14 May 2008

Chicago 2008: Ancestral flavors

Gastronomy is part of family history - we all have our favorites handed down through the generations and we still feel a connection to foods evocative of our ancestral origins.

The 28th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy has decided to provide, for the first time, ethnic menus for the Special Interest Group (SIG) luncheons.

The main reason for attending SIG luncheons and the banquet is not the food, of course, but networking with research colleagues and the focused programs. However, it doesn't hurt to have an interesting menu.

Please note that the luncheons and the banquet are fee-added events. Luncheons fill to capacity rather quickly, so register soon and don't be diappointed. All conference information is here, including registration, hotel, program and more.

Here are some gastronomic highlights and announced SIG programs:

GERSIG Luncheon (Monday, August 18): Heidelberg meatloaf seasoned with caraway and rye bread, warm Munich potato salad, braised red sauerkraut and Black Forest Cake.

The luncheon will be preceded by two presentations by Friedrich Wollmershaeuser of Germany. There will be short presentations concerning personal research to illustrate successes, failures or brickwalls.

Gesher Galicia SIG (Monday, August 18): Mushroom and barley soup, chicken paprikash, spaetzel and broccolini.

Michael Stanislawski, PhD, will talk about his book "A Murder in Lemberg: Politics, Religion, and Violence in Modern Jewish History." On September 6, 1848, in Lemberg, Galicia, Abraham Ber Pilpel entered the kitchen of Rabbi Abraham Kohn and poured arsenic in soup being prepared for the family dinner. Within hours, Kohn and his infant daughter were dead. Stanislawski vividly recreates this dramatic murder story, the following trial, the political and religious fallout and the surprising diversity of Jewish life in mid-19th-century Eastern Europe. Book sale and signing follows.

Hungarian SIG Luncheon (Tuesday, August 19): Hungarian marinated cucumber salad, Budapest goulash (beef stew with tomatoes, peppers and potatoes), egg noodles, and Dobos Torte.

ROM SIG Luncheon and Latvia SIG (both Tuesday, August 19): Salmon Kulebyaka (salmon filet, sautéed spinach and wild rice in puff pastry) and Romanian apple cake.

The ROM-SIG luncheon is an informal get-together and an opportunity to meet invited speaker Natalia Alhazov (Chisinau, Moldova), who will be giving three programs that day and attending the ROM-SIG meeting. The luncheon will be relaxed and low-key.

The Latvia SIG event includes: Presentation of Latvia SIG Life time achievement awards to Arlene Beare and Mike Getz; Bruce Dumes, "A Family Website: Connecting the Past and the Present," explaining how his successful family website resulted in bringing his family together; dialogue with SIG speakers, Dr. Max Michelson, author of "City of Life, City of Death, Memories of Riga" and Prof Ruven Ferber, project head, "Jews in Latvia: Names and Fate, 1941-1945."

Ukraine SIG and Litvak SIG (both Wednesday, August 20): Sour cherry soup, chicken Kiev, rustic potato casserole, and a honey-soaked cake with apricot sauce.

Litvak SIG - Dr. Ruth Leiserowitz, "The Memel (Klaipeda) Archive Records – Where and What Are They?" In 1944, while retreating from the Russian Army, the German Army was ordered to remove all records from the Memel Archive and bring them to Berlin. All records, some back to 1790, were removed and then disappeared. Until their partial discovery by Leiserowitz, the record location remained a mystery for more than 50 years. She will explain how she tracked down the records in three countries, and valuable information contained in the records.

The only menu I found somewhat strange was for both the Belarus SIG and Jewish Resources in Argentina and Venezuela (both Thursday, August 21). Somehow I don't think my Mogilev, Belarus relatives ever ate Israeli-style three-cheese baked eggplant or asparagus, or that their salads included hearts of palm, artichokes, olives or shaved parmesan - not even for a long time after they settled in Boston, New York and Philadelphia. On the bright side, if they had experienced that opportunity, they might have liked those dishes much better than their regular fare of borscht, stuffed cabbage, kasha and kugel.

The South American event features Rabbi Victor Mirelman Ph.D. and Daniel Horowitz. Rabbi Mirelman will answer questions about Argentina: Jewish history, migrations, different communities, Jewish farmers (gauchos), community tensions, and available genealogical resources (most compiled by the Asociacion de Genealogia Judia de Argentina); while Horowitz will answer questions on the Venezuela (Ashkenazi and Sephardic) community, history, countries of origin, structure, community institutions, genealogical resources available, computer databases and more.

The banquet choices also have an international flair, with main dishes of marinated Salonika chicken (olive oil, garlic, lemon juice and herbs), Eastern European braised beef short ribs or Iberian seared halibut with papaya mango relish. If attendees indicate a kosher choice, it will be as close to the original menu as possible, and a vegetarian selection will also be offered.

Breakfast menus, Friday Shabbat Dinner and Saturday Welcome Dinner have yet to be posted.

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