Jewish cuisine has been formed both by the dietary laws of kashrut ("keeping
kosher") and the many cultures in which Jews have travelled.
the Jewish cuisine has influences from the cuisines of the Balkans, Galicia, Russia, Spain, Portugal and the Middle East.
For example, there are a number of cold starters which originate
in the Middle East and which were brought by the Turks to the Balkans.
roots of Jewish cooking, however, are in the Middle East, where the Jews came
from, and it was heavily influenced by the cuisine of Ancient
Egypt and the Byzantine Empire. It
has been suggested, for example, that the major role played by garlic, leek and
onions in Jewish cooking is due to these influences. Arabic and Moorish cooking had an equal influence
on the Jewish cuisine.
the same time, aspects of Jewish cooking were often adopted by the cultures in
which they lived. The rose jam which is typical of Russian and Galician cookery, for
example, may have originally been imported by Jews during the golden
age of Jewish culture in Spain.
other Semitic peoples, the Jews have
dietary laws; the basic laws of kashrut are in the Biblical book of Leviticus. Food
not in accord with Jewish law is termed treifah or treif (ØèäÔ)
("torn"); the Jews are allowed to eat kosher foods.
of Jewish cookery
typical Jewish foods are:
traditional cuisine on the Jewish calendar
Seder Plate; See also Seder
- usually horseradish.
- hard-boiled or roasted egg.
- usually celery, parsley, or lettuce.
- Salt water
Zroah) - shankbone of a lamb.
- Charoset (most
used spelling) (charoseth,
are two main divisions of food, vegetable and animal.
all the Oriental peoples, and as is the case even to-day among the fellaheen of
Syria, vegetable food, and chiefly grain ("dagan"), occupied the first place in
the diet of the Israelites.
The most important of the cereals was wheat ("%immah" or "%ittim."). (For
the earliest mode of preparing this, see Baking; Bread; Cookery; and comp. "Z.
D. P. V." ix. 3.) The grains were at times reduced to grits ("geres"); hence the
prescription that "'abib 3alui" and "geres karmel"—probably "geres" of garden
grains, which are palatable and mature especially early—should be offered as "min%at
bikkurim." The grain was generally ground into flour ("3ema%"), the fine flour
("solet") being distinguished from the ordinary kind. The flour was made into
bread, either without leaven ("maah") or with it ("le%em"; Lev.
vii. 13). Barley ("se'orim") was used like wheat (comp. II Sam. xvii. 28), being
generally made into bread (comp. Judges vii. 13; II Kings iv. 42; Ezek. iv. 9,
12). Spelt ("kussemet") was apparently used much less than wheat or barley. It
appears, however, from Ezek. iv. 9 that, besides millet, spelt also was made into
("yara3," because raised in the "gan ha-yara3" or garden; also "'eseb"; "orah,"
I Kings iv. 39; or "zer'onim," Dan. i. 16): Lentils ("'adashim") were the principal
vegetable, which many considered especially toothsome (comp. Gen. xxv. 29 et seq.)
There were several kinds of beans ("pol"); two kinds are known at present in Syria,
the Egyptian and the South-European (comp. "Z. D. P. V." ix. 4). Beans were occasionally
made into bread.
were manifestly also much used; even to-day the poorer inhabitants in the large
cities of the East, as Damascus and Cairo, live largely on bread and cucumbers
or melons. Cucumbers ("3ishshu'im"; Num. xi. 25) are generally eaten raw, and
made into a salad with vinegar. The popular watermelon ("abammia%"; Num. xi.
5; to-day called "bammikh") also belongs to the cucumber species.
xi. 5 mentions leeks ("%air," which were especially esteemed in Egypt),
onions ("bealim"), and garlic ("shumim"), all belonging to the Allium genus.
They were generally eaten raw with bread. To-day in Syria ripe onion-bulbs are
pickled like cucumbers and eaten as a relish with meat (comp. "Z. D. P. V." ix.
14). From Job xxx. 4 it is clear that the poor also used orach ("mallua%"), the
young leaves being either boiled or eaten raw.
There was an early fig ("bikkurah") and a late fig ("te'enim"), the latter being
generally dried and pressed into round or square cakes ("debelah"). Grapes ("'anabim,"
"es%kol anabim")were eaten either fresh, or dried as raisins ("immu3im");
they were also pressed into cakes (I Sam. xxv. 18). It is doubtful whether the
Israelites knew grape-sirup, though the fact that the Arabic "dibs," corresponding
to the Hebrew "debash," is used to designate both the natural and this artificial
honey or sirup, shows that they probably knew the latter (Gen. xliii. 11; Ezek.
xxvii. 17). Olives ("zayit") were probably eaten, as to-day, both raw and prepared.
Mention may also be made of the pomegranate ("rimmon"; Deut. viii. 8; Song of
Songs iv. 3); the fruit of the mulberry fig-tree ("shi3mah") eaten by the poor,
and of the date-palm ("tamar"), which is treated like figs and grapes; and, finally,
pistachio-nuts ("bomnim"), almonds ("she3edim"), and walnuts ("egoz"). The fruit
of the carob (ºµÁ¬Ä¹¿½)
was used, while not quite ripe, for flavoring water, though it was not a food
proper. The Israelites may have known apples, although the word "tappua%" is
of doubtful signification (see Apple).
The spices used by the Israelites include cumin ("kammon"), dill ("3ea%"),
mint (!´½¿Ã¼Ì½), and mustard
(Ã¯½±À¹). Salt ("mela%"), of course,
was very important even in early times. To "eat the salt" of a person was equivalent
to eating his bread (comp. Ezra iv. 14); a covenant of salt was inviolable (comp.
Num. xviii. 19; II Chron. xiii. 5).
times, as to-day, much less meat was eaten in the East than among Western peoples.
It was served daily only at the king's table (I Kings v. 3), and there because
sacrifices were offered every day. Otherwise, animals were probably slaughtered
only for the great festivals ("%aggim"), at the yearly sacrificial feasts of
families and tribes, at family festivals (such as circumcisions and weddings),
for guests, etc. (comp. Gen. xviii. 7; II Sam. xii. 4). Furthermore, only certain
kinds of animals were permissible as food, the restrictions dating back to very
early times. For details see Dietary Laws.
The most important animals for food were cattle, sheep, and goats, sheep ranking
first (comp. I Sam. xxv. 11, 18; II Sam. xii. 4; Amos vi. 4; Isa. liii. 7). In
addition to lambs ("karim"; Amos vi. 4), fatted calves ("meri'im") are often mentioned
(Isa. i. 11; Amos v. 22; I Kings i. 19, 25), especially those that were fatted
in the stall, as distinguished from cattle in the pasture ("'egel marbe3"; Amos
vi. 4; Jer. xlvi. 1; Mal. iv. 2). From early times the eating of meat was allowed
on condition that the blood of the slaughtered animal be taken to the altar, the
meat not being eaten with the blood (comp. I Sam. xiv. 33 et seq.); thus every
slaughtering became in a certain sense a sacrifice, this being changed only when
the worship was centralized by the Deuteronomic legislation. Meat was generally
boiled (Ex. xxiii. 19; Judges vi. 19; I Sam. ii. 13; Ezek. xxiv. 3, xlvi. 20),
though sometimes it was roasted, usually, perhaps, on the spit (I Sam. ii. 15;
Ex. xii. 8). Game was considered as a delicacy (Gen. xxvii. 7).
Cheese, and Honey: Milk, of large as well as of small animals, especially goat's
milk, was a staple food (Deut. xxxii. 14; Prov. xxvii. 27). It was kept in skins
(Judges iv. 19). "$em'ah," designating cream as well as bonnyclabber and cheese,
is often mentioned (Prov. xxx. 33). Cream is generally called "shefot" (II Sam.
xvii. 29), though this reading is uncertain. It was frequently offered as a present,
carried in cylindrical wooden vessels; and, sprinkled with sugar, it was eaten
out of little dishes with wooden spoons (comp. Riehm, "Handwörterb." pp. 1715
et seq.). Cheese made of sweet milk was probably also used ("%arie he-%alab";
I Sam. xvii. 18, this passage in any case showing that "%alab" designated curdled
as well as ordinary milk). The proper designation for cheese is "gebinah" (Job
("debash") is frequently mentioned in connection with milk, and is probably the
ordinary bee's honey; that flowing of itself out of the honeycomb ("nofet ha-ufim")
was especially relished (Ps. xix. 11; Prov. xvi. 24). According to Isa. vii. 15,
honey seems to have been a favorite food of children.
Little is known of fish as food (Num. xi. 15), it being mentioned but rarely (Jer.
xvi. 16; Ezek. xlvii. 10; Eccl. ix. 12). Yet there can be no doubt that it was
a favorite diet. Fish were fried, and prepared with honeycomb. They were probably
more generally eaten in post-exilic times. The fish-market, where fish, salted
or dried in the sun, were sold, was probably near the fish-gate (compare Zeph.
i. 10; Neh. iii. 3, xii. 39; II Chron. xxxiii. 14). According to Neh. xiii. 16,
fish were imported by Syrian merchants, some fish coming from Egypt, where pickled
roe was an export article. In later times fish were salted even in Palestine (comp.
the name "Tarichea," lit. "pickling").
anything is known of the price of food in ancient times. At the period of the
composition of II Kings vii. 1, 16, the worth of one seah of fineflour or two
seahs of barley was one shekel. In Men. xiii. 8 the price of an ox, a calf, a
ram, and a lamb is given as 100, 20, 8, and 4 denarii respectively (comp. Matt.
x. 29).E. G. H. W. N.
the ancient Hebrews cooking was naturally entrusted to the women of the household
(compare I Sam. viii. 13), as was also the task of grinding the flour required
for daily use, and that of preparing the bread. Even ladies of rank thought it
no degradation to cook, and Princess Tamar is said to have displayed especial
skill in preparing certain articles of food (II Sam. xiii. 8). The slaughtering
and the dressing of meat were done by the men (Gen. xviii. 7; I Sam. ix. 23, ii.
14 et seq.), who also understood how to prepare food (Gen. xxv. 29; II Kings iv.
were found only in the palaces of the wealthy, a particular room for culinary
purposes being scarcely requisite, since the primitive hearth consisted merely
of a few stones upon which the pot was placed, and beneath which a fire was lighted
on the mud floor (for oven, see Baking). In later times mention is made of fire-basins,
(kiyyor, Zech. xii. 6), and of a species of small, portable cooking-stoves, "kirayim"
(Lev. xi. 35; in the Talmud the singular is used); the latter, according to the
Mishnah, was so constructed as to afford space for two pots.
(often in the form of charcoal) and dried dung were used as fuel, and a draft
was made by means of a fan, "menafah" (Kil. xvi. 7), as in the Orient at the present
day. Fire-tongs, "melqachayim" (Isa. vi. 6) and shovels, "ya'im" (I Kings
vii. 40), also formed part of the equipment.
addition to the hand-mill, an indispensable adjunct of the Hebrew kitchen, were
two large earthen jugs, called "kad," one of which was for carrying water (Gen.
xxiv. 15 et seq.; I Kings xviii. 34), the other for storing meal or corn (I Kings
xvii. 12). Milk and wine were preserved in goat-skins ("chemet", Gen. xxiv.
15, and elsewhere; "nod," Judges iv. 19, and elsewhere); oil and honey, in small
earthen or metal jugs, "tzappachat" (I Kings xvii. 12, etc.); fruits and
pastry, in various kinds of Baskets.
"dud," "kiyyor," "qallachat", "parur", "sir", and "tzelachah" ("tzallahat")
are mentioned as vessels for cooking, but their specific uses are unknown. The
sanctuaries were amply provided with these dishes and bowls (Num. lxxi. 3 et seq.;
I Kings vii. 45, 50), which, as might be expected, were usually of bronze, silver,
or gold (Jer. lii. 19); in the homes, however, metal vessels were found in great
number only among the wealthy. As these vessels were introduced by the Phenicians
(I Kings vii. 13 et seq.), whose artisans long continued to supply the Hebrew
market, it is safe to assume that their forms were similar to those of the Phenician
utensils. Among the common people and for daily use, it was customary to employ
earthen vessels (Lev. vi. 21), the receptacle most frequently mentioned being
the sir, a pot in which usually the family meal was cooked, and in which occasionally
the sacred meat was prepared (II Kings iv. 38 et seq.; Ex. xvi. 3; Zech. xiv.
20, and elsewhere). It sometimes served also as a ewer (Ps. lxix. 10). For baking
cake, etc., a tin plate ("machabat barzel", Ezek. iv. 3; Lev. ii. 5) or
a deep pan ("marchešet") was used (Lev. ii. 7). Mention is also made of
three-pronged forks, which were used, not for eating with, but for lifting the
meat from the pot (I Sam. ii. 13). Knives were used for slaughtering animals,
and for dressing the meat ("ma'akelet," Gen. xxii. 6, 10).
preparation of the meal was in ancient times a very simple process. The principal
articles of diet were bread and milk, to which were added, as supplementary dishes,
fruits and vegetables (compare Baking and Milk). Meat was eaten only on festivals;
and many vegetables, such as cucumbers, garlic, leek, onions, etc., were eaten
raw. Lentils (Gen. xxv. 29; II Sam. xvii. 28) or greens (II Kings iv. 38 et seq.)
were boiled in either water or oil. Fruit was often dried and compressed into
solid, cake-like masses, making raisin-cake, fig-cake, etc. (I Sam. xxv. 18, xxx.
12; II Sam. xvi. 1, etc.; compare the "3amr al-din," or flat cake of compressed
apricots, still popular among the Syrians); and a kind of sirup, or Honey ("debash")
was sometimes extracted from it. A kind of porridge was made from corn by adding
water, salt, and butter ("'arisah," probably the "'arsan" of the Talmud, which
was a paste prepared of crushed and malted grain); and from this many kinds of
cakes were made with oil and fruits (II Sam. xiii. 6 et seq.; Num xi. 8; Ex. xxix.
2, etc.; see the importance of these cakes in later sacrificial ceremonies, as
mentioned, for example, in Lev. ii.).
in ancient times, was usually boiled, and was consequently thus served at the
table of Yhwh (Judges vi. 19; I Sam. ii. 15). The sauce in which it was cooked
was also relished ("mara3," Judges vi. 19; perhaps also "mer3a%ah," Ezek. xxiv.
10). That the custom of boiling a young lamb or a kid in milk—still prevalent
among the Arabs—existed among the ancient Hebrews, is proved by the prohibition
of the custom in Ex. xxiii. 19. The word , which may also signify "roasting,"
is usually applied to cooking in the sense of "boiling." It is reported of the
wicked sons of Eli that they preferred roasted to boiled meat (I Sam. ii. 15).
The meat of the Passover lamb was usually roasted; and indeed the custom of roasting
("alah") became ever more prevalent. As among all the nations of antiquity,
it was effected at the open fire, either by placing the meat directly upon the
coals (compare the roasting of the fish mentioned in John xxi. 9), or by using
a spit or grate, which appurtenances, though not specifically mentioned in the
Old Testament, may reasonably be supposed to have been employed. Even in Genesis
(xxvii. 6 et seq.) it is stated that Rebekah could prepare the flesh of a kid
so that it tasted like venison; and from this statement a certain degree of culinary
skill may be inferred. The progress of civilization, bringing about increased
importation of provisions, materially contributed to the refinement of the culinary
art among the Hebrews (compare Food).
a few of the many data in the Talmud that throw a clear light on the private life
of the Jews can be mentioned here. Bread was the principal food; and as in the
Bible the meal is designated by the simple term "to eat bread," so the rabbinical
law ordains that the blessing pronounced upon bread covers everything else except
wine and dessert. Bread was made not only from wheat, but also from rice, millet,
and lentils ('Er. 81a). Bread with milk was greatly relished. The inhabitants
of Ma%uza in Babylon ate warm bread every day (compare Shab. 109a). Morning bread
that was eaten with salt is mentioned (B. M. 107b; compare Ab. vi. 4). Wheat bread
makes a clear head, ready for study (Hor. 13b). The same result is obtained, according
to another reading, from bread baked over coals (ib.). Breadbakers are often mentioned,
rabbis also following that trade.
was eaten only on special occasions, on Sabbaths and at feasts. The pious kept
fine cattle for the Sabbath (Beah 16a); but various other kinds of dishes,
relishes, and spices were also on the table (Shab. 119a). A three-year-old calf
with its kidneys was considered excellent (ib. 119b). Nor were the tongues of
animals despised (Yal3. Makiri to Prov. xviii. 21). Deer, also, furnished meat
(Bek. iv. 29b; $ul. 59a), as did pheasants (Tosef., Kil. i. 8), chickens (Shab.
145b), and pigeons (Pes. 119b). Fish was eaten on Friday evening in honor of the
Sabbath (compare Grünbaum, "Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Sprachund Sagenkunde," p.
232); sometimes it was prepared in milk ($ul. 111b). Pickled fish was an important
article of commerce, being called "garum" among the Jews, as among the Greeks
and Romans. Pliny ("Hist. Naturalis," xxxi. 95) says expressly of a "garum castimoniale"
(i.e., kasher garum) that it was prepared according to Jewish law. Locusts were
eaten, though without blessing, as they signified a curse. Eggs were so commonly
eaten that the quantity of an egg was used halakicly as a measure. The egg was
broken (l. Y. iii. 2) and occasionally dipped in wine ($ul. 6a). The unsalted
yolk of an egg eaten on ten successive days causes death ("Alphabeta di-Ben Sira,"
ed. Steinschneider, p. 22b). A regular meal consisted of chicken stuffed with
meal, fine bread, fat meat, and old wine (ib. 17b). The Talmudic axiom, "Without
meat there is no pleasure; hence meat is indispensable on feastdays," is well
regards other dishes, the Jews were acquainted with most of those known in antiquity.
The first dish was an entrée—something pickled, to stimulate the appetite (Ber.
vi. 7); this was followed by the meal proper, which was ended with a dessert,
called in Greek ¸¬Á³·¼±. Afi3omen
is used in the same sense. Titbits ("parperet") were eaten before as well as after
the meal (Ber. vi. 6). Wine was an important item. It was flavored with myrrh
(compare Mark xv. 23) or with honey and pepper, the mixture being called "conditum."
There were vinegar wine ('Ab. Zarah 30a), wine from Amanus, and Cilicia (Tosef.,
Sheb. v. 223), red wine from Saron, Ethiopian wine (B. 2. 97b), and black wine
(Abba Gorion i. 9). Wine in ice came from Lebanon. Certain wines are good for
the stomach; others are not (Yer. She3. 48d; see Wine). There was Median beer
as well as a beer from Egypt called "zythos" (Pes. iii. 1), and beer made from
a thorn (Spina regia; Löw, "Aramäische Pflanzennamen," p. 231; Ket. 77b). To eat
without drinking means suicide (Shab. 41a).
was always relished, and many kinds, Biblical as well as non-Biblical, are often
mentioned. A certain kind of hard nut even the wealthy could not procure (Pesi3.
59b). The custom of eating apples on the Feast of Weeks (Targ. Sheni to Esth.
iii. 8) belongs to those minute observances that are so numerous in Jewish life.
In the same way fruit and herbs were eaten on New-Year's eve as a good omen (Hor.
12a). Children received especially on the evening of Passover nuts and roasted
ears of corn (B. M. iv. 12; Pes. 119b). Olives were so common that they were used
as a measure ("zayit"). "While olives produce forgetfulness of what one has learned,
olive-oil makes a clear head" (Hor. 13b). "Bread for young men, oil for old people,
and honey for children" (Yoma 75b).
occupied a chief place on the evening of Passover, and they were also a favorite
dish on the Sabbath (Ta'an. 20b), being eaten either dry or soaked (Tosef., Sheb.
iv. 6). Many vegetables were included in the comprehensive name "3imniyyot"
(Beah 12b; compare 'U3. i. 5), especially beans. Other vegetables were
cucumbers, melons, cabbages, turnips, lettuces, radishes, onions, and garlic.
The smell of garlic, frequently mentioned in later times in association with the
Jews, is referred to in the Talmud (Sanh. 11a).
as well as Biblical times give evidence of a healthy, happy view of life. Sweets
eaten during meals are frequently mentioned (B. M. vii. 1; Esth. R. i. 9). There
is a saying of Rab (Abba Arika) that a time will come when one will have to render
an account for all that one has seen and not eaten (Yer. 2id. 66d). It is said,
however, of Abba Arika that, after having had all the precious things of life,
he finally ate earth. Eliezer b. Hyrcanus is also reported to have eaten earth
(compare the "geophagi" [earth-eaters] of the ancient authors). There is hardly
any difference in food between Palestine and Babylon; only some details referring
to the ritual are mentioned (Müller, "$illuf Minhagim," Nos. 19, 67).
the Middle Ages
Jews were so widely scattered in the Middle Ages that it is difficult to give
a connected account of their mode of living as regards food. In Arabic countries
the author of the Halakot Gedolot knew some dishes that appear to have been peculiar
to the Jews, e.g., "paspag" (p. 60, ed. Hildesheimer), which was, perhaps, biscuit;
according to the Siddur Amram (i. 38), the well-known "%aroset" is made in those
countries from a mixture of herbs, flour, and honey (Arabic,"%alikah"). Maimonides,
in his "Sefer Refu'ot" (ed. Goldberg, London, 1900), mentions dishes that are
good for health. He recommends bread baked from wheat that is not too new, nor
too old, nor too fine (p. 8); further, the meat of the kid, sheep, and chicken,
and the yolks of eggs. Goats' and cows' milk is good, nor are cheese and butter
harmful. Honey is good for old people; fish with white, hard meat is wholesome;
so also are wine and dried fruits. Fresh fruits, however, are unwholesome; and
he does not recommend garlic or onions (p. 9).
is detailed information about Italian cookery in the amusing little book "Masseket
Purim." It discusses (according to Abrahams, "Jewish Life in the Middle Ages,"
p. 151) pies, chestnuts, turtledoves, pancakes, small tarts, gingerbread, ragouts,
venison, roast goose, chicken, stuffed pigeons, ducks, pheasants, partridges,
quails, macaroons, and salad. These are dishes of luxurious living. The oppressed
medieval Jews fared poorly rather than sumptuously, indulging in joyous feasts
only on Sabbaths, festivals, circumcisions, and weddings. For example, the Jews
of Rhodes, according to a letter of Obadiah Bertinoro, 1488, lived on herbs and
vegetables only, never tasting meat or wine ("Jahrb. für die Gesch. der Juden,"
iii. 201). In Egypt, however, meat, fish, and cheese were procurable (ib. 208);
in Gaza, grapes, fruit, and wine (ib. 211). Cold dishes are still relished in
the East. Generally, only one dish was eaten, with fresh bread daily (Jacob Safir,
in "Eben Sappir," p. 58a, Lyck, 1866).
characteristically Jewish dishes are frequently mentioned in the Judæo-German
dialect: from the twelfth century onward, "brätzel" (Glassberg, "Zikron Berit,"
p. 122, Berlin, 1892); "lokshen" (Abrahams, l.c. p. 152); "pasteten" (ib. p. 151;
compare Yoreh De'ah, Bet Yosef, § 97); "fladen" (Yoreh De'ah, ib.); "beleg" (i.e.,
goose sandwich), still used (Yoreh De'ah, lure Zahab, § 101, 11). The favorite
"barscht" or "borshtsh" soup is a Polish dish (ib. § 96); best known are the "berkes"
or "barches" eaten on the Sabbath (Grünbaum, l.c. p. 229), and "shalet" (Abrahams,
l.c. p. 151), which Heine commemorates ("Werke," i. 436), and which the Spanish
Jews called Ani. The Sabbath pudding ("kigl" or "kugel" in Yiddish) is also well
known. For more detailed information on several of these dishes see Cookery.
- Bibliography: Krauss, Lehnwörter,
ii. 640, s.v. Mahlzeiten, Speisen, and Getränke;
Die Jüdischen Speisegesetze, Breslau, 1895. For the Middle Ages: Güdemann, Gesch.
des *Erziehungswesens . . . bei den Juden, iii. 112, and passim;
Aus dem Inneren Leben der Juden in Deutschland, v., vi.;
Jewish Life in the Middle Ages, ch. viii., London, 1896;
documents of Prague regulating the high living of the Jews in the eighteenth century
are given in Neuzeit, 1891, No. 47, p. 481
not surprising that Jewish cookery possesses characteristics of its own which
differentiate it from ordinary cookery. The dietary and ceremonial laws to which
orthodox Jews conform have naturally evolved a particular kind of culinary art.
The institution of the Passover, the distinction between permitted and forbidden
foods, the regulations as to butter and meat, and the custom of abstaining from
meat at certain seasons, have all contributed to make Jewish cookery distinctive.
But the preparation of food for the table is a matter which will always be influenced
by local conditions. Every country and district has its favorite dishes, largely
dependent upon its particular food products. Hence, Jews have carried with them,
wherever they have wandered, the styles of cookery prevailing in the countries
from which they have migrated. Thus in England old-fashioned Jews, who retain
the customs of the ghetto, are comparative strangers to the plain English roast,
boiled, and grilled meats, preferring the more savory dishes of the Continent.
From Spain and Portugal they have derived, along with their fondness for olives,
their custom of frying fish and other foods in oil. From Germany they have taken
the habit of sour-stewing and sweet-stewing meats. To Holland they owe a taste
for pickled cucumbers and herrings, and from the same country come such Jewish
dainties as butter cakes and "bolas" (jamrolls). From Poland, on the other hand,
Jewish immigrants have brought into their new homes "lokschen" or "frimsel" soup
(cooked with goose fat), stuffed fish, and various kinds of stewed fish. In this
way almost all varieties of Jewish cookery are reproduced in an English form,
to which this article is mainly confined. (see image) Egyptian Cookery, Showing
Processes of Preparing Food.(After Lepsius, "Denkmaler.")
influence has to be noted. The stringency of the dietary laws has combined with
the peculiar domesticity of Jewish life to make cooking the special business of
Jewish wives and daughters. It has thus been raised to the character of a fine
art, even among the humblest classes. In the ghettos of Jewry no housewife would
think of relegating the preparation of meals to a servant. Only by attending to
them herself can she satisfy her consciencethat such ritual requirements as the
"kashering" of meat, the keeping apart of butter and meat, and the separation
of "%allah" (the bread-offering) have been duly complied with. The kitchen has,
therefore, always been regarded among orthodox Jews as the chief province of a
Jewish housewife, and to her supremacy in this region the Scriptural words "The
king's daughter is all glorious within" (Ps. xlv. 13) have not inaptly been applied.
In times gone by, especially when the facilities of travel were few, the male
members of a Jewish family whose vocations took them away from home would be exposed
to many privations. Thus the responsibilities of Jewish housewives would be heightened.
They would exercise their ingenuity to the utmost so that on the return of the
breadwinners their hardships might be forgotten in the enjoyment of appetizing
dishes. The influence of the dietary laws and ceremonial customs on Jewish cookery
can be further traced in the details of the kitchen.
of the Passover, with its commandment to abstain during the festival from eating
leavened bread, has had the natural effect of developing special kinds and methods
of cooking appropriate to that period. The unleavened bread is not merely a staple
article of food, but an ingredient of almost every Passover dish. "Maah
klös" (dumpling) soup takes the place of lokshen for this week, and an immense
variety of sweet cakes and puddings, manufactured from ground maah
meal, replaces the confectionery and pastries of ordinary occasions. Fish, instead
of being fried in a batter, is cooked with meal. An excellent flour can be made
of potatoes, and Jewish cooks make use of it for pastries during Passover. All
dishes which can be made from eggs are in special request, and this accounts for
the popularity of almond pudding as a Jewish delicacy. Jews are also debarred
during Passover from drinking malt liquor, which has to be replaced by such beverages
as sassafras and lemonade.
very early times, as far back even as their sojourn in Egypt (Num. xi. 5), Jews
have shown a strong liking for fish, and have developed special skill in its preparation.
There are many reasons for this preference: (1) The necessity of abstaining from
meat not killed according to Jewish law makes them particularly dependent upon
fish. (2) It is not regarded as meat, and can therefore be eaten in conjunction
with butter. (3) There are seasons, such as the "Nine Days," when strict Jews
abstain from meat altogether. (4) The eating of fish has always been associated
with the celebration of the Sabbath. From no orthodox table is fish absent at
one or more of the Sabbath meals, however difficult it may be to procure. In inland
countries like Poland, Jews are limited to fresh-water fish.
are several distinctively Jewish modes of preparing fish, and English Jews have
paid special attention to their practise. Anglo-Jewish methods of cooking fish
were first introduced by Portuguese Jews, and copied by German Jews. Their favorite
fish is salmon, which is either fried, white-stewed, or brown-stewed. Fish, white-stewed,
with lemon and bread balls, is a specifically Jewish preparation, typical of their
fondness for piquant stews in preference to the plain preparation common in non-Jewish
families. Smoked salmon is another Jewish delicacy, and this, together with pickled
herrings, pickled (yellow) cucumbers, and olives, is often to be seen on Jewish
tables as appetizing adjuncts to fried fish.
principal concern in the preparation of food for a Jewish table is compliance
with the ritual requirements for Kasher meat. Orthodox Jews will not partake of
meat unless, in addition to having been killed in accordance with rabbinical law,
it has been entirely drained of blood. Therefore, before being cooked, it needs
to be steeped in water for half an hour. On being taken out it is laid on a perforated
board, sprinkled lightly with salt, and left for one hour. At the end of this
time the salt is washed off (see Meli%ah). Meat may not be cooked with butter
or milk. Oil, and certain portions of the fat of clean animals (the or kasher
fat, as distinguished from the , or merefah fat), are the only fats that may
be used. So far as cookery is concerned, the distinction between butter and meat
necessitates the use of a double set of utensils. Some Jews have two kitchens,
one for meat and one for butter; and two separate dressers are common. Jewish
cooks are debarred from using butter in pastries, which are to be eaten in conjunction
with meats, and from using milk or cream under the same circumstances. For butter,
melted fat must be substituted, while cream may be imitated in a variety of ways.
One reason why almond pudding is a favorite in Anglo-Jewish households is that
it does not require either meat or butter, and can therefore be eaten at any meal.
must be taken of the special preparations made for the Sabbath. The Sabbath dish
par excellence is the "kugel." Orthodox Jews not being permitted to cook on the
Sabbath, their ingenuity has been much taxed to provide hot food for the day of
rest. In the height of summer, cold meats are acceptable enough. The difficulty
is to provide hot dishes in winter, and it has been overcome by the preparation
of a dish known as "kugel." It consists, generally, of meat stewed with peas and
beans, and placed in the oven before Sabbath. The fire having been made up, and
the oven firmly closed, the dish requires no further attention, and will retain
its heat until it is wanted for the Sabbath midday meal. The term "shalet" (see
"sholent" in the article Cookery in Eastern Europe) is used in some parts of Europe
to designate what has just been described as kugel, while "kugel" is used as the
name of a variety of shalet containing much fat; in other parts (e.g., Bavaria)
"shalet" is used of a sort of baked pudding; e.g., maah, apple,
nudel, or almond shalet. The form "shulet" also occurs, as in Bohemia, to indicate
the "gesetztes essen" called "kugel" in the beginning of this paragraph. "Shalet"
is explained by some authorities as a corruption of the German "schul ende," that
being the name of a pudding which is prepared on Friday, to be ready when Sabbathmorning
or afternoon service is over. Others derive it from ("that which remains [in the
oven] overnight"), the final "t" being the German ending. The real derivation
is probably from the Old French "chauld" (warm). The prohibition against cooking
on Sabbath explains why fried fish, being primarily a Sabbath dish, is eaten by
Jews cold, whereas other people eat it hot. Stewed fish is, of course, also eaten
feature of Sabbath cookery is the preparation of twists of bread, which are known
as "challahs" or, as in southern Germany, Austria, and Hungary, as "barches."
They are often covered with seeds to represent manna, which fell in a double portion
on the sixth day. One other item remaining to be mentioned is raisin wine. Jews
are required to offer over a cup of wine the Sabbath prayer for the sanctification
of food. But in many countries wine is too expensive a luxury for the majority
of Jewish families. A cheap preparation, made of boiled raisins, is therefore
substituted, which, though it is far from resembling wine, satisfies all the requirements
of the ritual.
A Jewish Manual of Cookery, edited by a lady, Boone, 1826; Aunt Sarah's Cookery
Book for a Jewish Kitchen, Liverpool, 1872; 2d ed., 1889; Mrs. J. Atrutel, Book
of Jewish Cookery, London, 1874; May Henry and Edith Cohen, The Economical Cook,
London, 1889; Aunt Babette's Cook Book, Cincinnati, 1890. The last contains a
number of Jewish recipes, but is not restricted to Jewish cookery.
of the dishes cooked by the Jews in eastern Europe are akin to those of the nations
among whom they dwell. Thus the kasha and blintzes of the Russian Jews, the mamaliga
of the Rumanians, the paprika of the Hungarians, are dishes adopted by the Jews
from their Gentile neighbors. Only on religious and ceremonial occasions do they
cook peculiarly Jewish dishes.
food prepared on Friday for the Sabbath is called sholent (the Russian equivalent
of "shalet"). The most popular form of sholent is made of potatoes placed in the
pot with meat, fat, and water. The potatoes appear on the table on Saturday glistening
with fat, and are of a dark, brownish color. Some even consider them not alone
palatable, but an excellent remedy for various ills. The commonest form of sholent
is the kugel, a kind of pudding made of almost any article of food; the magenkugel
and the lokshen-kugel are two favorite varieties. The former consists of an animal's
stomach filled with flour, fat, and chopped meat, peppered and salted to taste.
The latter is made of lokshen; often raisins and spices are added. It is cut as
ordinary pudding. Other kugels are compounded of rice, potatoes, carrots, etc.
Lokshen consists of flour and eggs made into dough, rolled into sheets, and then
cut into long strips. Macaroni is an excellent substitute for it. Cut into small
squares, these strips are called "farfil." They are usually boiled and served
with soup. On the day preceding Tish'ah Be'ab, milchige lokshen is eaten. This
is ordinary lokshen boiled in milk.
or compote, consists generally of cooked fruits, such as plums (floymn tzimes),
or of vegetables, well spiced. The most popular vegetable is the carrot (mehren
tzimes), which is cleaned and cut into small slices, and boiled in water for about
three hours. The water is then poured off and mixed with flour, sugar, and cinnamon.
The carrot is then replaced, a fat piece of meat, preferably from the breast,
added, and the concoction is again cooked for two or three hours. Turnips are
also extensively used for imes, particularly in Lithuania. In southern
Russia, Galicia, and Rumania imes is made of pears, apples, figs, prunes,
etc. It is then somewhat like a compound of stewed fruits.
dish for Saturday is called petshai in Lithuania, drelies in South Russia, Galicia,
and Rumania. This consists of cow's or calf's leg prepared in a special manner.
The hair is burned off, and the leg is then thoroughly cleaned, and cut into pieces
of a convenient size. These are placed in a pot with water, and pepper, salt,
and onions are added. Then it is placed in the oven just as are the other sholent
dishes. When it is removed from the oven on Saturday morning, it is either served
hot, or it is distributed in plates, hard-boiled eggs being sliced into it, and
it is put in a cool place. When served in the evening for "shalesh se'udot," it
is a semi-solid mass, in which the meat is embedded. Drelies is made by adding
soft-boiled eggs and also some vinegar as soon as it is removed from the oven,
when it is served hot.
are naturally the great standby of the poor. The best known of these is the krupnik,
made of oatmeal, potatoes, and fat. This is the staple food of the poor students
of the yeshibot; in richer families meat is added to this soup.
or krepchen is another dish peculiar to eastern European Jews. It is prepared
in the following manner: Flour and eggs are mixed into a dough. This is rolled
into sheets and cut into three-inch squares. On each square of dough is placed
fine-chopped meat, to which salt, pepper, and onions are added. The edges of the
rolled dough are then brought together and well pasted. This is then placed in
a soup previously prepared for the purpose. This kreplech is eaten at least three
times a year by every pious Jew—on Purim, on the day preceding the Day of Atonement,
and on Hosha'na Rabbah. On occasions when meat is not eaten, chopped cheese is
placed inside the kreplech.
weddings "golden" soup is always served. The only reason for its name is probably
the yellow circular pieces of chicken fat floating on its surface.
preparations of fish made by the eastern European Jews are famous even among the
Gentiles, the most popular being the gefillte (filled fish). This is prepared
thus: After undergoing the usual processes of cleaning and washing, the fish is
cut into two or three parts. The bones are then taken out, the skin is removed,
and the meat is chopped fine, eggs, salt, pepper, and onions being added. This
mass is then replaced in the skin, dropped into boiling water, and cooked for
about three hours.
the very popular dish of groats called krupnik, and many other grit soups, which
are also common among non-Jews, there are still a number of soups which are more
or less characteristically Jewish. The soup into which "kneidlach" (= "knoedel,"
dumplings) are put, is the dish used most often on Saturdays, holidays, and other
special occasions, particularly at Passover, when it corresponds to the "maah
kloes" of western Europe. The expression "Me meint nit di Haggadah nor di kneidlach"
(It is not the Haggadah that we like so much as the dumplings) owes its origin
to the great favor this soup has attained among the Jews of eastern Europe. The
kneidlach in most cases are made by grinding maahs into flour, and
adding eggs, water, melted fat, pepper, and salt. This mixture is then rolled
into balls about one and one-half inches in diameter. The kneidlach are then put
into the soup, and it is ready to be served about half an hour after. Often the
kneidlach are fried in fat and served apart from the soup. Another kind of kneidlach,
made from mashed potatoes put into warm milk, forms a well-liked soup among Lithuanian
Jews. The village folk of some parts of eastern Europe have still another form
of soup, which is made by putting crisp "beigel" (round cracknel) into hot water
and adding butter. Because of its nutritious qualities it is called michyeh, a
corruption of the Hebrew word "mi%yah" (i.e., food º±Ä' ¾¿Ç½;
compare the Latin "victus"). There are, however, a number of soups in the preparation
of which neither meat nor even fat is used. Such soups form the food of the poor
classes. An expression current among Jews of eastern Europe, "soup mit nisht"
(soup with nothing), owes its origin to dissatisfaction with soups of this kind.
are a number of sour soups, called borshtsh, the most popular of which is the
"kraut," or cabbage, borshtsh, which is made by cooking together cabbage, meat,
bones, onions, raisins, sour salts, sugar, and sometimes tomatoes. Before serving,
the yolks of eggs are mixed with the borshtsh. This last process is called "farweissen"
(to make white). Borshtsh is also made from the beet-root and "rossel" (the juice
derived from the beet).
(roasted meat), chopped meat, and essig fleish (vinegar meat) are the favorite
forms in which meats are prepared. The essig or, as it is sometimes called, "honnig,"
or "sauer fleish," is made by adding to meat which has been partially roasted
some fish-cake, sugar, bay-leaves, English pepper, raisins, sour salts, and a
of cattle, because of its cheapness, is used in the preparation of a great number
of dishes. The fat of geese and chickens is used only on special occasions, but
is kept in readiness for use when needed. Fat, being used so freely during Passover,
is prepared in quantities long before that feast, in many cases as early as $annukah
or "scraps," form one of the best liked foods among the Jews of eastern Europe.
It is eaten especially on the Feast of $annukah. So much do the Jews share in
the belief "that there is no flavor comparable with the tawny and well-watched
scraps," that it is often suggested as an inducement to friends to make a visit.
of eastern Europe bake both black ("proster," or "ordinary") bread and white bread,
or %allah. Of great interest are the various forms into which these breads are
made; for while the black bread is usually circular in form, the shapes in which
%allah is baked vary as the different holidays pass by. The most common form
of the %allahs is the twist ("koilitch" or "kidke"). The koilitch is oval in
form, and about one and a half feet in length. On special occasions, such as weddings,
the koilitch is increased to a length of about two and a half feet. Some are made
in miniature for the small boys, as an inducement to say the "3iddush" (bread
benediction) which is required on Friday night.
dough of %allah is often shaped into forms having symbolical meanings; thus on
New-Year rings and coins are imitated, indicating "May the new year be as round
and complete as these"; for Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) the %allah, which on
that occasion is circular, carries a piece of dough in imitation of a dove, the
significance being "May our sins be carried away by the dove." $allah is also
baked in the form of a ladder for Yom Kippur, expressing thereby the desire, "May
our prayers climb up to heaven"; for Hosha'na Rabbah, bread is baked in the form
of a key, meaning "May the door of heaven open to admit our prayers." The Haman
tash, a kind of a turnover filled with honey and black poppy-seed, is eaten on
the Feast of Purim, but probably has no special meaning.
mohn ki%el, a circular or rectangular wafer having in it a quantity of poppy,
forms a part of the Sabbath breakfast. Pirushkes, or turnovers, are little cakes
fried in honey, or sometimes merely dipped in molasses, after they are baked.
The strudel, or single-layered jelly or fruit cake, takes the place of the pie
for dessert. Teigachz, or pudding, of which the kugel is one variety, is usually
made from rice, noodles, "farfel" (dough crums), and even mashed potatoes. Gehakte
herring (chopped herring). which is usually served as the first dish at the Sabbath
dinner, is made by skinning a few herrings and chopping them together with hard-boiled
eggs, onions, apples, sugar, pepper, and a little vinegar.
and ingberlach are the two popular home-made candies. The teiglach are made by
frying in honey pieces of dough about the size of a marble, the dough being mixed
with sugar and ginger. The ingberlach are ginger candies made into either small
sticks or rectangles. Jellies are made from all juices of fruits, and are used
for different purposes; they are used in making pastry and are often served with
tea. Among the poorer classes jellies are reserved for the use of invalids and
patients, and so well has the practise of making jelly solely for that purpose
been established, that often the words "Allewai zol men dos nit darfen" (May we
not have occasion to use it) are repeated before storing it away.
- Food (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=252&letter=F)
- Cookery (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=761&letter=C)
- Melichah (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=385&letter=M)
- Oil (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=42&letter=O)
- Salt (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=94&letter=S)