I received the cookbook, Olive Trees and Honey: A Treasury of Vegetarian Recipes from Jewish Communities Around the World by Gil Marks as a birthday gift this year, and it is a really fascinating book of Jewish history in addition to the compilation of recipes.
Marks mentions how our culinary habits were transformed due to the geographic areas in which we lived throughout the past 2000 years of exile, based on the different demographics of the countries in which we lived. Since they continued to change, as a result we don’t have one particularly distinct kind of Jewish cooking; rather we have a “mosaic” of cuisines from differing Jewish communities, each with their own history and customs. The largest ones are the Ashkenazic and Sefardic communities. The largest community of Ashkenazic Jews is that of the ancestors of the American Jewish community and the one most Americans relate with as “Jewish food.”
On the contrary, the Sefardic community, interestingly, were welcomed into the Ottoman Empire after the Spanish Expulsion in 1492 and there they grew into a large Jewish community. Today, there is a very large Sefardic community in Israel. However, Jewish cooking now depicts a blend of Jewish cultures throughout the world.
To me, these ideas depict the beauty of Jewish history and continuity. It takes something like food to show how rich are our culture and customs. Furthermore, it’s amazing to think that we are still making foods that our ancestors made hundreds, if not thousands, of years ago. We have a strong dedication to customs, for if not, why then would we still be making latkes and sufganiyot on this lovely holiday of Chanukah? Although we may have altered some recipes to add a healthier twist on them, overall we have a wealth of diverse, wholesome and remarkable recipes.
I’ll talk about more of my findings from this cookbook next week, but until then – has anyone made any of the recipes they enjoyed from this cookbook that they would like to share with me? Feel free to email me!