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Nov 18, 2013 04:57 AM

What is it about Orthodox Jews and dips?

It seems that many Orthodox Jews (usually more to the right of center) are obssessed with Shabbos dips. They seem to be under the mistaken impression that when you mix a vegetable with a boatload of mayonaisse then you have a healthy side dish. We had families over for two weeks in a row who actually brought their own dips because--when asked--we replied that we do not "do dips" in our home. They cost upwards of 3.99 a dip and are usually purchased en masse. Lots of money being shelled out in large quantities for--essentially--some old mashed avocado/tomato/eggplant and mayo. ??? Why is this happening?

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  1. I remember about 4 + years ago, the dip section in the kosher stores were extremely extensive, with significant shelf space devoted to all different types and company dips, it seems to have lessened somewhat in the past year or so, or perhaps just the stores I have been going to have reduced shelf space dedicated to dips.

    1. This seems to have happened over the last 15 years or so, or perhaps we just didn't get into it until later in my childhood community. But I think it started with the popularization of chumus, then babaghanoush, in the US as challah condiments.

      1. They brought their own?! That's borderline sociopathic.

        1 Reply
        1. re: DeisCane

          People are well and truly weird if left to their own devices (and typically w/orthodox, not ascribing to general normative behaviour).

        2. I personally don't make or serve any of the mayo based dips (I don't like mayo).

          BUT I offer the following observations:

          Except for fresh cut raw vegetables, most veg cooked for Shabbos meals are overcooked, don't hold well, etc. and this is a way to get some veg into the kids.

          Kids (and some adults) like fat on their challah. Pareve margarine is pretty bad and if serving meat, butter is out, so these mayo laced dips are appealing.

          $3.99 a container may seem expensive (especially when compared to the cost of making your own dips), BUT it may be far cheaper to have the brood fill themselves up on challah and dip than brisket or veal or even poultry.

          My first in-laws were of limited means. My ex-MIL's cholent was beans and potatoes, root vegetables and a hint of fleisch. I originally thought she made cholent because she didn't cook on Shabbos. Later found out, she made it because it was a cheap/affordable way to feed family/guests. When I started picking up the butcher's bill each month the cholent disappeared and roasts found there way to the table.
          BTW>>>>in-laws lived in Palestine/Israel from 1939-1953 and MIL made many of these dips, never using mayo, always olive oil.

          1. Haha I have always wondered this!! Growing up in a home of baal teshuvah parents who didn't particularly care for any traditional Ashkenazic Shabbos food, our only dip was a garlic-parsley flavored olive oil. I think a lot of Ashkenazi Orthodox Jews like the idea, in theory, of a traditional Israeli-style mezze course of roasted eggplant, hummus, tomato and all the other salads and dips you can find in an Israeli home or restaurant. But when it actually comes to making or buying them, they gravitate towards easy, familiar flavors like avocado, egg, and mayo-laden eggplant. Recently I've noticed a trend in my local supermarkets and in people's homes of more authentic, interesting dips and salads using real fire-roasted eggplant, various herbs, ingredients like harissa and tamarind, etc. So change may be afoot!

            5 Replies
            1. re: DevorahL

              I don't think avocado belongs on the "easy, familiar flavors" list. It was virtually unheard of in northern, central and eastern Europe for ashkenazim pre-WW2. It's easy in that it's mild, but it's not familiar to the ashkenazi palette. If anything, it may have been familiar to sephardim since it was brought back in the early 16th century to the Iberian peninsula and may have made its way into some dishes of the conversos and lingering sephardim. Even in the States, avocado has only become universally available since the 70s "California cuisine" craze.

              I think guacamole--if that's what you're talking about--is just a damn good dip that works with chips, pita and veggies. Period.

              Oh, and my experience is completely inconsistent with what you've said. I can't remember the last time I was served guacamole or anything avocado on shabbos by ashkenazim. Most serve turkish salad, hummus and baba ghanouj, which may be either mayo- or tehini-based depending on their favored brand.

              Of course that's only anecdotal, but I think your experience is as well.

              1. re: DeisCane

                True, but I guess since it is pretty mildly flavored, and fulfills the need for a pareve fatty flavor someone else described here, it caught on pretty quickly in a lot of Orthodox homes, at least by the 90's (my childhood). But babaganoush, tahini and hummus style dips (most of them pretty heavy on the mayo) along with similarly mayo-based olive dip and egg salad, are pretty ubiquitous in my circles.

                1. re: DevorahL

                  Tahini and hummus shouldn't have mayo. Some baba does. Some baba is made with tehini (true baba).

                  Mayo achieves creaminess without dairy so it's really no surprise why it's used to make salads and dips.

                2. re: DeisCane

                  I serve guacamole all the time on Shabbat. Keeps folks busy while I get the food on the table. I like it with challah! Of course I am from California...

                  Our kids would be very disappointed if we didn't have humus and/or guacamole to spread on challah. We usually buy several because I like plain plain plain and my family likes all the strange flavors. (Artichoke. Really!)

                  We also argue about pico de gallo in the guacamole. (That would be salsa to most folks.) I of course dislike it and everyone else likes it.

                  When I serve chopped liver I end up eating most of it myself. My kids won't touch it. (We are talking about college students, not little boys!)

                  1. re: SoCal Mother

                    We never had dips while I was growing up in Los Angeles in the 80s and it wasn't until years later that we started serving Chummus on a regular basis.

                    But mayo based dips? Ugggh! I'd actually never even realized how popular these are until I went to stay in NY for a few months. Back home in CA I make most of my own food so rarely paid attention to the array or prepared salads at the kosher markets. Thus, I never saw the dips.

                    Once I came to Brooklyn, though, I started buying a lot of prepared food. I saw the array of dips. Tried a few. I was so underwhelmed. One, olive dip, sounded promising. I love olives. This was just some ground olives mixed with gobs of mayo. Same went for the broccoli spinach dip that was so heavy on the garlic my tongue burned. But it was also mostly mayo.

                    I'm not sure about what dips are sold in SoCal, but I suspect they may not be as heavy on the mayo because, generally, people tend to be more health conscious there. I'm not a mayo hater, but there is such a concept of too much of a good thing, and in the case of the dips, WAY too much!