Jewish American Food Culture

Jewish American Food Culture

Jewish American Food Culture

Jewish American Food Culture

Synopsis

Many Jewish foods are beloved in American culture. Everyone eats bagels, and the delicatessen is ubiquitous from Midtown Manhattan to Los Angeles. Jewish American Food Culture offers readers an in-depth look at the well-known and unfamiliar Jewish dishes and the practices and culture of a diverse group. This is the source to find out what "parve" on packaging means, the symbolism of particular foods that are essential to holiday celebrations, what keeping kosher entails, how meals and food rituals are approached differently depending on how religious one is and the land of one's ancestors, and much more.

Excerpt

If you think of iconic and quintessentially American foods, those with which we are most familiar, there are scarcely any truly native to North America. Our hot dogs are an adaptation of sausages from Frankfurt and Vienna; our hamburgers are another Germanic import reconfigured. Ketchup is an invention of Southeast Asia, although it is based on the tomato, which comes from South America. Pizza is a variant on a Neapolitan dish. Colas are derived from an African nut. Our beloved peanuts are a South American plant brought to Africa and from there to the U.S. South. Our french fries are an Andean tuber, cooked with a European technique. Even our quintessentially American apple pie is made from a fruit native to what is today Kazakhstan.

When I poll my students about their favorite foods at the start of every food class I teach, inevitably included are tacos, bagels, sushi, pasta, fried chicken—most of which can be found easily at fast food outlets a few blocks from campus. in a word, American food culture is, and always has been profoundly globally oriented. This, of course, has been the direct result of immigration, from the time of earliest settlement by Spanish, English, French and Dutch, of slaves brought by force from Africa, and later by Germans, Italians, Eastern Europeans, including Jews, and Asians, up until now with the newest immigrants from Latin America and elsewhere.

Although Americans have willingly adopted the foods of newcomers, we never became a “melting pot” for these various cultures. So-called ethnic cuisines naturally changed on foreign soil, adapting to new ingredients and popular taste—but at heart they remain clear and proud descendants of their respective countries. Their origins are also readily recognized by Americans . . .

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