Thursday, February 2

Jewish Food as a Cultural Touchstone

by Al Herbach
Jews everywhere are united by their food. It makes no difference if your ancestors came from Eastern Europe and were fond of flanken, schav and kasha, or if they came from Spain and brought chickpeas, rice, olives and fish to the table. Food always was, and always will be, a central part of the Jewish experience. From Chanukkah latkes and soufganiyot, to Friday night Shabbat dinners shared with friends, to the Passover seder and Yom Kippur’s break the fast, our lives revolve around family, prayer, study and food. Not only are the foods delicious and comforting, but they are prepared and presented with purpose and meaning.
The prototypical Jewish mother (and grandmother) was a baleboosteh (Yiddish for excellent homemaker). She made chicken soup with matzo balls (sinkers, not floaters) when you were sick. She baked treats from rugelach to challah. Her carrot tzimmes was sweet and bright and gave you a reason to eat your vegetables. When Pesach came, she made her once-a-year treats, the chocolate seven layer cake and the matzo brei. She had her own secret recipe for brisket, which, if you were lucky, was passed down to you. These foods helped you understand that you were special, you were Jewish.
In this column, I hope to bring the tastes of Jewish food to you. We will explore recipes, different styles of Jewish food and how it all relates to being Jewish. In addition, I hope to start a dialogue with you about the foods you remember and how you carry on your Jewish food traditions.
Guest blogger Al Herbach CEO of SchmaltzOnline, a classic Jewish deli that ships Jewish goodness to people all around the country.  

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