Posted on January 23rd, 2012 by Rachel
A blog post by Development Coordinator Amy Smith
It is no secret that Jews love Chinese food. Having missed our December 25th program: Chanukah, Christmas, and Everything Chinese, where visitors played mah-jong, made origami, and enjoyed Chinese food while exploring Chosen Food, I was determined to eat Chinese food on Christmas Day. This turned out to be an easy task in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania, where my husband and I spent Christmas Day with his family.
My husband’s cousin and my mother-in-law at Shangri-La Inn, in Bala Cynwyd, PA on Christmas Day.
From family gatherings in Philadelphia, to endless dinners with friends in Baltimore, by mid-January, I had thought that my holiday eating spree was finally coming to an end. That’s when my friend/former bridesmaid, Lingsheng, told me she planned to host a potluck for the Chinese New Year. Knowing nothing about the traditions surrounding the Chinese New Year, I immediately jumped onto Wikipedia and learned that January 23, 2012 begins the year of the Dragon (I was born in the year of the Rabbit). Find out what year you were born in here: http:///www.astrology.com/chinese-astrology
Though the potluck was in celebration of the upcoming Chinese New Year, guests were told that we did not have to cook Chinese food. When we got there, there was an impressive array of international dishes, from vegetarian and chicken fried rice to Japanese tofu curry to penne with fresh mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes.
Chinese New Year potluck on January 21, 2012 at the apartment of Lingsheng Li.
Like many parties, the evening consisted of schmoozing with friends, eating and drinking good food, and playing games. However, a few elements made this celebration different from others. First, guests were encouraged to wear red, a color that is supposed to ward off bad fortune. Second, the hosts served tangerines for dessert, a symbol of luck. And finally, guests were given red packets filled with candy as a party favor.
Party guests wear red to scare away evil spirits.
Mandarin oranges or tangerines are served during the Chinese New Year, as they symbolize luck.
Red envelopes filled with money are typically given to children.
While I chatted with Lingsheng in the kitchen, a sticker on her wall caught my eye. It said – “Love People: Cook them tasty food.” As I think back on all the holiday meals with family and friends, I realize this is the element that ties them all together. In both the Chinese and Jewish traditions, food is an expression of love. And in our case, food crosses cultural boundaries and has the ability to bring people together.
Lingsheng cooking fried rice in her kitchen.
Posted on December 16th, 2011 by Rachel
A blog post by Education and Program Director Ilene Dackman-Alon.
I can honestly say that no two weeks are ever the same at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. Each week I am usually consumed with planning meetings and group visits, so I usually jump at the chance to do something different and last Sunday was one of those occasions to do something a little different.
A few days after Thanksgiving, the Executive Director of the JMM asked me if my family and I would be willing to participate in a photo-shoot for the Museum in connection with our current exhibition, Chosen Food: Cuisine, Culture and American Jewish Identity. My first instinct was to ask- why my family and exactly what would we be doing… The answer… . Having an Israeli breakfast at home with family and friends…. With an offer like this- how could I refuse?
There are many things that I love about Israel-(besides my husband, Shay who LOVES to cook) and one of them is the very extravagant Israeli breakfast. In the United States, a traditional breakfast is, bagel, lox, cream cheese, a slice of tomato and some cucumbers, or eggs served with breakfast meat and hash browns. This is NOT the traditional breakfast fare that we served at our house this past Sunday………
Photo by Elena Rosemond-Hoerr
There was not a bagel in sight- just a few loaves of earthy, crusty bread. Lots of veggies, sliced tomatoes, onions, cukes, red peppers on a platter in addition to Israeli salad with tomatoes, cucumbers onions and lettuce slices in very small pieces drizzled with olive oil, lemon and salt and pepper.
We served homemade burekas (that my friend Ayela taught me how to make almost 20 years ago). Burekas are small puffed pastries that can be filled with anything that you like, sweet or savory. I made cheese burekas and added some garlic to the cheese and we also served potato burekas.
Eggs came in a lot of varieties at our breakfast. First, Shay made haveeta (omelette) with lots and lots of parsley and feta cheese. It was cooked to perfection with such a beautiful green color.
We served hard boiled eggs that are traditionally served with burekas. In addition, Shay made shakshooka –a Middle Eastern dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chili peppers, onions, and lots of cumin. It is believed to have Algerian and Tunisian origins. It was yummy and pretty as a picture.
We served jachnun – a traditional Yemenite Jewish dish prepared from rolled dough which is baked on very low heat for about ten hours. The dough is rolled out thinly, brushed with shortening and rolled up, similar to puff pastry. It turns a dark amber color and has a slightly sweet taste. It is traditionally served with a crushed/grated tomato dip, hard boiled eggs and schkrug, a hot sauce.
We celebrated the morning with mimosas. We drank Turkish coffee and finished the meal with fruit salad, coffee cake and rugelach. A perfect way to start our Sunday with family and friends! -Israeli Breakfast Style!
Above photos by Will Kirk.
Posted on November 21st, 2011 by Rachel
By Amy Smith, Administrative & Development Coordinator
On Sunday, the Jewish Museum of Maryland held its annual Feldman Family Lecture with Sue Fishkoff, who spoke about her new book, Kosher Nation: Why More and More of America’s Food Answers to a Higher Authority. With Thanksgiving right around the corner and the recent opening of Chosen Food, her talk about the kosher industry was well attended.
When asked to define kashrut, Sue Fishkoff’s answer, to paraphrase, is that it is the practice of mindful eating, and of the individual living holistically with the earth. I was surprised to learn that 40% of domestic food sales come from kosher food products. Since only 2% of the population is Jewish, that means most people buying kosher foods are not Jews. Besides the small percentage of Jews who keep kosher every day, according to Sue Fishkoff, a significant proportion of Jews buy kosher food during Passover as a mark of membership in the tribe. Kosher products also appeal to a variety of other people, including vegetarians, Asians, African-Americans, and Muslims, for non-Jewish religious and secular reasons.
It makes sense that in order to be economically viable, the kosher food industry has to market to a wider group of people than the minority of Jews who keep kosher. And with marketing tactics such as the1972 Hebrew National commercial that proclaimed “We answer to a higher authority,” people began to associate kosher food with safety and health.
What I found most interesting is that the Jewish conversation about food reflects a wider dialogue amongst Americans, more specifically an increased interest in food.
For example, our opening for Chosen Food (an exhibit about Jewish foodways) took place only months after the National Archives opened “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” which talks about the ways in which the Government affects what Americans eat: http:///www.archives.gov/exhibits/whats-cooking/index.html. Clearly Jews are not the only Americans talking about food.
The message I took away from this talk was that there is meaning behind the food choices we make. As Sue Fishkoff said, every Jew has to set their own bar in terms of how they keep kosher, whether they abide by all the laws of kashrut, or none at all (personally, my grandma never eats pork, except when there is bacon). Even if you are not Jewish, Kosher Nation encourages you to think about your relationship with food, from its production to your table.