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The various types of "Jewish Food" [split from Manhattan board]

intrepid Sep 21, 2011 05:21 PM

[NOTE: We've moved this digression from a discussion at http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/782728 -- The Chowhound Team]

many good responses to your question " jewish food " in america usually refers to the european style food. in israel, this kind of food barely exists . great food in israel has in its core, moroccan, yemmenite, influences among other north african, middle eastern lands.
so jewish food in usa, is very very different from the authentic food

  1. m
    MRS Sep 22, 2011 05:17 PM

    I think the term is vague, obviously b/c there are "kinds" of Jews. I was so fascinated to eat "Jewish Food" in Italy when I visited in my 20's and was not disappointed. As a History major, everything I ate in my afternoon in the Roman Ghetto made so much sense. I loved it! When I was in Israel, and had the pleasure of dining at a colleague's parents' home, I embraced and delighted in the Middle Eastern/ North African Jewish food her mother made as a tribute to their Moroccan roots and wow! Amazing!
    But I think most Jews identify "Jewish Food" with the foods they were raised on and what they saw their mothers and grandmothers make. Certainly for me that was Ashkenazic foods like kugel, matzoh balls, stuffed cabbage, kasha, brisket, and things like that. I love the way I was raised. I love and miss those traditions and traditional foods. I even love ( don't stone me) the traditional roles of all the women helping in the kitchen and at the table and as soon as I was old enough to help clear the table...that was a big deal to me at my grandparents.
    There is no ONE Jewishness...that's the beauty of being part of this fabulous, intriguing tribe of people. And we eat damn good, too!!

    7 Replies
    1. re: MRS
      intrepid Sep 22, 2011 05:19 PM

      good post, there is no such thing as jewish food, its a term for gastronomic illiterates

      1. re: intrepid
        ferret Sep 22, 2011 06:20 PM

        You have yet to post a cogent thought on this matter. Of course there's no one category of Jewish food, just like saying "American" or Italian doesn't begin to cover all the significant regional variations. But just like one can walk into an Orthodox Jewish synagogue anywhere in the world and find a familiarity in the ritual and prayer there's a unifying thread that runs through Jewish cuisines. Whether you like the terminology or not there's an immediate identification with the word. When you say German or Polish or Italian deli you know what to expect when you walk in the door. The same holds true for Jewish deli. It's a word that has meaning.

        1. re: ferret
          plf515 Sep 23, 2011 03:17 AM

          The term "Jewish food" has meaning in some places, it has a different meaning in other places, even in the USA; and in some places it has no meaning at all. In NYC, at least, a "Jewish deli" serves pastrami, corned beef, matzoh ball soup and so on. If it's going "whole hog" (pardon me) then it might serve schav and ptcha and so on. But another category of Jewish deli serves bagels, bialies, lox, sturgeon and so on.

          The huge preponderance of Jews in the USA are Ashkenazim, and what has become known, here, as "Jewish culture" is largely not only Ashkenazi but eastern European (as opposed to German).

          But there is no "unifying thread" that runs through all Jewish cuisines.

          1. re: ferret
            intrepid Sep 23, 2011 03:59 AM

            ahhh Ferret, your post is wonderfully filled with facts and …...but i agree with nothing you have said perhaps one the weekend you will eat at a Christian diner ???? loll enjoy ferret lighten up, we need the wood

          2. re: intrepid
            acgold7 Sep 22, 2011 09:57 PM

            Oh, that's just silly. Everyone knows what Jewish food is. You're talking about Israeli food, and that's not it. Just because you don't understand it or like it doesn't mean everyone else is illiterate, and Israel doesn't have a monopoly (or even a majority) of Jews or the culture or cuisine.

            Look, I love middle eastern/Mediterranean food as much as anyone else, but it isn't Jewish food. It's not uniquely Jewish as it has more in common with the whole region and is shared by many religions. It is much less accurate to call what you call Jewish food, than to call the Eastern European Jewish Food, "Jewish Food." MRS and foodwhisperer have quite nicely catalogued much of the repertoire.

            Obviously I come from Ashkenazi kin.

            1. re: acgold7
              intrepid Sep 23, 2011 04:02 AM

              touche, back to the main chat, what i call this, or what you call that doenst mater in the end its about the food, and everyone likes whatever they wish, imho sephardic food, superior to jewish deli, or brisket, or matzoh balls..please pass the chicken fat

              1. re: intrepid
                wreckers00 Sep 23, 2011 08:06 AM

                I think you can title things like Matzoh Balls, Challah, Charosit, etc as "Jewish Foods". These are tied to the history of the Jews or the Jewish holidays and traditions (at least for many Jews worldwide).

                Are there similar foods among other groups? Maybe. But as far as I know these could definitely be considered almost strictly foods that are eaten by Jews--not just Ukrainians or Israelis or Middle Easterners, in general.

        2. scubadoo97 Sep 22, 2011 03:50 PM

          Not in my family. It's Middle Eastern all the way. Mostly Syrian but there are some dishes that have their roots in Iraq like soup kibbe

          1. pikawicca Sep 22, 2011 02:03 PM

            I highly recommend "Olive Trees and Honey, a Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World" to all of the posters on this thread. It's a great cookbook and a fascinating read. Recipes from Alsace, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Italy, Morocco, Persia, Poland, Romania, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, Uzbekistan, and Yemen. All delicious, and all "authentically Jewish."

            1. p
              plf515 Sep 22, 2011 01:12 PM

              I lived in Israel from 1985-1988 (and in NYC the rest of my life). There's no such thing as "Jewish" food. There's kosher food, to be sure. But it comes from many traditions. When I lived in Israel I thought of writing a book called "Gefilte Fish and Couscous"

              8 Replies
              1. re: plf515
                ferret Sep 22, 2011 01:54 PM

                Kosher is a fixed set of dietary guidelines while "Jewish" refers to a culture, so I beg to differ. When you say a recipe is "Kosher Italian" it means something entirely different than it being a Jewish Italian recipe. Case in point, I was looking for a lost recipe for an Italian Hamin (their version of the ubiquitous cholent). The recipe simply doesn't exist in traditional Italian cooking. The Italians had similar dishes but this applied classically Italian regional ingredients to a dish that was specifically designed for an overnight cooking process to accommodate the Sabbath and created a dish that had no direct precedent outside the Jewish community.

                Just like in the thread on American food, there are cultural modifications that create an entirely new context for re-interpreting foods. So there's a long American history of "bastardizing" Italian, Chinese and even Mexican (among others) dishes to make them more compatible with local ingredients and palates.

                1. re: ferret
                  plf515 Sep 22, 2011 03:40 PM

                  "Jewish" is not "a" culture, it's a whole BUNCH of cultures, in two broad categories of Ashkenazi and Sephardi, but with lots of variations within each and with some that don't fit in either.

                  I think, though, we are arguing about terminology and agree on substance.

                  1. re: plf515
                    intrepid Sep 22, 2011 04:58 PM

                    hi, i think, to get back to the food, the term jewish food, is by the western mind, and is a misnomer. the other points were on types of food, and to my pallet there no comparing ashkenazic food to sephardic food its like comparing a corvette to a ferrari one can debate all day about the corvette. but it cannot hold a ferrrari oil can lololol

                    1. re: intrepid
                      plf515 Sep 23, 2011 02:57 AM

                      Hehe. I'd say it's more like comparing a car to a boat.

                      Can you really compare gefilte fish to couscous to melawach to .....?

                  2. re: ferret
                    intrepid Sep 22, 2011 04:55 PM

                    right on point, especially the bastardizing comment

                  3. re: plf515
                    intrepid Sep 22, 2011 04:53 PM

                    bravo, you're right on target

                    1. re: plf515
                      foodwhisperer Sep 22, 2011 09:36 PM

                      I lived in Israel for about a year. A good part of it cooking on a kibbutz. The food was pretty bad. Leben ( yogurt) for dinner with salad. lunch was the big meal with terrible meat. Breakfast was eggs. Sometimes we would make guacamole. In town we would have falaffel or hummous. In Jerusalem we would have Arab dishes like sahalab( an amazing breakfast type thing between something you eat and something you drink). The best falaffel in Israel was either Arab falafel or jewish Yemenite falafel. I had chicken soup, which was the only thing reminiscent of the "jewish " food i grew up on. There was no kreplach, no kasha varnishkas, no stuffed cabbage, no kishka, maybe i had blintzes, no borsht, no matzoh brei,
                      no Lobster Cantonese ( that's Jewish food in NYC , right?), Anyway, no food in isreal even reminded me of what I call Jewish. I dont even remember having a bialy or a bagel in israel ,They call those salted soft pretzels Bagelah in Israel.
                      Israel changed since the 70s, at that time you couldnt get shrimp or shellfish in a restaurant, now you can. I think you still cant get pork, The only pork I had in israel was wild boar that Arab friends of mine hunted. Anyway, I'm getting hungry, i think i'lll make some matzoh brei.

                      1. re: foodwhisperer
                        smartie Sep 23, 2011 05:19 AM

                        you most certainly could and still can get pork in Israel. It's been known as 'basar levan' (white meat). I remember going to Mandy's Chinese on Dizengoff in 1973 and being shocked to see pork and shellfish on the menu and did not know that in Israel restaurants do not have to be kosher except in hotels.

                    2. d
                      danany Sep 21, 2011 05:46 PM

                      Diaspora. Heard of it?

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: danany
                        Bob W Sep 22, 2011 10:48 AM

                        Exactly -- there are ancient Jewish recipes from places like Goa, in India.

                        Personally, I don't think of Israeli food as "Jewish" at all, since you can go to a Lebanese or Syrian restaurant and find variations of the same dishes. Hummus? Felafel? What's Jewish about them? Whereas I do not believe that non-Jewish Poles, for example, eat gefilte fish.

                        1. re: Bob W
                          danany Sep 22, 2011 11:27 AM

                          I think we can all agree that wherever there was a Jewish population, that group tried to assimilate into the broader culture to a degree, which included the foods. As the same type of foods were available during the year, that is what was used. Yes, even beloved gefilte fish is shared by other cultures with access to the sea. It may be in another form, but at the end of the day, it's still a fish ball.

                          Let's not disparage the food that the jewish people eat based on where they settled. Where the differences may come is that the jewish version of a dish will not mix meat with milk, include pork, etc...

                          1. re: Bob W
                            intrepid Sep 22, 2011 04:53 PM

                            yikes, ok, in israel, they laugh at the term jewish food, its a western comment . and because western people i.e. americans think because they coin a name , that is true and its global and it has to be, because it was born out of western/american minds
                            this is a basic problem in the western stereotypes of unwestern culture and concepts
                            it leads to falsehoods, and total ignorance of reality

                          2. re: danany
                            intrepid Sep 22, 2011 04:50 PM

                            yes i heard of it, point is??

                          3. The Professor Sep 21, 2011 05:45 PM

                            More authentic?
                            That's probably one the sillier things I've read on these boards!

                            European Jewish food is just as 'authentic' as _any_ Jewish food.
                            It's just from a different region of the world with different Judaic traditions.

                            It's all still authentic Jewish food, no matter where the Jews in question are from.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: The Professor
                              intrepid Sep 21, 2011 05:54 PM

                              hey professor I've been on these boards since the mid 1990s certainly you've heard of sillier things than this, if not, you should get out more often loll..but all kidding aside

                              , you are right, its authentic, less flavorful, less exciting, but authentic, the flavor and excitement was my main point in the homeland of the jewish people the eastern european food is a distant second to the sephardic/oriental foods have you been ?? have you tied it/tasted it my point was not one of this versus that as far as authentic goes, my point was on the flavors of the different foods, all are authentic but one is more flavorful and exciting than the other imho

                              1. re: intrepid
                                gutsofsteel Sep 22, 2011 05:32 AM

                                That's just your opinion, of course. I adore sephardic food (middle eastern, call it whatever you want - moroccan, yemenite, etc etc) and I also adore ashkenazi food. One is not "better" or "more authentic" than the other.

                                It's like comparing Chinese food to Mexican food. It's not a better or worse thing - they're different.

                            2. d
                              danany Sep 21, 2011 05:30 PM

                              "Authentic" depends on where you are from. Ashkenazi food is just as authentic as Sephardic, Israeli, Moroccan, etc...

                              My nana had no idea what hummus was, but she could sure cook a mean borscht!

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: danany
                                intrepid Sep 21, 2011 05:50 PM

                                bravo danny i agree, yet when people refer tho the funny phrase of jewish food, they are usually only referring to vous vous food( ashkenazic) and omit the sepahdic middle eastern based food, which in israel is the dominant force in foods, not the only one, but a dominant one i still like matzoh balls, but gosh moroccan food in israeli is off the hook have you experienced ??

                                1. re: intrepid
                                  danany Sep 21, 2011 05:59 PM

                                  I adore the food in Israel! One the the reasons I dream of moving there someday. Sometimes it's the simple things. On a hot June day, I had a plateful of the most delicious watermelon I have ever tasted (the one I ate in Cannes comes in second).

                                  1. re: danany
                                    intrepid Sep 21, 2011 06:04 PM

                                    touche i agree the domestic produce in israel is off the hook, as are the dairy product, the yogurts there for example rock they sell the daniella yogurt in nyc go try some its great go to a kosher market like ones on upper west side

                                    1. re: intrepid
                                      danany Sep 21, 2011 08:01 PM

                                      Sounds yummy. Take note brisfood. Thanks!

                                      1. re: intrepid
                                        DaisyM Sep 22, 2011 02:47 AM

                                        I agree, the produce and dairy products we had in Israel were the best we've ever had. I'm still dreaming about the Israeli breakfast buffet at The Inbal. It was amazing. They had a huge "cake" of the freshest, tangiest cream cheese covered in smoked salmon. It was incredible. I swear I'd plan a trip to Israel just for that breakfast! Also, the hummus in the US doesn't come close to what they serve everywhere in Israel.

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