11 October 2006

We are what we eat: A Sephardic Sukkoth

Today, The New York Times featured a great Sukkot food tradition article, "Cooking Defines Sephardic Jews at Sukkot." Related articles offer New York area stores which carry exotic ingredients as well as some delicious recipes, like Sofrito Batatas (veal stew with tomato, allspice and fried potatoes.)

My former editor at the Jerusalem Post used to say, "Schelly, not everything is about genealogy."

However, I found that when interviewing, talking about family history was a great ice-breaker and got the story moving.

Family researchers know everything is connected to genealogy, and cuisine is one of the most important.

The dishes and flavorings our great-grandparents and grandparents prepared, carried on by our parents and in our own families, always tie that thread of connection a bit tighter. The food traditions of our families are part of us, and we'll pass these delights down to all the generations to come.

Foods are clues to our origins as well. Is your family's favorite kugel salty or sweet? What do you put on your latkes?

Ask any Iranian Jew which holiday is the most memorable, and he or she will likely say Passover, when we chase everyone around the house with handfuls of scallions. It is very cathartic, and I don't think I've ever gotten through Dayenu since I married into this community. At the sound of the first "d" the huge mounds of scallions are grabbed and the chase is on until exhaustion sets in.

And of course, the Persian halek, this community's version of charoset, is a a mouth-watering dream, with many varieties of fresh and dried fruits, nuts, pomegranate paste, wine, and each family's secret ingredient. But we'll have to wait a few months more for this one!

Tracing the Tribe invites readers to post their favorite dishes from their own backgrounds in the Comments section.

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