Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A little Mind Wandering

I'm giving a large kiddush in the house on the first day of Shavuous and am up to my ears with the cooking and baking. Because it's Shavuous the kiddish is milchig. While shopping I ran into someone from the neighborhood who noticed the overflowing shopping cart. She made a kind of strange remark that has stuck in my mind. She said "It seems kind of funny to have all that hot Italian food on a Jewish yom tov. Why not cook something that is Jewish?"

Okay, let's go find that milchig Jewish food. Can't be blintzes because we "stole" that from the Russians and the French (Russian blini and French crepes). Can't be cheesecake because everyone makes that. Can't be pierogen (the Russians again.) I've been wracking my brain and I have yet to come up with one single dish that can be considered validly a Jewish milchig dish. For fleishigs we have cholent. We have the traditional kugels.

If I'm missing something, please, some reader fill in the gaps in my knowledge. We talk about eretz zavat chalav u'devash. What did they do with all that milk? What milchig dish is Jewish?


BrooklynWolf said...

When we talk about a land "flowing with milk and honey" aren't we actually dealing with goat's milk, not cow's milk?

The Wolf

mother in israel said...

One theory says it's wine, no?

enigma said...

My mother used to make a fantastic milchig kugel...does that count?

Anonymous said...

Are there such things as Jewish fleishig dishes? I can't think of any. It seems to me that matzah is the only food we haven't taken from other cultures.

Anonymous said...

If we don't count blintzes then a milchig kugel is the only thing I can think of that I've never seen anywhere in a store or served in a restaurant that wasn't Jewish. Maybe there is an only Jewish sefardi milchig dish but for ashkenaz the kugel must be it.

ProfK said...


Prior to the advent of the slow cooker/crock pot, I would have stated that cholent was 100% a Jewish dish. The boston baked beans are not in any way similar except that both dishes use beans. "Authentic" chili doesn't even use beans. Now with crock pot cooking and lots of working people using it you might say that some of the stews and chilis are coming close. But we still cook our cholents for way longer then any other dish using the crock pot.

There is even one crockpot manufacturer who warns against using the pot for longer than 12 hours at a stretch--not for Jewish cooking.

Anonymous said...

What about cassoulet? Seems to me that cholent looks very similar to cassoulet.

Anonymous said...

I have a cookbook of Italian-Jewish dishes. IIRC it is called "The classic cuisine of the Italian Jews" or something like that. A good book, but only if you have time.

ProfK said...


May sort of look the same but not really. And the cooking time, while long for some standards is only about 3-4 hours tops. Just a glance at the ingredients from one of the classic french cookbooks for the recipe should show the difference from cholent:1 lb white navy beans
1 small duck - cut into 8 serving pieces
1/2 lb pork stew meat
1/2 lb lamb stew meat
2 medium onions - diced
1/4 slab of bacon - cut into 3/4" cubes
2 tb minced garlic
1/2 lb spicy pork sausage
2 c water
2 c red wine
12 black peppercorns
2 sprigs thyme (or 2 tb dried)
4 bay leaves
1 tb dried fennel
1 small sprig rosemary (or 1 tb dried)

Anonymous said...

Save for the short cooking time, garlic (cooking it for long makes the cholent taste bitter), pork products & the duck and add the root vegetables that I have seen in other cassoulet recipes and it would seem to be much like my cholent. I also tend to use beer & whiskey instead of wine & water, but have used both.

Nonetheless, I think I should smoke some duck legs for the next time I make cholent. It would certainly give it more depth of flavor.

SaraK said...

Why would you have to serve only 'Jewish' food? Does this person only serve 'Jewish' food every Shabbat and Yom Tov? Just because pasta has become synonymous with Italian culture, it's not good enough for Jews? Am I not frum enough if I don't make kugels?

ProfK said...

I cook pretty eclectically year round, picking foods and recipes because I like them, not because they are "jewish" in any way. But I admit that when it comes to yom tov I'm at least a partial traditionalist, cooking certain dishes that have somehow gotten connected to a particular yom tov over the years. Ditto for Shabbos. We actually love cholent, so making it for shabbos is a given. We also love all kinds of different kugels, some of them different from what others might think of as kugel but kugel nonetheless. What is known as shabbos soup in my house differs from what my family calls yom tov soup. Again, tradition. Maybe what this woman was trying to get at was why am I not being traditional in my cooking. But hey, lasagna IS traditional for us for Shavuous, and so are blintzes and so are stuffed shells and a whole bunch of other dishes. That's actually what prompted me to ask if there is a "real" milchig dish that is somehow thought of as Jewish.

Cooking what is thought of as "traditional" Jewish food in no way has anything to do with frumkeit or being good enough for Jews but has much more to do with family tradition. Way back on my posting on cholent one of the commenters mentioned that her Protestant co-worker has started making cholent on the weekends as a time saver--sure doesn't make her frum Jewish.

ProfK said...

I wandered through the Wiki in the German edition and found that the Germans think of kugel as Jewish food. They consider it a Jewish offspring of the German Gugelhupf.

Gugelhupf verwandte Spezialität der jüdischen Küche, siehe "Kugel"

That being the case, I'd say that a cheese kugel would be a Jewish milchig dish.

Orthonomics said...

There are plenty of Sephardic dairy receipes, but I doubt they are really authentically Jewish.

SuperRaizy said...

Wolf is right. The "chalav" refers to goat's milk, which was used to make cheese and leben (yogurt).
But honestly, don't we enough culinary restrictions as it is? Why go looking for more?

ProfK said...

I'm not looking for any more restrictions but it's kind of funny that people are constantly talking about "Jewish food" and we can't really name any that is authentically and solely Jewish.

There was a comment on another blog about the unhealthy Jewish food that we consume--and that would be just what?

Orthonomics said...

That comment might have been on my blog. I would say the *combination* of foods which are traditionally eaten by Jews are uniquely Jewish. Where else will you find people eating the following in a 24 hour period:

egg challah
gefilte fish
chicken soup
roast chicken
various types of kugels

Cholent has a lot going for it. Put it together in a meal with three types of kugel and some breaded chicken and you have a heart attack waiting to happen.

ProfK said...

Sephardi Lady,

Not excusing our eating habits but take a look at this menu for an Italian Xmas dinner. We Jews are actually starving ourselves to death by comparison.

Antipasta Freddi (Cold Appetizers)
Assorted Italian Cheeses
Assorted Olives
Assorted Sliced Vegetables
Shrimp Cocktail
Seafood Cocktail Salad

Antipasta Caldi (Hot Appetizers)
Stuffed Artichokes
Stuffed Mushrooms
Stuffed Peppers

Primi Piatti (First Course)
Manicotti or Stuffed Shells or Baked Ziti or Lasagna, maybe even Ravioli
Always served with Meatballs, Sausage, Braciole

Secondi Piatti (Second or Main Course)
Ham, stuffed artichokes, yams, potatoes, other Italian vegetables, perhaps mashed potatoes even, and of course an Italian salad.

Dolce (Desserts)
Pastries from Calandra's, or Ferrara's, or whoever else arguably "has the best"
Roasted Nuts, chestnuts, and homemade pies like apple pie, perhaps some pumpkin (or both), homemade Italian cookies

Beverages & Drinks
Soda: Any variety.
Rose and/or Red Wine by the Jug Dessert Drinks: Demi Tasse (or espresso) and American Coffee
Italian Cordials & Liquers: Sambuca, Anisette, Blackberry Brandy, Amaretto, Fangelico

Anonymous said...

So if you are both Italian and Jewish you are doomed in the food department. But what a way to go!

Lion of Zion said...

"She said "It seems kind of funny to have all that hot Italian food on a Jewish yom tov. Why not cook something that is Jewish?""

actually, iirc the first time the word "pizza" appears in print in any language is in hebrew

Lion of Zion said...

ok, i did remember correctly. on פיצה, see here


SaraK said...

Cooking what is thought of as "traditional" Jewish food in no way has anything to do with frumkeit or being good enough for Jews but has much more to do with family tradition.

Exactly. I like my tradition of healthy food and heart-attack-avoidance.

ProfK said...

This is not to get into an argument with you but it is possible to have both those foods that are referred to as traditionally Jewish foods and to eat healthy and avoid heart attacks. They aren't mutually exclusive. Worried about cholesterol in egg challah? Switch to water challah. Or buy or bake whole wheat challah. Chicken stock based soups can be a nutritional and health powerhouse, but what parts of the chicken you use to cook the soup with and are you skimming the fat well can make the difference between good for you and not. It's not the "traditional" food per se that is the problem but the method of preparation and not substituting healthier versions of ingredients that can be problematic.

Bas~Melech said...

OK, I'm not much of a dairy person so I have nothing to contribute here. But I just can't help wondering about those comments regarding goat's milk. I mean, it's all dairy, so why not just stick to the point?

Yeah, I'm having a crabby day. Sorry.

Josh M. said...

I can't imagine that chulent and kugel weren't borrowed or adapted from Eastern European themes, and even matzah really isn't much different than other flat breads (or, nowadays, crackers).

The only truly Jewish food is manna.

Anonymous said...

Josh could be right about the manna. But even there we are told that the manna tasted for eachperson like what they wanted it to taste like. So even for the manna we borrowed tastes from other foods.

I looked through my cookbooks and can't find potato kugel in any other cuisine. If we borrowed it from somewhere that somewhere is no longer making it. And there may be lots of other baked beans dishes but none of them have the type of cooking time that cholent does so the result isn't the same either. Cooked beans may be universal but cholent isn't. It's the jewish baked bean dish.

Anonymous said...

Sure there were lots of goats. But Chumash also talks about herds of cattle. And if you want cattle you have to have cows, and cows have to be milked.

You mean lasagne isn't a Jewish dish?! Please don't tell my mom and ruin the meals for Shavuous.

Anonymous said...

The standard Italian lasagna recipes all call for ground meat in them as well as cheese. So I guess we could call an all chease or a cheese and vegetable lasagna as a Jewish variation.

Anonymous said...

How about plain old warm milk a la Sisra? :-)