01 July 2009

Food: Fusion of history, ethnicity

Do we eat what we are? Genealogy is as much about flavors, origins and climate as it is about names and dates.

Here's a nice bit of Jewish fusion cuisine from the Canadian Jewish News.

There are so many of us from so many different places and we've lived in other localities along the way, so it's only natural that we've picked up tastes along the way and worked them into our cuisine.

It varies enormously from country to country and within different communities, and it’s a function of Jewish dietary laws, Jewish Sabbath laws, holiday rituals and the local food and cooking customs of the many lands in which Jews have lived over the centuries.

It could be said that Jewish cookery is the world’s first example of fusion cooking.

The importance of religion in our food cannot be underestimated. For example, on Shabbat, because we are not permitted to cook or light a fire, Jews have developed the talent of using one pot to combine the best ingredients the household can buy, cooked on a very low heat before sundown and eaten for lunch on Shabbat. Stews such as cholent, hameem and adafina have become classic recipes.
In Russia, the Shabbat dish comes with kasha (buckwheat) - one of my favorites, but with pot roast, not cholent - with onions and mushrooms. A Czech version means kugel on the side; in Poland, there are potato dumplings.

The Sephardic version - adafina - comes with eggs in shells cooked in the fragrant stew.

While challah is traditional, in Sephardic or Mizrahi communities, the bread is more like pita, large or small, thick or thin, in many varieties.

Each holiday focuses on special foods or lack of them, and the diaspora's varying climates have also influenced foods.

Cold Eastern European climates mean fewer fruits and vegetables, pickled vegetables and meats and freshwater salted and smoked fish. Potatoes were a staple.

Mediterranean Sephardic climates meant a much fresher cuisine, and much more varied, using herbs, olive oil, many fruits and vegetables.

Maybe it is more than we eat what we are.

I think that we eat where we have been as our families passed through many countries, adapting and changing cuisine according to availability.

Read the complete story at the link above.

1 comment:

  1. I am not sure that I agree with the comments in the article that these stews combined the "best" food that the family could buy. Chulent and other stews are typically made with cheaper cuts of meat (although no cut of kosher meat is realy cheap any more).