people to ask. We could probably do a better job of discussing food writing about 'the classics' (such as articles/recipes that appear before Rosh Hashana and Passover) if you'd be interested in that.

                        1. re: hungryabbey

                          I have to emphatically agree with GilaB's comments below. To ask a cohort of individuals dedicated to following kosher laws what is being served in a non-kosher environment is like asking a group from China what is being served in every-day Chinese Take-out joints.

                          However, I would strongly suggest you look at the writings of Arthur Cohen who seems to have a pretty good grasp on the co-optation of Eastern Europen cuisine (what some people would call "Jewish") into NY area treif delis.

                          Actually the best thing to do is to research advertisements in NY Times right around Passover. There are many treif restaurants that serve a "sedar meal" and usually list their menus.

                          1. re: vallevin

                            I can't believe I didnt consider this. Thanks for the advice.

                          2. re: hungryabbey

                            I was recently told that there is a Jewish religious significance to the hot stew on Shabbat, be it cholent or another kind. Apparently, in addition to creating fire, the Sadducees banned gaining benefit from fire. To highlight a distinction between themselves and the Sadducees, the Pharisees began the practice of eating hot stew on Shabbat, to stick it to the Sadducees that not only could they gain benefit from fire, but they could use fire to help fulfill the requirement of eating a meal on Shabbat.

                            Note: I heard this from one person and haven't looked into it, but it sounds plausible.

                            1. re: elmoz

                              I can't cite sources, but I was taught this in school.

                              1. re: elmoz

                                Yes. This is true. It was passed down by both Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews. All the subgroups have their own way of preparing it.

                                1. re: elmoz

                                  Not the Saducees, the Karaites.

                              2. re: zsero

                                Wait a minute...we aren't supposed to eat the charoses?

                                1. re: TampaAurora

                                  Well, in terms of the halachot of the seder, yes, that's true, but many serve/eat it as a side dish at the meal itself, both at the seder, and for the rest of the yom tov meals.

                        2. For instance: fried fish seems to have been a Jewish thing. Thomas Jefferson recorded a recipe for what he called "fish in the Jewish style" or something like that. And fish and chips was introduced into the UK by Jews. The first fish and chip shops were Jewish-run places in the East End, and from there the idea spread. Those Jews probably got the idea from the home cooking that they or their ancestors had brought from wherever they'd come from. But it was probably originally invented by the goyim of that region, or of wherever they'd lived before that.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: zsero

                            On a similar note Boston Baked Beans was originally cholent that was later modified to use bacon instead of beef.

                            1. re: avitrek

                              Really? Most European cuisines have some sort of long-cooked beans+meat dish, and while I've seen claims from Jews that they all derive from chulent, I've never seen any evidence for it. Beans + some flavoring meat seems like a fairly obvious cooking combo, and who's to say we didn't adapt it from those around us?

                              1. re: GilaB

                                I believe I read that somewhere(I thought wikipedia), but I can't find anything now.

                            2. re: zsero

                              It's Jewish style as the Sephardic influence changed the recipes from the fisheries and cooking in oil replaced lard.

                              1. re: zsero

                                British Jews typically fry their gefilte fish. That's how it ought to be! :)
                                Here,we have to deal with either cold fish in smelly fish jello from a jar or a previously frozen bland piece that has the texture of a kitchen sponge.

                                1. re: arifree

                                  Or you can ask your fishman to grind up some white and pike and make it yourself. I do that for the holidays and whenever it strikes me. Freshly made Gefilte Fish is excellent. Also, some fish stores will make loaves of fresh gefilte fish for you if you order in advance, especially around Passover time. These fresh loaves are tastier than the frozen.