Monday, December 17, 2007

The Heartburn and The Heeb

As the iron-stomach clad daughter of a Crohn’s patient, the sister of an IBS sufferer and a lactard, and the former owner of a gall bladder, I know (mostly second-hand) the long-wrought agony of Jews and their digestive issues. Among ethnic groups and their various health ailments, Ashkenazic Jews definitely picked the short straw when it came to gastrointestinal disorders.

So it might come as a bit of a surprise to the Semitio-philiac newbie that despite these would-be setbacks, Jews (of all ethnic flavors) are obsessed with food. Maybe it’s because the framers of our whole religious shtick, the Torah and Talmud wrote so many laws about slaughtering animals, preparing food, eating food, mixing food and sacrificing food. Maybe it’s because stuffing ourselves full of lamb, lentil soup and bread was the best way to deal with all those people who kept trying to kill us. Or, maybe it’s just because bagels, bourekas, latkes and matzah balls just taste so damn good and we developed the culture around it. It all begs the question, “Which came first? The chicken soup or the egg?”

In thinking about Jews and our relationship to food, I did what any 20-something does when she wants to know something and I Googled “Jewish food blogs.” My search yielded a bevy of results both inevitable and eyebrow-raising. Certainly, there are enough Jewish vegans to begat such tomes as The Jew and The Carrot and sufficient carnivores to sustain no fewer than three blogs devoted to the delicatessen and its preservation. However, there is only one blog devoted to kosher soul food and not much of anything about Sephardic cuisine.

Clearly, I’m not the only member of the tribe who occasionally has food on the brain. Though I cannot imagine solely blogging about one topic, this little research project has lent some credibility to my hypothesis that Jews have an unnatural obsession with all things edible. Then I started thinking about all my non-Jewish friends… particularly the Italian ones… and the Indians… and the Chinese… and I realized that pretty much every ethnic group has an unnatural obsession with all things edible that stem from their native cultures. Perhaps because food is such an incredibly powerful and potent link to one’s heritage, that many of us feel a great sense of pride in our respective cuisines. After all, how many Irish Catholic girls can even pretend to make matzah ball soup as good as a nice Jewish boy’s bubbie?

Lest you think this posting purely existential and without any base in current events across the tri-state area or the world – allow me to direct your attention to a post on December 13 on The Kosher Blog. Apparently, the much-missed Second Avenue Deli is set to reopen today in Murray Hill with a ceremonial salami cutting and 24-hour service. If you’re in the vicinity, do what you can to throw a little business their way and let’s keep ‘em open. If you don’t happen to live around here, then get out there and explore a little Jewish cuisine. From cholent to challah, from apples and honey to the afikomen and from hummus to hamentashen, it all tastes good and this girl is hungry for more.


Josh said...

Pirkei Avot says: "Without bread there is no torah, without torah there is no bread."

Shtetl Fabulous said...

Well now you had to go and get all Biblical on me! A valid point though... might as well get obsessed over something that does in essence, sustain life.

Anonymous said...

Great post - and particularly great title!

Thanks for your mention of The Jew & The Carrot. Just one quick clarification - The Jew & The Carrot is definitely focused on "healthy and sustainable eating" from a Jewish perspective, but it's not a vegan-only blog.

We welcome readers and writers from across the Jewish and gastronomical spectrum!

All best,

Editor, The Jew & The Carrot

Shorty said...

I just read that somewhere that Jews connect with G-d with our eating (this was connected with Kashrut Laws)...