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Is Jewish Cuisine a Subset of American?

Having done a little research on the subject, it seems to me that what we think of as Jewish cuisine is actually a subset of American. It's a mix of kosher German, and Israeli, and Romanian, and other European food traditions. And before Jewish immigrants came and shared those traditions with each other in the US, there was just Kosher German food, and Kosher Israeli food, and Kosher Romanian food, ect.

Am I right or am I missing something?

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  1. Not quite. Israeli food is still Israeli food (although the distinctions between Middle Eastern regions is somewhat spotty). "Jewish" is still distinguishable as Eastern European. When people think of delis and traditional Jewish-style cooking, it's primarily from Germany, Poland, Romania, Hungary, etc. Sephardic (mostly Mediterranean: e.g. Spanish, Moroccan, Italian) cuisines have yet to make a strong cultural impression here as a distinct subset or on their own..

    1 Reply
    1. re: ferret

      "When people think of delis and traditional Jewish-style cooking, it's primarily from Germany, Poland, Romania, Hungary, etc. Sephardic (mostly Mediterranean: e.g. Spanish, Moroccan, Italian) cuisines have yet to make a strong cultural impression here as a distinct subset or on their own.."

      But I would argue that the traditions of German Jews and Polish Jews and Romanian Jews and Hungarian Jews ect have combined into one distinctive cuisine in the US, and that the delis in which we most often see that cuisine have made a strong cultural impression on America.

    2. Calling Jewish cuisine a subset of American cuisine is almost as inaccurate as referring to one monolithic Jewish cuisine. There are multiple Jewish cuisines that broadly reflect the origins of certain Jewish communities whether they are Ashkenazi, Mizrahi, Cochin, etc. What you call kosher German food, kosher Romanian food, is what German/Romanian Jews would probably call Ashkenazi, not American.

      Yes, there is regional variation in Ashkenazi cuisine, Romanian recipes for chopped liver, German recipes for gefilte fish, but there is bound to be variation within any broad category. That variation, though, is nothing compared to the chasm between Persian Jewish dinner at somebody's home in LA and pastrami on rye at a kosher deli in NYC.

      1 Reply
      1. re: JungMann

        "Calling Jewish cuisine a subset of American cuisine is almost as inaccurate as referring to one monolithic Jewish cuisine. There are multiple Jewish cuisines that broadly reflect the origins of certain Jewish communities..."

        I understand that there are many different types of Jewish cuisine, but there are also many different types of American and Mexican and Italian ect cuisine. Still, all those are understood as many details which add up to a whole. When you call a square a rectangle, it's not the entire story, but it's not inaccurate either.

      2. Judaism is a religion, and people practicing this religion have and still live all over this planet. Part of the religion focuses on foods that should or not be eaten, based on content and preparation. The food consumed in light of this religion varies as a result of what is and what is not available, to eat in a given geographic location. Thus there is really no "Jewish" cuisine, anywhere in the world as a "subset".
        What has been seen is an amalgamation of food constructed in accordance with "kosher practices" for more than 5,000 years. It seems from some published data that there are twice as many Muslims as Jewish persons living in the United States.
        If so would one ask if Halal cuisine was a subset of American?

        65 Replies
        1. re: PHREDDY

          "Jewish" as it's referred to today is food associated with immigrants from Eastern Europe. Halal, like Kosher is another thing entirely.

          1. re: PHREDDY

            Phreddy, ask any Jew the world over what he thinks of when he hears the words "Jewish food," and he will immediately think of pickled herring, stuffed cabbages, kreplach, brisket, matzoh balls, gefilte fish, chopped liver, etc., a cuisine which was developed in and is surely a "subset" of Eastern European cuisine.

            Put another way, "Jewish food" is not merely what any Jew is eating at any moment.

            Your statement could be extended to suggest that there is no identifiable "Chinese food" since tens of millions of Chinese people the world over subsist on hamburgers, pasta, enchildadas and the like.

            1. re: EarlyBird

              Careful. Jewry does not necessarily mean Ashkenazi Jewry. Now I have to ask, is Jewry a word? Writing it so many times has confused me.

              1. re: Lizard

                "Jewry does not necessarily mean Ashkenazi Jewry."

                No, but for the most part it does. It is reasonable, therefore, to consider "Jewish food" the cuisine created by Jews of Eastern Europe over many years.

                (Yes, "Jewry" is a word.)

                1. re: EarlyBird

                  Jewry is a word, the rest of this is incorrect and Euro-centric.

                  1. re: tzurriz

                    Of course it's "Eurocentric." Jews are Eurocentric!

                    1. re: EarlyBird

                      Only some of them but the the number of European Jews that immigrated to the US was larger than those from other countries.

                      1. re: EarlyBird

                        Some of my relations by marriage are sephardic and the things you have listed have no appeal to them. Just saying that there are other jewish food identities that have made their way to america.

                        1. re: Bkeats

                          Indeed, and regardless of whether these have made it to America, the declaration that Jews are Eurocentric is insulting as it absolutely ignores the existence of Sephardim and Mizrahim.

                          I must stay away from this conversation, as it seems answers are Eurocentric or ill-informed when it comes to Jewry, or US-centric overall. (Of course, there are some exceptions, but I'm going to give myself an aneurysm if I continue to read this thread.)

                        2. re: EarlyBird

                          "Of course it's "Eurocentric." Jews are Eurocentric!" - EB

                          Then it's unfortunate that Israel is in Asia. I think you may need to broaden your view of Jews.

                          1. re: NE_Wombat

                            There are an enormous number of European Jews in Israel, and European culture features heavily there. This is not about geography, per se.

                            1. re: EarlyBird

                              "Jews are Eurocentric!"

                              No. Some Jews are Eurocentric.

                              If you don't see the difference between those statements, I suspect I understand the cause of your confusion.

                              1. re: NE_Wombat

                                Yes. Some Jews are Eurocentric, not all of them. Your level of hostility on this issue is ridiculous.

                                1. re: EarlyBird

                                  I'm not at all hostile. I'm trying to clarify many of the comments you've received into something concise.

                                  The same generalizations you make about Jews ["Jews are Eurocentric!"], conflating "some" with "all", you've made with Jewish Cuisine: "Eastern-European Style American Deli is a subset of American" ergo "Jewish Cuisine is a subset of American".

                                  Just as all Jews are not Eurocentric, all Jewish Cuisine is not Eastern-European Style American Deli.

                                  1. re: NE_Wombat

                                    You could not have it more backwards. I NEVER stated that Jewish deli food (as served in America) "is a subset of American." To the contrary, I have specifically gone out of my way throughout this thread to state that it is a Eastern European food. The OP asked whether or not it was a sub-set of American, and I said "no."

                                    The flak I've been receiving is that I've discussed Eastern European food, as prepared by Jews, as "the" definition of "Jewish food." Apparently this is deeply, deeply offensive to some.

                                    But thanks for "clarifying."

                                    1. re: EarlyBird

                                      "The flak I've been receiving is that I've discussed Eastern European food, as prepared by Jews, as "the" definition of "Jewish food." " - EB

                                      And, as many have pointed out, you're wrong for several reasons. The reason I'm focusing on is that " Eastern European food, as prepared by Jews" isn't the definition of "Jewish Cuisine".

                                      "But thanks for "clarifying."" - EB

                                      You're most welcome.

                                      1. re: NE_Wombat

                                        You've criticized me for a comment I've never made. Has that sunken in yet? Is this thing on?

                                        1. re: EarlyBird

                                          "The flak I've been receiving is that I've discussed Eastern European food, as prepared by Jews, as "the" definition of "Jewish food." " - EB

                                          "And, as many have pointed out, you're wrong for several reasons. The reason I'm focusing on is that " Eastern European food, as prepared by Jews" isn't the definition of "Jewish Cuisine"." - Wombat

                                          Now, relax. You think "A", and I (and others) disagree. It'll be OK.

                                2. re: NE_Wombat

                                  Not sure where NE_Wombat ancestors were from but Sephardic/Misrahi Jews were looked down upon by the European Jews as being less cultured, less educated and different.

                                  And you would think that after leaving Europe to escape persecution for being different they would look differently on those that were different. Human nature has an ugly side it seems.

                                  1. re: scubadoo97

                                    other way around, scuby. And the Sephardim were in America first.

                                    1. re: Chowrin

                                      You are correct they were in the US first and had come from higher more lofty positions in Europe and in their homelands but In the book The Magic Carpet: Aleppo-in-Flatbush, Joseph A.D. Sutton, he describes being looked down upon by the European Jews. "Their food was strange and they didn't speak Yiddish. Were they even Jewish" Many Syrian Jews who immigrated became merchants instead of pursuing education like their Ashkenazi neighbors. I know my aunts and uncles describe being looked down upon when they were in NY and in the South by the Ashenazi at the time. I guess it depends on when and where

                            2. re: EarlyBird

                              I worked for several years with an American lady of Eastern Eurpean Jewish ancestry, who moved to Israel, met a Morrocan man, also Jewish, and eventually moved back to the US.
                              Every year around the holidays she told me how glad she was that her husband was a Morrocan Jew because his mother didn't eat gefilte fish or kugel, two things she hated. She was relived that she could eat fresh, spicy Morrocan Jewish food instead of the stodgy stuff she grew up with.
                              That same lady raved about traditional foods of the eastern Mediterranean that she ate while living in Israel.
                              Claudia Roden, who is probably the most celebrated author of English-language cookbooks focusing on Middle Eastern cooking is a Jew from Egypt.
                              That tells me that today, there are a few kinds of Jews and a few kinds of Jewish food.

                              1. re: caganer

                                I'm a goy, but some years back, skimmed through a Jewish cookbook I bought as a gift for a recently-converted friend before mailing it to her. I can't recall the title, but it was one of Claudia Rosen's and included recipes and history from all over the world. It came as news to me that there are Chinese-born Jews in China. Before that, I might have regarded Jewish food as primarily eastern-European and western-Asian, but certainly never an original American cuisine.

                              2. re: EarlyBird

                                "Of course it's "Eurocentric." Jews are Eurocentric!"

                                This is a completely ridiculous statement.

                                Perhaps your slice of Jewish awareness is Eurocentric but there are many other aspects to the Jewish experience.

                                There have been Sephardic Jews in the new world since Columbus. Granted, the 1880's brought large numbers of Ashkenazim to the U.S. which undoubtedly has colored many peoples idea of what Jewish foodways are.

                                1. re: EarlyBird

                                  "Jews are Eurocentric!"

                                  Except for the many Jews around the world who aren't in Europe, nor of European descent. WTF are you talking about?

                                  1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                    The vast majority of Jews are from Europe or recently descended from Jews from Europe.
                                    This was true in the early 20th century and it's true 100 years later.
                                    It is, of course, an over generalization to say "Jews are Eurocentric" but it's certainly not to say "Most Jews are Eurocentric." Of course there is great diversity among Jewish people - the diaspora is thousands of years old, how could there not be?
                                    America is, for now, Eurocentric as well. There are Americans from all over but we're still Eurocentric.

                                    1. re: caganer

                                      Without even debating whether most Americans are of European descent, "European descent" does not equal "Eurocentricism" by a long shot.

                                      1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                        Most Americans are of European descent - there's no more use debating that point than there is in debating whether water is wet.

                                        It's normal for people to look to their ancestors as a guide to cultural practices. This has always been the case.

                                        Looking to Europeans to define cultural practices is certainly Eurocentrism.

                                        The overwhelming tendency for Americans derive our cultural practices from Europe is Eurocentrism. The fact that our closest allies have always been European is evidence of our Eurocentrism. Our political philosophy is derived from writings by Europeans.

                                        The fact that the majority of Jews look to Ashkenazi/Eastern European traditions is eurocentrism.

                                        I'm not suggesting anyone is exclusively eurocentric but it's going to be impossible for you to overcome basic logic.

                                        1. re: caganer

                                          Just so long as no one views Eurocentrism as a bad thing or anything to be ashamed of. We are all influenced by something.

                                          There is a hint of an undercurrent here that the act of recognizing, identifying, or labeling something is somehow insulting; some folks are awfully quick to infer things that I haven't been implied.

                                          1. re: sandylc

                                            I don't think there's anything bad or good about eurocentrism - as you said, we all are all influenced by something and that's all it is.
                                            There are all sorts of sensitivities inherent in this discussion that even if not touched on, have to be influencing some posters. Jewish identity is too broad and fraught with tough issues to make a suitable topic for a food forum.
                                            I think most Jews in the US, if asked to describe Jewish food would first mention the usual Euro-suspects like gefilte fish before only nodding in the direction of Sephardim, Roman Jewish cooking, falafel and more general diversity.

                                          2. re: caganer

                                            "t's normal for people to look to their ancestors as a guide to cultural practices. This has always been the case."

                                            I agree. But I'm not sure how many Americans of European descent are descended from just one European cultural/linguistic group. People of say, Danish or Polish descent may be interested in their cultural history but are not likely to getting much in the way of cultural practices from either place unless they grow up in a household where Danish or Polish is spoken, more so if there is a family member present in the home who was born in Europe. There are many such households in the USA but many more people of European descent who grew up speaking a language (English) that their European ancestors did not and are at least one generation removed, probably more, from immigration. These people aren't very Eurocentric in any meaningful way, IMO.

                                            For example. Name three prime ministers of Denmark without looking it up. I doubt many Americans of any ethnic background (Danish included) could do so. How Eurocentric can we be if we know so little - are taught so little in school, for example - about Europe?

                                            1. re: ratgirlagogo

                                              With new genetic science available now, it's interesting what surprises people can find in their heritage. One TV story did gene sequencing for a college class, and there was one person in the room with African heritage - the blue-eyed blond student.

                                          3. re: ratgirlagogo

                                            "European descent" does not equal "Eurocentricism" by a long shot."

                                            You are correct. Nor did anyone on this thread suggest that one's ethnicity determines their "centricity" if that's even a word.

                                            To be "XYZ-centric" is to indicate that one looks towards, is influenced by and perhaps takes cultural cues from that "XYZ." Having traveled in Lebanon I learned, for instance, there is a whole swath of Lebanese Arabs that can be called "Eurocentric," because they look to Europe (often France) for trends, culture and the like. The people of Buenos Aires are among the most "European" people I've ever met.

                                            1. re: EarlyBird

                                              Yes, that is true about Buenos Aires, but the food eaten by the many Jewish people of that great city (most of them Ashkenazi, but there are also sizeable Sephardic communities) is quite different from their counterparts in NYC.

                                        2. re: ratgirlagogo

                                          Most Jews are of European descent. That makes "Jews" "Eurocentric." That comment doesn't mean that non-European Jews don't exist. Try to keep up, okay?

                                          1. re: EarlyBird

                                            'Most Jews are of European descent. That makes "Jews" "Eurocentric." "

                                            I am keeping up. I just don't agree with you. I believe you're using the word "Eurocentric" incorrectly and illogically.

                                            "Nor did anyone on this thread suggest that one's ethnicity determines their "centricity" if that's even a word."

                                            See your own post above.

                                            1. re: EarlyBird

                                              I'm a goy too but related to Jews by marriage. Those relations have roots all over the place.

                                              But my observation is that wouldn't it be more accurate to say that most or perhaps all Jews are of middle eastern descent since that's supposed to be where it all started? From there they scattered to the far corners of earth. The strongest influence in America for Jews is probably Europe but I'm not sure it's accurate to say most Jews are of European descent as there are many families I know of who have no European roots. Personal anecdotal evidence sure, but does anyone have anything more than that?

                                              The Ashkenazi and Sephardic roots are both European. Just different parts of Europe. I think your argument is rather muddled. No one would lump Italian or Spanish food with German or Russian food into a generic European category and by that mean the northeastern part of Europe.

                                  2. re: EarlyBird

                                    I'm not sure about "the world over." I ate at a couple of Sephardic Jewish restaurants in Andalusia, and i did not see any of those items on the menu menu.

                                    It was the only time I saw chicken on a menu instead of pork.

                                    1. re: Steve

                                      Yeah, and I've eaten Kosher pizza too, but I wasn't eating Jewish food. The Sephardic foods are basically indistinguishable from Andalusian or North African food, but for the Kosher rules applied to it.

                                      1. re: EarlyBird

                                        It sounds to me like you are using conjecture. Many menu items I had were very different than other typical Andalusian options: Red peppers stuffed with fish paste, goat in almond sauce, beet salad, peppers salad, lentils and rice with coriander, lamb cakes with hot tomato slices and arugula....

                                        If you had eaten any of those dishes, you would say they were markedly different from Andalusian food, and in my area I haven't seen any of these dishes at Tunisian, Moroccan, Algerian, Egyptian, or Syrian restaurants, though I have not traveled to those countries.

                                        1. re: Steve

                                          I have traveled pretty extensively in Andalusia, and that sounds actually pretty close to everything I ate there, and I never ate Sephardic or Kosher preparations. Though I can't say I remember eating any kind of fish paste. It sounds very much like the food I've eaten in Morocco and Algeria too.

                                          Now, on the charge someone leveled against me for being "Eurocentric," I bet someone who actually lived in those countries may be able to more quickly identify some of those dishes as "Jewish," or Kosher, than me, a non-native.

                                          1. re: EarlyBird

                                            The similarity would be the fact that the ingredients came from there - unless you can easily show me menus that reflect what I listed. If it is no different, I suspect you'd find similar menus all over Andalusia. Personally I don't know, though I did read a lot of menus before going.

                                            The most important point is that it is very different from the Eastern European Jewish which is very different from the Middle Eastern Jewish.

                                            1. re: Steve

                                              This topic started out asking if Jewish cuisine was invented in America. Now that we've put the whopper to rest (haven't we?) it'd be more interesting to move onto another thread on how Ashkenazi, Sephardic or Mizrahi cuisine differs from its places of origin. With Sephardic you'll find the absence of ingredients like embutidos, shellfish cooked with pork, paella with rice and no chicken. But you'll also find flavor combinations more reminiscent of the Moors than Iberian cooking today as well as dishes particular to that community in diaspora.

                                              1. re: JungMann

                                                "This topic started out asking if Jewish cuisine was invented in America"

                                                ?????

                                                I don't see that in the OP.

                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                  If jewish cuisine is a subset of American cuisine, that means that American cuisine subsimes Jewish cuisine, which is flat out wrong.

                                                2. re: JungMann

                                                  Rice was brought to Spain by the Muslims. As was saffron, sugar, oranges and lemons, many nuts, artichokes, asparagus, eggplant, sesame seeds, and a whole host of other ingredients that we think of being quintessentially "Spanish" today (and the Spanish words for many of these items are Arabic in origin: azafrán, azúcar, naranja, alcachofa, berenjena, arroz, ajonjolí…). The irrigation techniques that the Muslims brought to Spain revolutionized agriculture in many parts of the country--and are even still in use today is some places.

                                              2. re: EarlyBird

                                                There are definitely Maghrebi dishes identified by Jews and Muslims alike as "Jewish", though often enjoyed by all. Just because they originated in Jewish communities, or were associated with Jewish holiday.

                                            2. re: EarlyBird

                                              Kosher pizza in Rome is definitely Jewish food.

                                          2. re: EarlyBird

                                            EB.............
                                            I have to disagree with you.
                                            If you asked my 91 year old mother, born in the Bronx or had asked her mother born 114 years ago in Manhattan to Jewish parents born in Germany, most of the food you listed would be labelled peasant food, eaten by those from the east (Russians, Poles, Litvaks, etc.)

                                            Instead, our family viewed Jewish food as dishes associated with the cycle of Jewish holidays through the year.

                                            So, not discussing the laws of Kosher, It would include Challah (the Sabbath and holiday loaves) made long and braided for year round, BUT round for Rosh HaShanah-Jewish New Year. Just as it would be common to serve the head of the fish for the head of the year and sweet things for a sweet year, such as apple and honey, or tzimmes.
                                            Chanukkah, clebrates the rededication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem and the story of a cruze of oil that lasted 8 days, so fried foods are in fashion. In eastern Europe potato latkes were common, but in Israel they serve Jelly Donuts, boith are Jewish Food.

                                            Passover brings all kinds of restrictions dealing with no leavening. Matzo is the predominant Jewish food no matter where in the world the Jews lived, But the rest of the foods are regioanl specific.

                                            Shavout, the feast of weeks 49 days after Passover is traditionally celebrated by dairy food. In Europe it may have been blintzes, in New York Cheesecake is the item that shows up in abundance. But today it is common to see pizza as an offereing. Pizza, Jewish? Why not? It's unusual to have a dairy meal on a Jewish Holiday but a cheese pizza on Shavout makes perfect sense as Jewish food,

                                            So my premise is that Jewish food is the foods that Jews prepared to celebrate Jewish holidays, many of the foods origibated within the religious strictures and constraints.

                                            1. re: bagelman01

                                              It sounds as if your family kept Kosher within the typical German cuisine. Or put another way, ate Kosher German food, rather than ethnically Jewish.

                                              Would they really not have considered brisket, kreplach, bagels, kugel and the like as distinctly "Jewish"?

                                              I draw the distinction between Jewish cuisine and merely Kosher preparations - though I get that lines get blurred in the whole vast stew of Eastern Europe. But no, I don't consider Kosher pizza "Jewish" unless the only definition of the word is religiously Jewish.

                                              1. re: EarlyBird

                                                "Would they really not have considered brisket, kreplach, bagels, kugel and the like as distinctly "Jewish"?"

                                                NO.........
                                                Brisket, breast of beef would have been used by my great grandmother for sauerbraten
                                                Kreplach is akin to pierogies made with a thin dough, definitely eastern European peasant food,
                                                Bagels, may have come from Hungary or Poland, certainly weren't in the Jewish bakeries of Germany (I had asken my ex-MIL about this 20+ years ago, she was born and raised in Leipzig before escaping WWII)
                                                Kugel-a cheap starch heavy meal of the peasants of potatoes or noodles to fill stomachs wiothout expensive meat.

                                                All of these foods may be common fare of the eastern European Jewish immigrants to America post 1880, but they were not Jewish food, but food eaten by Jews.
                                                That's why I wote an extensive post about holiday centric Jewsih food.

                                                1. re: bagelman01

                                                  "All of these foods may be common fare of the eastern European Jewish immigrants to America post 1880, but they were not Jewish food, but food eaten by Jews."

                                                  Interesting. The plot thickens.

                                              2. re: EarlyBird

                                                Have you asked Jewish people from Ethiopia what they eat?

                                                  1. re: Chowrin

                                                    Or China. Or Japan. Or the Philliippines. Etc, etc., etc. Sheesh.

                                                1. re: EarlyBird

                                                  Ask my Jewish friends from Ethopia, "Flashas" or "Black Jews" what they think of when he hears the word "Jewish food", and I am not so sure they think of what you state...

                                                  1. re: EarlyBird

                                                    Try asking the Jews in India. You will get none of those responses. The same in Ethiopia, Spain, Iran etc.................

                                                    1. re: chefj

                                                      What would any of those groups consider the traditional foods of their people?

                                                      (this is not flame bait... I don't claim to know what different Jewish cultures around the world eat, and I'd like to know)

                                                      1. re: cowboyardee

                                                        Jews from Syria and Iraq cooked the local food. No pork in those countries so it was a non issue. Soup kubba seems to have Iraqi Jewish roots.

                                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                                          I'm not an expert in Sephardic cuisine but I know of a couple slow-cooked shabbat dishes. One is called hamin and composed of rice, beans or lentils, spices and meat slow cooked with fruit so that everything develops a rich caramelized flavor. Huevos haminados are eggs steeped with onion skins, coffee or tea and olive oil. The brine infuses the whites with a savory, meaty flavor.

                                                          Like scubadoo says, Mizrahi Jews in the Mashriq cooked the local food, but Jewish recipes seem to incorporate fruit and sweet flavors much more liberally. It's a wholly subjective observation since I tend to favor the sour flavor of lemon, pomegranates and sumac in my cooking, whereas Jewish versions of the same dishes will call for dates, tamarind or even cherries. Rachel Somekh also has a blog about Iraqi Jewish cuisine that might be of interest.
                                                          http://recipesbyrachel.com/recipes/

                                                      2. re: EarlyBird

                                                        I have several Sephardic /Mizrahi friends who eat very different foods (though they also enjoy Ashkenazi foods). And the food even Ashkenazi Jews eat in other countries with sizeable Jewish populations, such as France and Argentina, is quite different.

                                                    2. Try ordering gefilte fish in Iowa.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: beevod

                                                        Big Hasidic community in Postville.

                                                      2. I ask because "Jewish Fusion" cuisine was recently listed as one of the hot new trends in food and I really don't know much about it. It's odd to me because typically cuisine is really specific to a location, and of course, there are Jewish people all over the world. It's also the only type of cuisine I know of that is specific to a religion.

                                                        I didn't invent the idea of (no qualifier) Jewish cuisine. As I mentioned, I realize there are many different type of Jewish cuisine, but people including experts in the field, talk about Jewish food like Mexican and Italian. Yes, there are many different type of cuisine in Mexico and Italy, but they combine to be thought of as a whole.

                                                        I was looking for the place that those different types of Jewish cuisine combined to be thought of as one overarching thing. To me, that seems to be America.

                                                        "What has been seen is an amalgamation of food constructed in accordance with "kosher practices" for more than 5,000 years." Exactly.

                                                        "If so would one ask if Halal cuisine was a subset of American?" Well, I'm not sure if that's really an accurate comparison, because I'm not talking about Kosher cuisine. Food can be kosher without being Jewish. A better question would be whether you would consider Muslim a type of cuisine, let alone a subset of American cuisine. The answer would be no, which is odd and something I've been trying to understand.

                                                        41 Replies
                                                        1. re: gastronomics

                                                          You are confusing the ethnicity of a person with their religion or faith. You might want to search out a little information on foods and their preparation related to various religions.
                                                          What country are Italians or Mexicans from? What country are the people from that believe in the Jewish religion?.
                                                          People who practice, believe, follow, etc, the Jewish religion are from all parts of the world, much as Christians, Muslims, Buddhists etc.
                                                          Jewish Fusion, as in Asian Fusion? (again religion with ethnicity)
                                                          At least we agree on Bloody Marys!

                                                          1. re: PHREDDY

                                                            'What country are Italians or Mexicans from? What country are the people from that believe in the Jewish religion?" That's exactly the disparity I'm trying to understand. I didn't invent the idea of Jewish cuisine. I understand that it's a religion and that you can't go out for some Christian food. There's a reason, I know, but it's definitely odd.

                                                            "People who practice, believe, follow, etc, the Jewish religion are from all parts of the world" Yes, I know.

                                                            "Jewish Fusion, as in Asian Fusion? (again religion with ethnicity)" Yes, but another term I didn't invent in case there was any question.

                                                            "At least we agree on Bloody Marys!" I do love a good Bloody Mary! :)

                                                            1. re: PHREDDY

                                                              "What country are the people from that believe in the Jewish religion?"

                                                              They trace their ethnic heritage back to the nations of Eastern and Central Europe for the most part, and back further to the Middle East. Even most of today's Israelis are likely to have names like Rosenburg and Weinstein than Semitic ones.

                                                              During the diaspora, many Jews settled in Eastern and Central Europe where they developed a distinct Jewish cultural identity - which of course we interwoven with their religion. In using available local ingredients to keep Kosher, they also created a distinctly ethnically Jewish cuisine. So this food is both ethnic AND religious.

                                                              There is a reason that in my very heavily Jewish part of Los Angeles, delis describe their matzoh ball soup, gelfilte fish and latkes as "Jewish," while the Kosher pizza parlor calls their food "Kosher Italian."

                                                              It's very common for Mexican Catholics to eat fish soup on Fridays during Lent, to observe religious rules. That hardly makes caldo de mariscos loaded with red snapper and chile peppers "Catholic food."

                                                              1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                "They trace their ethnic heritage from the nations of Eastern and Central Europe for the most part. Even most of today's Israelis trace their roots to those nations."

                                                                Incorrect. Most Israelis are of Sephardic origin (Spanish, Mediterranean, Persian, Middle Eastern, and North African descent)

                                                                Jews settled all over the Eastern Hemisphere. From Western Europe, to Eastern Russia, and China to Ethiopia.

                                                                Jewish Deli Food is one thing, brought by Ashkenazi immigrants from Eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but there is no such thing as "Jewish food".

                                                                I think that is where this whole discussion went off the rails. We are confusing "Jewish Deli", with "Jewish food".

                                                                All chickens are birds, but not all birds are chickens.

                                                                1. re: tzurriz

                                                                  I appreciate the correction on the Israeli Sephardim.

                                                                  But I AM describing "Jewish deli food" as "Jewish food," whereas merely Kosher preparations of other ethnic foods hardly qualifies as "Jewish." I just don't think there is any other cuisine which is as distinctly Jewish as that created by the Eastern European Jews. (And thank God for it!)

                                                                  1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                    Calling a parrot a duck doesn't make it so. Jewish deli food is a subset of both Jewish food and deli. It is not the cumulative of "Jewish food".

                                                                    1. re: tzurriz

                                                                      You're right: it's not the "cumulative" of Jewish food. It's the most distinctly Jewish food.

                                                                    2. re: EarlyBird

                                                                      Jewish Deli food in America is merely the kosher adaptation of German delicatessen that existed here before the great wave of eastern European Jewish immigration.

                                                                        1. re: bagelman01

                                                                          So not true. It was food eaten in Eastern Europe. Do you think they didn't eat borscht and shav and kreplach in the shtetls? I know they did.

                                                                          And kosher? Maybe back in the early 1900s but no longer, with rare exceptions.

                                                                          1. re: Just Visiting

                                                                            Unfortunately you know little of the history of Jewish delicatessen in the USA.and you living in LA, a later area for Jewish settlement may explain it.

                                                                            The vast majority of post 1880 Jewish immigration from eastern Europe arrived and settled (at least for a period of time) in NYC and its environs.

                                                                            Delicatessens that they encountered were run by German immigrants and not kosher. The sausages, wursts, etc were made with pork. BUT delicatessens sold MEAT products.
                                                                            These were copied and adapted to kosher diet using the plentiful beef available at cheap prices in America. Beef was a real luxury in the shtetl.

                                                                            The eastern European immigrants may have eaten borscst and schav in the shtetl, BUT these were generally dairy items. They were NOT sold in the early Jewish delicatessens, Fish, dairy, etc. were sold in APPETIZING stores, which were plentiful until the 1960s. Only after the mass exodus to suburbia did we see the 'modern' Jewish delicatessen that sold both meat and dairy items and was open 7 days a week.
                                                                            This is the American modification of the Jewish immigrant deli and a hybrid with the appetizing store.

                                                                            I'm 60 this months. Growing up in New Haven, Ct, born to NYers. We bought deli at the Jewish deli and lox and herring at the appetizing store. After the mid 60s and the destruction of the old neighborhoods (urban renewal) the newly relocated Jewish delis sold both.

                                                                            Kosher is NOT a rare exception on the east coast.

                                                                            The biggest killer of delis was the cholesterol scare/diets of the 1980s on.

                                                                            By the way, many eastern European Jews didn't come from the stetlach. The major city of Vilna, for example was 50% Jewish.
                                                                            City food and village peasant food was quite different.

                                                                        2. re: EarlyBird

                                                                          What about the "Jewish style" delis that serve all their meat sandwiches with cheese? Not kosher, not Jewish.

                                                                        3. re: tzurriz

                                                                          I disagree with "Most Israelis are of Sephardic origin).

                                                                          I think you are ignoring the immigration of many Jews from Eastern Europe after the pogroms, and even many from the US who went there after 1948. One of my junior high classmates (class of 1968) moved there in the late 1980s.

                                                                          A few years ago I had a client based in Israel, and during the course of a week (when she was here) had several conversations with her and her colleagues. More than a few said their parents had moved to Israel from the U.S. and they still had relatives living here.

                                                                          1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                                                            My numbers are based off the census. Yours are off "people you've met". Thanks. Moving on.

                                                                            1. re: tzurriz

                                                                              My, what a pleasant reply. I merely cited personal experience, not the books I've read, where as now you cite the census. Ispso facto, you're the expert.

                                                                              Yes indeed, "moving on."

                                                                              1. re: alwayshungrygal

                                                                                I apologize. I did not intend to come across harshly. I see now that I came across that way.

                                                                                Not to excuse, but perhaps explain - I'm on another forum where there is a massive amount of "anecdata" being touted as scientific fact. I let my frustration there bleed through here. Again, I apologize.

                                                                                1. re: tzurriz

                                                                                  Your explanation and apology are accepted and much appreciated. Let's both move on.

                                                                                  Only as background: my own personal heritage is indeed Jewish, as my ancestors were all from Eastern Europe--all over the map: Poland, Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Russia. I wasn't even aware of Sephardic Jews until late in my teens. Thus, my own culinary references are what others have referred to as Ashkenazic cuisine--stuffed cabbage, gefilte fish, cholent, kugel, blintzes (all homemade by my mother and grandmother) and of course what I loving call "kosher soul food" -- NY style deli fare. Everything else was a revelation to me. This whole discussion has been very, very interesting and dare I say it, educational.

                                                                      1. re: PHREDDY

                                                                        Phreddy..................
                                                                        If you go back 2000 years you will find the ancestors of most peope we know as Jews to have come from the kingdom in southern Israel known as Judea, thus the moniker. The northern 10 tribes have greatly disappeared.

                                                                        Thus Being Jewish can be:
                                                                        Religious identification
                                                                        Ethnicity
                                                                        National Origin

                                                                        In America and much of the free world, one is Jewish by one's own declaration. BUT 1932-1945 it was forcibly applied by the German regime. and in Bergen Belsen they were lucky to get any food, never mind Jewish food
                                                                        Cultural Heritage

                                                                      2. re: gastronomics

                                                                        One flaw in your theory that no one has addressed is the concept of "food constructed in accordance with kosher practices." Not so. These various cuisines are reflective of the areas in which they were developed (as others have pointed out to you). They may have been practiced according to the rules of kashrut - i.e., the way you killed the cow that became your pastrami - but the pastrami itself is not a kosher dish and was not created to accommodate the rules or directly influenced by the rules. So there are dishes from those regions that would never become part of the local cooking repertoire of Jews living in that region - most notably those made from pork or shellfish - but the foods that were part of their cooking repertoire were local foods.

                                                                        The only kind of food that I can think of as having been directly influenced by kashrut is something like cholent - a stew that simmers overnight. Because after sundown on Friday night you can't cook. So you heat it to boiling or very hot and turn the heat off and let it simmer in an oven set to very low heat. But it's just a stew.

                                                                        Wait. I think Passover cuisine would be a good case, actually. No bread; matzoh was invented because they didn't have time to let the bread rise. So matzoh, matzoh balls. The other foods on the Seder plate are not unique to Passover.

                                                                        There is no overarching theme, be it kosher rules or the religion of the people who eat these foods.

                                                                        1. re: Just Visiting

                                                                          Thank you for all this very helpful information! I'm not very familiar with kosher dietary rules and I hadn't even heard of kashrut. Obviously, I'm no authority on the subject and I didn't mean to imply I was. I'm just someone trying to make sense of the little I do know on this subject.

                                                                          "They may have been practiced according to the rules of kashrut - i.e., the way you killed the cow that became your pastrami - but the pastrami itself is not a kosher dish and was not created to accommodate the rules or directly influenced by the rules." Which part of pastrami isn't kosher - the technique or the meat? Pastrami was originally made from goose breast in Romania. Is that kosher?

                                                                          "There is no overarching theme, be it kosher rules or the religion of the people who eat these foods." I'm not necessarily saying you're wrong, but what about delis and the people (including experts) who talk about Jewish cuisine?

                                                                          1. re: gastronomics

                                                                            First time I've ever heard that pastrami is based on a romanian goose dish. The origin I have heard goes back much further to the time of the ottomans and bastirma.

                                                                            1. re: Bkeats

                                                                              I've read that too, but also that it was really very different in that time. From what I understand, Romania is where something more like the pastrami (originally "pastirma" from the Romanian "a Pastra" which means "to preserve," but changed to "pastrami" because of the popularity of salami) we know today started.

                                                                            2. re: gastronomics

                                                                              Kashrut is just the word given to the entire set of dietary laws. Kosher is the English word for kashrut.

                                                                              To the best of my knowledge, pastrami wasn't originally made from goose breast. Pastrami can be made of a number of different kinds of meat, including poultry. Pastrami is a dish characterized by the method of cooking: brine, partially dry, season (usually with pepper), smoke, then steam.

                                                                              There is nothing unkosher about goose or other poultry per se. An animal is kosher if it has cloven hooves and that chews its cud. Camels are unkosher because although they chew their cud, they don't have cloven hooves. Actually they don't have hooves, but consider how long ago these laws were written and how little was known about non-human (or even human) anatomy. Ditto for rabbits.
                                                                              Pigs, of course. Fish must have both fins and scales. All invertebrates are non-kosher except some species of locust. All reptiles and amphibians are nonkosher. Blood is nonkosher.

                                                                              The list of things that makes something kosher or not is head-spinning. Which animal (sometimes which plant), now it is killed. Separate cookware, utensils, and dishes for meat and milk. No mixing of meat and milk foods.

                                                                              So if you had a cow and killed it the right way but accidentally cooked the meat or served it on a dish that had once been used for dairy, the meat would be non-kosher.

                                                                              Jewish cuisine is not a term I hear Jewish people using. When we talk about pastrami, corned beef, tongue, etc. we say deli. When we talk about nova, belly lox, sable, etc. we say appetizing. I never thought of my mother's cooking as Jewish food. I thought of it as Eastern European food, as opposed to the food my friend's mother made, for instance. They were from Iran and they were Jewish and their food was 100% different from the food in our house. Borscht is borsht - people all over Eastern Europe eat borscht. I never saw keftes when I was growing up. I first came upon them at a Whole Foods. And not a Whole Foods in a Jewish neighborhood, either.

                                                                            3. re: Just Visiting

                                                                              Where would you say they converge then? What defines Jewish food?

                                                                              1. re: Just Visiting

                                                                                Dafina is one of the names of the Sephardic/Mizrahi equivalent of Cholent.

                                                                              2. re: gastronomics

                                                                                "I was looking for the place that those different types of Jewish cuisine combined to be thought of as one overarching thing. To me, that seems to be America."

                                                                                I'm sure there are a lot of Weinsteins in Wisconsin, but I think the place where different Jewish cuisines converge into "one overarching thing" is probably going be Israel. What Americans generally consider "Jewish," latkes, kreplach, matzo balls, is all Ashkenazi. I understand what you're getting at when you refer to "Jewish cuisine;" what I take issue with is confusing Jewish cuisine generally as a subset of American cookery. The Jews of Hungary, Poland and Austria were all eating Ashkenazi food well before they arrived at Ellis Island.

                                                                                As for "Jewish fusion," I don't know who labelled that a trend -- outside a few small hipster enclaves and the day-long celebration of Thanksgivukkah, there isn't much enthusiasm for yucca latkes or pastrami eggrolls (although I do love reuben eggrolls). The prime example of this trendlet that I can think of is a popup in ultrahip Williamsburg specializing in kugel with global ingredients. They closed after 11 weeks.

                                                                                1. re: JungMann

                                                                                  "The Jews of Hungary, Poland and Austria were all eating Ashkenazi food well before they arrived at Ellis Island." I thought that was specifically a Jewish subset of German cuisine?

                                                                                  "As for "Jewish fusion," I don't know who labelled that a trend" A few specific non-hipster sources: www.baumwhiteman.com/2014Forecast.pdf http://eatocracy.cnn.com/2013/12/19/2... http://www.refinery29.com/2014/01/601...

                                                                                  1. re: gastronomics

                                                                                    Then you thought wrong. Ashkenazi are Jews from Eastern Europe. Not just Germany.

                                                                                    1. re: gastronomics

                                                                                      I have looked at the sites you note, and their use of Jewish cuisine, as discussed here (the links you provided), it is where I assume you are asking your question. I appreciate your curiosity, but as you see it has stirred some pretty strong responses. Some information is dangerous without all of the facts. What I gleaned from the sites above is grossly inaccurate information.
                                                                                      Hoped that all here have been able to perhaps point you in a slightly different direction, and help understand what is really happening.

                                                                                      1. re: PHREDDY

                                                                                        "I appreciate your curiosity, but as you see it has stirred some pretty strong responses." I don't feel like I can be held responsible for the way some people have chosen to respond.

                                                                                        "Some information is dangerous without all of the facts." But where can I really find ALL the facts?

                                                                                        "What I gleaned from the sites above is grossly inaccurate information." I'm not sure how that can be. The sites aren't really speaking about the intricacies of Jewish cuisine, so much as they are saying that Jewish food is gaining in popularity in the US, so I'm confused. You're saying that's grossly inaccurate? Growing popularity is hard to quantify, but I've observed an increasing number of Jewish-based recipes and articles having to do with Jewish cuisine coming from influential. bloggers and foodie publications.

                                                                                        "Hoped that all here have been able to perhaps point you in a slightly different direction, and help understand what is really happening." I appreciate everyone who has tried to help me answer the questions I have, but particularly those who did so without animosity toward me for having asked them. Thank you! My intention was never to offend.

                                                                                      2. re: gastronomics

                                                                                        I'm not sure why you thought Ashkenazi food is German. Perhaps because Ashkenazi Jews historically spoke a variant of High German (Yiddish)? But the fact that Jews from Rotterdam to Romania spoke the language testifies to the intermingling of cultures and foodways within the Ashkenazi diaspora long before they made their way to America.

                                                                                        Baum + Whiteman mentions Jewish fusion as a buzzword; the other links talk about upscale deli. I can't speak to the popularity of upscale deli, but based on the lukewarm reception I've seen for Jewish fusion, I doubt it will be the trend that Korean or general Asian fusion has been in the past few years. Of course my powers of prediction are just as questionable as anybody's so let's check back around Hanukkah to see if anyone is making bourbon bacon sufganiyot in 2014.

                                                                                        1. re: gastronomics

                                                                                          The German Jews arrived in the 1880s (or earlier). They did NOT go through Ellis Island. Ellis Island did not exist then. It did not open until 1892.

                                                                                          And the German Jews and the Eastern European Jews did not mingle. To the contrary, the German Jews looked down upon the dirty, poor, uneducated immigrants. And in Europe, the Jews of Germany were generally middle- or upper-class, whereas those in Eastern Europe lived in ... well, think "Fiddler on the Roof."

                                                                                        2. re: JungMann

                                                                                          "In my experiences (I grew up in the Detroit area with a Brooklyn Bubbie) "Jewish Food" as we know it in the US is generally Eastern European food that was brought over and I would not call it a subset of "American Food."" You're saying the mixing of German, and Polish, and Romanian ect Jewish traditions happened before the US? I don't know enough to argue for or against that. But assuming you're right, I'm still confused about the Jewish cuisine label. What makes Eastern European food different from Jewish food and vice-versa? ARE there any differences?

                                                                                          1. re: gastronomics

                                                                                            There are countless differences. I hardly know where to begin. Oh wait, look at borscht.

                                                                                        3. re: gastronomics

                                                                                          Again what you are missing is that kosher food follows the rules of (Jewish religion), Judaism, so therefore kosher food is Jewish.

                                                                                          The comparison of Pastrami, is perfect...It can be prepared kosher or not, but it is still pastrami, eaten on white or rye!

                                                                                          1. re: PHREDDY

                                                                                            "Again what you are missing is that kosher food follows the rules of (Jewish religion), Judaism, so therefore kosher food is Jewish." I get that kosher rules are Jewish (religion) rules, but I do think Kosher and Jewish are two different things. Pastrami can be kosher or not kosher, but regardless, it's origins are (Romanian) Jewish. I don't know all the ins and outs of kosher eating, but if sushi was prepared using kosher methods, it would still be considered Japanese. Not Jewish.

                                                                                            1. re: gastronomics

                                                                                              "...but if sushi was prepared using kosher methods, it would still be considered Japanese. Not Jewish."

                                                                                              Exactly right.

                                                                                              1. re: EarlyBird

                                                                                                If you put cooked brisket on it...
                                                                                                (corn on the cob is japanese, by now, surely. they playtest new varietals there, for goodness sakes!)

                                                                                              2. re: gastronomics

                                                                                                " if sushi was prepared using kosher methods, it would still be considered Japanese. Not Jewish."

                                                                                                It would if you were a Japanese Jew.

                                                                                              3. re: PHREDDY

                                                                                                Bologna, I say. An egg is not Jewish food, but an observant Jew must eat only kosher eggs. How does an egg become kosher? Glad you asked. If, when you crack it, it has a spot of blood, it is nonkosher. It must be thrown away. That is why kosher cooks crack the egg into something cheap that can be thrown away.

                                                                                                An egg can be kosher or not, but if you eat pastrami on white, you are moishekapoier and/or you have no tam!