These and Those

Musings from Students of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

What a night!

Posted on October 24, 2011 by Suzi

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A bus from Pardes to Ben Yehuda Street (my first time there at night–what a trip!). I walked to Zion Square to meet a friend who guided me through the alleyways to Tmol Shilshom, a wonderful coffeehouse with quaint arched windows and shelves filled with old and rare books just aching to be browsed. The purpose of the trip was to hear a talk by my friend Gil Marks, the ultimate kosher foodie. Eight of us joined the rest of the devotees to listen to Gil regale us with stories about how Jews took foods from other cultures and transformed them into our own. Examples included yogurt, honeycake and much more. Gil explained how technology and demographics conspire to change foods. Examples: the meat grinder in the 1880s made sausages (hot dogs) and hamburgers much more easily accessible, and the mechanical bagel machine led to the popularity of that most ubiquitous bread. He traced the derivation of the bagel, and told us how one woman, Gertrude Berg, invented the sitcom and with it gave the American public a new isight into Jewish culture when she featured Jewish foods on her TV show. He also maintains that chili con carne might well have a Jewish background, through Mexican conversos who fled the Spanish and settled in Texas. He says it’s basically a derivation of Sephardic cholent–meat, beans and spices, slow cooked. The southwest, he said, has many Sephardic foods in its cuisine. He could have talked all night. I could have listened all night. Like his book, Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, Gil is a veritable storehouse of fascinating facts about food, which he is willing and able to produce to entertain and enlighten his audience. Thanks, Gil, for a wonderful evening.