JEWISH SOUL FOOD

I was just in Los Angeles and saw a bus stop sign exclaiming in huge letters “Mazel Tov on YOUR kosher Subway”. Ironically, I checked my email shortly after the sighting and before I had time to digest the gist of the message I saw another kosher Subway had just opened in New York.  

Someone hold me, I’m scared!

I am also confused. Why should I be happy and even celebratory over another fast food chain that opened kosher outposts? The food just isn’t good, period.  None of the food is made locally and the ingredients are not exactly of the highest quality. So, by all means let’s open lots of them. YUCK! These fast food restaurants are all about everything that is bad in American pop culture.  Where is my next Mazel Tov coming from? Kosher KFC, Kosher Burger King? Oh yeah, we already have that. We even brought them to Israel where we could broadcast our gastronomic message across the world.  

On the other hand I could be happy. I probably should be glad that enough folks are eating kosher and that the Subway people heard loud and clear and answered the call. I work for Wolfgang Puck and we are about to open a kosher café and catering organization. So, why not a kosher Subway?  

We have a great food history that I like to call Jewish Soul Food. Our food comes from all over the world. It comes from traditions born out of frugality. It comes from recipes shared with our neighbors from whatever country we happened to be in at that time. It is kind of like a diary of our past and present. It keeps adding on. I always admired the soulfulness of our food. It has its laws that dictate the shalls and the shall nots.  It has the common sense of certain dishes that welcome us home from shul on Shabbat. It has a cool unleavened bread to remind us of our past and also where we are going. Yeah, we eat Asian dishes, Mediterranean dishes and everything in between. But I cannot celebrate the addition of a fast food restaurant to our arsenal of eating establishments. At least falafel is healthy and is loaded with history and yes, soul.  

At Wolfgang Puck we are entering the kitchen for the first time this week. We will begin working through our recipes and testing and tasting. Our food is all home made and will include influences from Asian flavors as well as Mediterranean. I am going to sweat and fret over this food and make sure it is flavorful, healthy and packed with soul.  Bon Appetit!

Laura Frankel is the Executive Chef for Wolfgang Puck Kosher Catering and Cafe at the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies and the author of JEWISH COOKING FOR ALL SEASONS (John Wiley and Sons)

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3 Responses to “JEWISH SOUL FOOD”

  1. Leah Koenig Says:

    A friend of mine told me that the only place he doesn’t feel gastronomically marginalized as a kosher keeper is in Israel, because he can actually eat at all (well most of) the restaurants. So I understand the community’s excitement to feel like they finally have access to something everyone else has. That said, if it has to be fast food, I wish places with some ethical grounding like Pret A Manger and Chipotle would go kosh instead of Burger King and Subway.

    Best of luck this week!

  2. Baruch Weiss Says:

    Best of Luck Chef Laura, do you know Sheldon Kane? He’s the owner of Hy Life Bistro and Slice of Life and has taken over the reigns of Mitsuyan in Devon.

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