“The 100 Most Jewish Foods: A Highly Debatable List” by Alana Newhouse— “Food, Glorious Food”

Newhouse. Alana. “The 100 Most Jewish Foods: A Highly Debatable List”, Artisan, 2019.

“Food, Glorious Food”

Amos Lassen

Some eight years ago I attended a session with food maven Joan Nathan at which she explained that there is no such thing as Jewish food. Rather, she said we have German Jewish food, Russian Jewish food, Mexican Jewish food and so on. In other words, Jewish food is determined by location and not by religion. Tablet Magazine chooses to use the term Jewish food as it is and we, of course, understand what it means. After all, Matzoh balls may taste different in different places but a matzoh ball is just that.

“Tablet’s list of the 100 most Jewish foods is not about the most popular Jewish foods, or the tastiest, or even the most enduring. It’s a list of the most significant foods culturally and historically to the Jewish people” and these foods are explored deeply with essays, recipes, stories, and context. Some of the dishes are no longer cooked at home, and some are not even dishes in the traditional sense like store-bought cereal and Stella D’oro cookies, for example). The entire list is up for debate and we can certainly understand why. We have some mouth-watering dishes here while there are those that many of us would never consider eating such as unhatched chicken eggs and jellied calves’ feet.  Then there are those universal favorites like the previously mentioned matzoh balls  and pickles, cheesecake, blintzes, and chopped liver. The recipes are all global and the food is representative of all aspects of the Jewish experience.

Those who have recipes here include Ruth Reichl, Éric Ripert, Joan Nathan, Michael Solomonov, Dan Barber, Gail Simmons, Yotam Ottolenghi, Tom Colicchio, Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, Maira Kalman, Action Bronson, Daphne Merkin, Shalom Auslander, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, and Phil Rosenthal, among many others. This is “the perfect book to dip into, quote from, cook from, and launch a spirited debate.”

You don’t have to be Jewish to love “The 100 Most Jewish Foods” but it is best not to be hungry when you read it. It is  funny, emotional and memorable as well as entertaining and informative.