Let’s face it. No one really thinks about the origins of the food they eat. If I’m hungry for pizza, I’ll simply order pizza and eat it. I’m not going to reflect on its centuries of history that date back to say the Neolithic age in ancient Greece. Yes, I know, I’m a monster. While I’m not an advocate of “thanking this group of people” for the food you’re about to devour, I do think it’s interesting (and a great time-waster) to research the origins of some everyday foods you eat. Take a look at some delicious foods that have Jewish backgrounds.
This might not be much of a surprise. The circular ring of heavenly bread that’s been curing hangovers around the world (it’s best consumed in New York delis) has Jewish origin.
In the humorous The Joys of Yiddish, Leo Rosten wrote that the first mention of the word, bajgiel was in 1610 in Krakow, Poland. Apparently bagels were given as a gift to women in childbirth. Who wouldn’t want to be eating a bagel in that situation?
The bagel eventually made it to New York and met up with lox. The rest is history.
It may sound Italian, but the popular sandwich meat came to the U.S. via Romanian Jewish immigrants in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Its name derives from the Yiddish pastrome.
According to Henry Moscow’s The Book of New York Firsts, Sussman Volk opened the first kosher delicatessen to sell pastrami in 1888. Volk’s deli became quite popular in the Lower East Side, specifically the pastrami-on-rye sandwiches.
I’m ready for lunch now.
Jelly doughnut (sufganiyah)
There’s nothing quite like biting into a hot and fresh doughnut, especially when it’s filled with jelly.
The sufganiyah, which is typically eaten during Chanukah, has become Americanized thanks to everyday fast food breakfast joints like Dunkin’ Donuts. According to The Jewish Daily Forward, North African Jews had a long tradition of eating a similar version of this tasty treat. When Ashkenazi Jews were introduced to it, they decided to bring it to Eastern Europe and fill it with jelly, because it was just the right thing to do.
You probably don’t want to eat too many of these on a regular basis though, unless you plan on starting a very intense workout regimen.
Remember in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when the mom puts a flower pot in the middle of the bundt cake because she’s so confused as to why there’s a hole? This has nothing to do with anything, but it was one of my favorite parts of that movie.
Anyway, the well-known round cake with its signature ridges was thought to have first originated in Germany, Austria and Hungry, and was called a bundkuchen. H. David Dalquist, the founder of Nordic Ware, is credited for the trademarked “bundt pan,” but guess why?
The New York Times reported that in the 1950s, Rose Joshua and a few of her friends from the Hadassah Society in Minneapolis visited Dalquist, with the mission of being able to recreate the coffee cakes their mothers made them during their childhoods in Germany.
Why don’t we take a moment and thank our Jewish mothers (and their mothers, and so on) for that delicious slice of bundt we could be eating right now?
Fish and chips
The true origin of how the fish met the chip and became the United Kingdom’s “burger and fries” is still unclear. Regardless, Jewish immigrants are widely credited for introducing this fast food staple.
According to Claudia Roden’s Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, 16th-century Jewish refugees from Portugal and Spain, who were forced to hide their ethnicity due to persecution, first introduced Britain to the deep-fried fish. After visiting the country towards the end of the 18th century, would-be U.S. president Thomas Jefferson also wrote about eating “fried fish in the Jewish fashion.” In 1860, Joseph Malin, a Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe, is credited with opening the first fish and chip shop in the U.K.
To be completely honest, I’ve never had a true fish and chips meal. But when I do, maybe I’ll go a step further and eat it with mushy peas, which is popular among many fish and chips eaters. That’s a big maybe, though.