Chicken soup, please: foodies discover a taste for Jewish fare
Sunday 04 April 2004
When Marilyn Monroe first visited Arthur Miller's parents for Friday night supper, her ignorance of Jewish food was all too apparent. "Gee, Arthur, these matzo balls [dumplings] are pretty nice," Monroe declared. "But isn't there any other part of the matzo you can eat?"
Times have changed, and today even Monroe would know that the matzo does not bite. Jewish food, long derided as stodgy fare from Eastern Europe, has suddenly become fashionable. While chicken soup and salt beef were once confined to traditional eateries such as Blooms and Reubens, now one of London's leading new restaurants is serving them.
The Wolseley, in Piccadilly - the sister restaurant to the Ivy, favoured by celebrities - is booked out on a diet that includes chopped liver, chicken soup and salt beef alongside clearly non-Jewish cuisine such as oysters and spit-roast suckling pig. London even boasts the first "fusion" kosher restaurant, which is also the first kosher restaurant in the world to make it into the Michelin guide.
There are two types of Jewish cooking. One is the chopped liver, chopped herring and borscht variety from Eastern Europe favoured by Ashkenazi Jews - most British people's idea of "typical" Jewish food. The other is the cuisine of Sephardic Jews from the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Middle East, which is often regarded as more fashionable. Sephardi food includes an exotic array of tastes, is spicier and more likely to be grilled. The high priestess of this cuisine is the cookery writer Claudia Roden.
But as Jews sit down to their Passover meal tomorrow, which is followed by eight days of eating matzo - the giant "cracker" that represents the unleavened bread eaten by Jews on their biblical flight out of Egypt - there will be some mirth that gentiles are doing the same all year round. For in supermarkets, matzo sells to more non-Jews than Jews andis eaten by four times as many gentiles, according to its manufacturers.
"The number of non-Jewish people who have been converted to matzo has grown over the past 20 years," said Donald MacFarlane, managing director of Rakusen.
Clarissa Hyman, the author of The Jewish Kitchen, said the matzo has crossed over to the mainstream. "Bagels have paved the way and matzos followed," she said. "They've got no fat and no salt. And no taste. Jewish people are always amazed when non-Jewish people say they like matzo - it's like flat cardboard."
Howard Jacobson, the Jewish author and Independent columnist, said: "Jewish food is mystical and magical but it's always a disappointment. Jewish food is designed to promote dissatisfaction and argument. And we like to argue. But there is also an element of mirth in Jewish food that we all like."
Some kosher restaurateurs have welcomed the increase in non-Jewish people experiencing Jewish food. Jay Sinclair, the director of the "kosher fusion" restaurant Six-13 in London, said: "We were the first kosher restaurant in Britain to embrace the non-Jewish market. It used to be very 'ghettofied', just eaten in north London. Everything was family run.
"In a multicultural society people's choice of food has increased, but why hasn't kosher food played a part in that? The more people know about Jewish culture the better things will be."
BACON BAGELS, AND OTHER RARITIES
Simon Round, food writer for The Jewish Chronicle, assesses the crossover appeal of some of the more common Jewish food
What is it? Round roll with a hole. Like bread, but nicer.
Where can you get it? Everywhere. Chains such as Bagel Factory and Ixxy's are ubiquitous at train stations. They even sell bacon bagels. Go figure.
Crossover appeal: "It's the influence of New York. Most people don't realise bagels are Jewish in origin. It's a universal thing now. We've lost ownership of that one."
What is it? A thin crispy cracker made from wheatflour and water.
Where can you get it?Alongside all other crackers.
Crossover appeal: "They're low fat,and they've been sold as low fat. Why else would anyone buy them?"
What is it? Chicken stock with onions and carrots, and usually with dumplings.
Where can you get it?
If you're Jewish, at home. Your mother makes it, and makes it better than anyone.
"It's popularright around the world. Chinese chicken noodle soup is similar, basic ingredients are same. Most cultures have a version of it - they just don't realise it's Jewish chicken soup."
What is it?
Chicken livers chopped and blended with onion, garlic and salt.
Where can you get it?
Home-made, like the soup.
"Similar to chicken liver pâté. Authentic chopped liver has boiled egg on top. It's more stodgy than chicken liver pâté, but still very flavoursome."
What is it?
Chopped fish made into balls with some egg, and boiled in stock.
Where can you get it?
From Jewish supermarkets, in bottles. Otherwise, guess what? It's home made.
"Never going to catch on. After cooking it at home, you have to evacuate the premises for at least seven days. It's not sexy. Adding chrain (horseradish) doesn't help either."
- 1 Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
- 2 Sofyen Belamouadden murder: The inside story of a crime that horrified Britain
- 3 Company breaks open Apple Watch to discover what it says is 'planned obsolescence'
- 4 The Visit: Trailer for M Night Shyamalan's latest horror film is terrifying
- 5 9/11: Iranian General accuses US of organising September 11 terror attacks
General Election 2015: Tories sack candidate who said she would never support 'the Jew' Ed Miliband
9/11: Iranian General accuses US of organising September 11 terror attacks
General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
Manny Pacquiao begs Indonesia president to spare life of drug smuggler Mary Jane Veloso about to be executed
Yazidi sex slaves undergoing surgery to 'restore virginity' after being raped by Isis militants
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia
HSBC review into moving headquarters from UK 'underway'
£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...
£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...
£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...
£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...