Food can bring people together in a way nothing else could. – Yotam Ottolenghi
It’s no secret that Jews love food! Every Jewish ritual and festival is celebrated with a special meal and particular dishes, some passed on through generations. Food provides comfort, it brings people together to build relationships and make connections. Food crosses borders, religions and cultures and connects us through taste, friendship and joy!
People feel closer to others when they share a meal, and even more so when they share the same food. Food is a tool to learn about history, tradition and culture. There are many Jewish dishes that have been passed down through generations because of what they represent and the emotions they arouse. These foods – their smells and tastes – can yield intense memories, feelings and meaning. Even more so when the food is eaten with others because eating together is a symbol of “life shared”.
Many would say that Jews are actually obsessed with food. Putting aside the laws of kashrut, every Jewish festival has a food theme. Shabbat, of course, with challah and wine (amongst the many other food traditions such as chicken soup), Passover, with its own special rules, has food symbols to represent the time the Jewish people spent as slaves, Chanukah – the oily foods, Shavuot – the dairy products, Rosh Hashanah – sweetness (mmm, honey) and then Yom Kippur – well, no food this time, until the breaking of the fast with a lovely meal. And it’s not only the festivals. All the events that make up the Jewish lifecycle, celebrating joy or commemorating loss, are also accompanied by food – a birth, a bris, Bnei Mitzvah, a wedding and even a death.
Although Jews are not the only ones who are passionate about food – think the Italians or the Chinese – for the Jewish people, food is also an obligation. It is impossible to observe, either religiously or culturally, the many festivals, holidays and events that occur on the Jewish calendar without food.
Food is a cultural marker and has always played a part in linking Jews to their heritage. Throughout history, food remains one of the most powerful symbols through which Jewish people have built their identity. Through persecution, expulsion, emancipation, as Jews may have stopped keeping kosher and following the dietary laws, “Jewish food” became an important part of their identity, particularly foods from their homelands and especially on shabbat and during festivities.
Sharing the foods of one’s family, that has been made and eaten by the generations that came before, ties us to our family of the present and the past. Family recipes create special bonds and bring us closer together. Jewish tradition also recognises meals as a time for intimacy, companionship, and significant conversation. While people are being fed and nourished in a warm and inviting setting, they will talk with each other about important subjects. It is all these things in combination that make mealtimes extra special, especially when shared with the people that matter most.
Join us for the first ever Melbourne Jewish Food Festival for a nosh, a fress and a shmues on Sunday 11 December at the Kadimah. For more information including guests, the program for the day, and to book tickets click here – https://www.trybooking.com/events/landing/964612
Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious. – Ruth Reichl