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A Chicken Challenge!

Posted on October 27th, 2017 by

Blog post by JMM archivist Lorie Rombro. You can read more posts by Lorie here.

October 24th was our members event, Feast of Flavors: A Cooking Demo and Tasting for our new exhibit. Vered Guttman, a food writer, came and gave a cooking demo of Iraqi Jewish foods. All the recipes looked incredible but I really wanted to try making Tbeet, a Jewish Iraqi chicken and rice dish. I knew this was something my family would like and was different from what I usually made. We are an adventurous group when it comes to food and my husband and children always like to try something new. The recipe also looked easy, I’m not a bad cook but I really don’t have much time to put into making meals and a one pot recipe is always appreciated.

Vered shows off the ideal chicken at the Feast of Flavors cooking demo.

Vered shows off the ideal chicken at the Feast of Flavors cooking demo.

The audience was told to get a nice big plump bird, a fryer, so the chicken did not dry out. After 7 phone calls with my husband, who I sent out for the chicken, this was finally accomplished. You began by mixing the spices with the dried rice and stuffing the bird with the mixture and then tying the legs and closing the front with toothpicks so the rice doesn’t fall out. That part was a bit easier said than done. After breaking many tooth picks, I gave up and hoped for the best.

Stuffing the chicken with rice.

Stuffing the chicken with rice.

Tying the chicken shut.

Tying the chicken shut.

When the chicken was finally in the pot you cover it with more spices, cumin, cardamon, turmeric, paprika and pepper, add water and cover the chicken with what seemd like a large amount of rice. The eggs are added on top, everything is covered in tinfoil and placed it in the oven overnight at 225.

A well spiced chicken!

A well spiced chicken!

The finished product - delicious!

The finished product – delicious!

The next morning the kitchen smelled wonderful and the chicken was unwrapped and looked delicious. My eggs came out a little weird, but the chicken was moist and falling off the bone. This did make it a bit hard to find the chicken in the mounds of rice, and I think I will use less rice next time. But last night we all enjoyed the Tbeet and I will make this again. It actually was fun; the whole family was involved in our experiment and we not only had a delightful meal but we spent time together trying something new.

Want to give it a try yourself? Here's the recipe Vered shared with us!

Want to give it a try yourself? Here’s the recipe Vered shared with us! 

You can download a PDF of this recipe here.


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The Nitty-Grits-y: An Extremely Brief Crash-Course of Southern Jewish History

Posted on July 30th, 2015 by

“So the consensus is that Elizabeth just melted cheese into a box of cornmeal, right?” I addressed the table of laughing interns in the break room, making sure I was up to date with the debate over whether or not she actually prepared grits the night before, or some unknown mystery substance from a bulk package at the store– I’d missed some information after laughing too loudly. The giggles continued as Elizabeth tried to scowl at me, to which I retorted with “don’t worry, everyone makes mistakes!”

“NO, that’s not the final answer! We still haven’t gotten everyone’s opinion!” Elizabeth tries to hold onto her hope and her dignity as she passes the Tupperware container of chunky yellow quicksand to Tracie, our Projects Manager, and we beg for an expert opinion to settle the dispute.

Jewish Food? Coarse White Grits on Spoon

Jewish Food?

After almost an hour of the Great Grits Debacle of 2015, we interns were aware of our inability to differentiate grits from, apparently, everything else, which was as disappointing as it was inspiring. Intern Wrangler Rachel suggested we use this as a learning experience, to which I replied “challenge accepted” and began researching the intersection of two environments: that of grits, and that of Jews.

While the former seems to have a relatively specific point of origin: grits are a maize-based porridge, typically eaten at breakfast, and are of Native American origin.The word itself, “grits,” comes from the Old English “grytt,” meaning “coarse meal.” The latter, however, might not prove as easy to define. Honing such a skill for millennia, Jews have grown to be impressive shapeshifters, even assimilators, into whichever culture by which they find themselves surrounded. Especially in a country with such a variation of culture as America. As the early settlers started to expand down the Atlantic coast and further west, Jews began to do the same: in fact, two Jewish merchants from Virginia, Isaiah Isaacs and Jacob Cohen, were among the settlers commissioned by the government to explore areas of what is now Kentucky. But it wasn’t just Jews from more northern colonies and states wanderlusting over new places to live; when mass immigration from Europe commenced around the 19th century, waves of Jews from the Old Country claimed new Jewish-American beginnings in the South, accepting the challenge to thrive under the Confederacy, and they did. Personalities like Judah Benjamin, a lawyer and diplomat who, some argue, would come to be one of the most influential Jews in the Senate, began to pop up around the South, and Jews became such a part of the South that at 1800, Charleston had more Jews than any city in the States at that time, with a population of over a thousand Jews (it might not sound like much now, but it was a huge deal at the time!), and there is documentation of General Robert E. Lee, in responding to a rabbi in Virginia, turning down a request for Jewish soldiers to be able to honor the high holidays during the Civil War, citing that “neither you nor any other member of the Jewish congregation would wish to jeopardize a cause you have so much at heart by the withdrawal, even for a season, of a portion of its defenders.”
The Jewish presence in the South has fluctuated in terms of exact numbers, but what hasn’t changed is our response to a new culture, and how we make it our own. So, whatever it was in that Tupperware container that Elizabeth brought from home, it definitely belongs in the JMM breakroom refrigerator.

Interested in finding out more about Southern Jewish life and food? Check out:

From Free Republic: A Tribe Apart: Jews of the American South

From NPR: Souther Jews Put Their Spin On Soul Food – interview with Marcie Ferris Cohen, author of “Matzah Ball Gumbo”

From Tablet Magazine: A TASTE OF THE JEWISH SOUTH: Jewish food festivals across the South by Joan Nathan.

Also from Tablet Magazine: Kosher Soul Food Brings Together African-American and Jewish Cuisine by Michael Twitty.

Southern Jewish Life Magazine

IMG_1605A blog post by Museum Intern Rachel Sweren. To read more posts by interns click HERE.

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