Guest Blog Post by Liz Alpern
If sushi replaces gefilte fish on the Shabbat table, does sushi become a Jewish food?
And if bagels are as ubiquitous as pizza in NYC, are bagels even still a Jewish food?
And how is it that in France, couscous is often associated with Jewish food, but in the U.S. that would make no sense at all?
It is with these questions in mind that I am thrilled to be teaching the brand new Culinary Connections Course at Genesis at Brandeis this summer. The course will explore the Jewish relationship to food—its past, present and future. We’ll delve deeply into recipes, stories, history and ingredients, all while getting hands-on in the kitchen.
The course will be co-taught with my business partner and writing partner Jeffrey Yoskowitz. Four years ago, the two of us launched an artisanal gefilte fish business, The Gefilteria, with the goal of reimagining and reinvigorating Old World Jewish foods. We’ve been researching, speaking about, eating and cooking Jewish food every day since. Currently, we’re writing a narrative cookbook on Eastern European Jewish food traditions, which will be published in 2016. The Culinary Connections Course is a synthesis of our special connection to Judaism, which has always been deeply rooted in the kitchen.
Teaching this course has particular significance to me because I participated in Genesis as a high school student in the year 2000. In fact, it is because of the deep inspiration I experienced at Genesis that I went on to study Jewish history in University, and likely why I’m doing what I’m doing today. I cannot wait to pay this inspiration forward to the students in our course.
As any student of Jewish history knows, eating is at the heart of Jewish life. Jewish food traditions tell the story of transnational cultures, patterns of assimilation and forced migrations. Jewish food also tells the story of family, rootedness and nostalgia. Our course on Jewish food, therefore, uses a relatable topic (we all eat roughly three meals a day) as a lens through which we can examine other, more complicated topics.
Our goal is to encourage every student to find a dish that speaks to him/her and that tells the story of a Jewish family or a piece of Jewish history. Each student will go deep with that food- from its history to its components. Through guest lecturers, field trips and time in the kitchen, we will bring the millennial-old culinary history to life.