ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST NOMADIC CUISINES
Jewish cuisine is a collection of different cooking traditions of the Jewish people who have lived in over seventy countries. It is a diverse cuisine that has evolved over many centuries, shaped also by Jewish dietary law (kashrut) and Jewish Festival and Shabbat traditions. It has also been influenced by the culinary traditions of the many countries where Jewish communities have existed. In turn, Jewish cuisine has made its own impact on the cuisines of these countries.
Here in Britain, the best example dates from the nineteenth century. In 1860, Joseph Malin, a 13-year old Jewish boy living in London’s East End, had the bright idea of combining fried fish with chips. Joseph’s family were rug weavers and to increase the family income they had begun frying chips in a downstairs room of their house. It was Joseph’s idea to combine the chips – at that point a novelty in London – with fish from a nearby fried fish shop.
Fried fish already had a long history in London – in a letter written at the end of the eighteenth century, future American President Thomas Jefferson described eating ‘fried fish in the Jewish fashion’ on a visit to the capital. Battered fried fish had first arrived in London some 200 years earlier with Sephardi Jewish refugees from Portugal and Spain.
There are several styles that exist within Jewish cuisine: Ashkenazi (Central and Eastern European), Sephardi (descendants of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews, including Italian, Greek, Turkish and Balkan), Mizrahi (North African, including Moroccan, Tunisian, Algerian and Libyan), Judeo-Arab (Lebanese, Syrian and Iraqi), Persian Jewish, Yemenite Jewish, Indian Jewish, and Latin-American Jewish. Over the past thirty years, a fusion cuisine has emerged in Israel, combining and adapting elements of Jewish cuisine, new foods introduced and grown since 1948, as well as other Middle Eastern and international cuisines.