Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Moldavia -- Bob Cohen on East European Comfort Food

The Jewish Museum in Berlin is preparing an exhibition on Food and Religion, and I've been asked to write an essay on Jewish-style restaurants in East-Central Europe for the catalogue (mainly the kitschy ones, but I'll have to add a couple of the real thing, I think). Coincidentally, I just received an email announcement of conference on "Culinary Judaism" to be held in England this summer:

12-14 July 2009, Durham, UK:
`Culinary Judaism'


The 2009 annual conference will take place at St Aidan's College,
Windmill Hill, Durham, 12-14 July 2009. The theme of the conference
will be `Culinary Judaism'. Speakers are invited to present papers
concerning all issues related to food and the use of food in Jewish
texts and cultures, addressing such issues as commensality, cooking,
creation of boundaries, identity, symbolism, sacrifice and material
cultural objects related to or symbolic of eating, etc. The term
`culinary' is interpreted broadly and as suggested extends to
sacrifice and other symbolic uses of food or food related objects. It
is hoped that this broad interpretation of the theme will encourage
members of BAJS from a wide range of research fields to participate.

Bob Cohen takes a far far less academic approach in the blog entry from his Moldavia trip he has just posted, describing in lush (luscious) detail the market foods he found there, many if not most of which form the gustatory core of Ashkenazi eating. You know, pickles, prunes, smoked fish....
Fish was everywhere - interesting given that Moldova is landlocked, but Odessa is only an hour away and as former CCCP appetites know, if you want to drink you need some zakuska to eat with your vodka, and that means some smoked fish. In many ways, if you are used to New York jewish foods, you won't be dissappointed in fressing in Moldova. Jewish culinary traditions have been deeply absorbed into Moldovan cuisine - supermarkets are packed at the arrival of hot, fresh baked challah on friday afternoons.

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