My journey into Jewish Food History began with the tours I give in Shuk Machane Yehuda, Jerusalem’s famous open-air market. As I began to dig deeper into the foods from over twenty countries of origin, I was exposed to the fascinating and diverse world of our culinary culture. I began researching the topic, and eventually developed a lecture that I gave a few times called “18 Jewish Foods: What Our Iconic Dishes Says About Our Culture.”
In time, as I continued researching, I had the idea to expand that lecture into a book project. And then I realized that by expanding it, it was getting too big! So I selected out one of the topics — about arguably the most Jewish food there is — and have been focused on writing it since late summer 2020. I have made significant progress, and am moving forward continually, hoping to complete the manuscript by summer 2022.
The book looks at Shabbat stews from around the world — hamin, chulent, dafina, osavo, t’bit, skhina, pom and more — and uses them as a way of tracing Jewish migrations through the Diaspora. I believe these many dishes are actually just variations on the same dish, evolving in each new location based on available ingredients, climate, local tastes and the conditions under which each Jewish community lives.
The book’s working title is Chulent: How an Unassuming Sabbath Stew Traveled the World, Changed its Look, and Came to Embody the Jewish Experience. In connection with the book, I will soon be launching a sister site to this one: The Chulent Book.
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Together, let’s celebrate this most Jewish of dishes!