Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Jews and food
Crazy Aunt Purl inspired my writing today. I thought I'd write about food. Specifically Jews and food. I know from listening to others that food serves various purposes in their cultures. Southern folks, Indian folks, Catholics, especially Italian Catholics. I've heard only one story about a culture wherein food was not a central theme and that would be Charlie's family. Maybe it's a WASPy Northwestern thing. I don't know but it's really weird.

Anyway, Jews and food. Jews feed problems. Sad? Eat. Frustrated? Eat. Moving? Eat. And here's a broom to go with it, so also after you eat, clean. Solley's deli in Northridge is Valley Jewish funeral food. Almost every Jewish shiva (like a wake but with the mirrors covered - also, lasts 7 days) I've ever attended has been catered by Solley's. When I say catered what I mean is humongous plates of roast beef, turkey and tongue, rye bread, mustard and pickles. Then everyone brings lots of sweets. There is rugalah for days. If you freeze some of it, you might have enough for the next funeral.

We also feed success. Getting married? Eat. Having a baby? Eat. Child having a baby? Eat, but not too much because there's going to be pictures taken and it would be a shanda if you looked... well, you know.

Jews do not always have the best food. Gefilte fish is one example of this. It is the ultimate expression of "parts is parts." I am also not a fan of the constipation-inducing matzah, the borscht, or the Manischewitz.

I am, however very proud, and perhaps too fond of a few of our foods.

I must start with challah. Challah is pronounced with a gutteral ch. Yes, it's like getting phlegm out of your throat but there's actually a polite and not gross way of pronouncing it. One day I'll show you if you remember to ask. Anyway, back to challah. Best with raisins. I promise. Do not, ever, get challah at Pavilions, Ralphs or any other supermarket. It is gross dried-out eggbread with a deceiving egg-brushed top that may look like challah. But it isn't. Go to a bakery on Pico somewhere between La Cienega and Doheny. Schwartz' Bakery is reopening. Go there.

Brisket. Meat cooked for a billion hours wrapped in tinfoil until it is falling apart. Makes good sandwiches the next day. Also makes for full-on coronary events. Just so you know.

Sufganiot. Essentially, they're spherical jelly donuts. It's pronounced "soof-gah-knee-oat". Eaten at chanukkah when you're supposed to eat fried food to remember the oil lasting for eight days instead of one. Good excuse to eat jelly donuts.

Latkes. Jewish hashbrowns. Fried potato pancakes eaten at chanukkah to remember the oil lasting again. Usually eaten with loads of sour cream. December. A good time for gallstones.

Hamentaschen. Haman's ears. Purim is a great holiday. It's like Super Bowl for the Jews. We're supposed to get so drunk that we don't know the difference between the good guy (Mordechai) and the bad guy (Haman). We Jews have a big thing for these cookies filled with jam. Make sure it's not prune though. Apricot is best. I'm not a poppy seed fan, but some people really like the poppy seed ones. I'm not sure what's wrong with them.

Charoset. Again with the "ch" sound! Apples, dates, raisins, currants, figs, honey, cinnamon and red wine. Anyway, this is like a fruit salad with wine. Yum.

Kugel. You know it has to be good if it involves corn flakes on top. This is like a sweet lasagna. Also, good with raisins. Hmmm. We do like our raisins.

Knishes. OK, could we eat more carbs? This is starch with a starchy center! No really, I'm not even kidding here. It's mushed potatoes wrapped in bread. Maybe put a little mustard on it. Damn, we eat a lot of carbs!

OK, now I want to hear from you.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was introduced to Purim and all of its accompanying foods by my co-workers when I worked in the garment district about a million years ago. One described it as "Halloween for Jews" as she plied me with sweets. What do you think of that description?

Filipinos aren't that different when it comes to food. Sad? Here's some food. Happy? Here's some food! Dropping by? Here's more food, and take some when you leave! Filipinos love themselves some leftovers, I'll tell you that. :)

Enjoying your blog thoroughly! (FYI: I'm Sara's friend from last week's Tuesday's SnB.)

Blogger Ellen Bloom said...

Oy! Faith Dolling! I'm salivating just reading your column. Damn! I'm stuck here in Santa Monica which isn't deli-less, but doesn't have a really great Jewish-style deli! Can't wait to get home...back to the Fairfax Delta where the delicatessans are plentiful and faboo!
We always called Purim the Jewish Mardi Gras! Don't forget the schmaltz!!!

Blogger Laurie Ann said...

mmmm, Challah. I used to work at a Jewish bakery and damn if that wasn't my downfall. And the rugalah. I love me some Knish too, and kugel...damn. I'm hungry now and must make a trip to Jerry's where I can get an egg cream too. My East Coast is showing.

Blogger Uccellina said...

I always thought Hamantaschen was Haman's hat?

Blogger Allison said...

I would say that food is not a central cultural focus of most protestant families - mine included - except for holidays. However, we easily adopt food traditions based on geography. Coincidentally, I have been on a 2 week pilgrimage to find something that resembles a Philly WaWa hoagie in LA.

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