Is there life after chicken soup?
The woman next door was still in the kitchen, digging, stuffing, wrapping and rolling the food into little balls and fingers. But it wasn’t just for the food that I visited the neighbors so often.
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When I was a child, around 7 years old, we lived next to a large family in London. I liked to visit neighbors, anything to get away from my own family. There was something different about this family. Even at a young age, I could tell.
One evening I walked in and the woman next door was lighting candles with her hand over her eyes. She then began to sing in a strange language.
I rushed home to tell my mom. “It sounds magical,” my mom said. It turned out to be a Jewish family that escaped to London to avoid the Holocaust. She warned against eating too much of their food. “They have been through a terrible time and need all the food they can get.”
What she didn’t know was that I was there for exactly what she had warned about, the food. Unlike our frugal house where the food was locked up, there was always plenty of food: little pies, bowls of soup, and chicken in glistening heaps of gold.
“They eat a kind of pink stuff like paper, which tastes like fish,” I reported to my mother. It was smoked salmon, which I had never seen before, and the lady had sent some as well. Soon our whole family got hooked on smoked salmon.
“There is bread like bracelets. She prepares them in a large pot of boiling water, ”I added. I especially liked these bread bracelets, they were sort of spongy on the inside and slightly sweet.
The woman was still in the kitchen (a place my mom barely visited), digging, stuffing, wrapping and rolling the food into little balls and fingers.
Once, when I was sick in bed, the woman brought a broth which she called Jewish penicillin. Chicken soup. After that, when one of us was sick, my mom would always say, “What we need is some of that chicken soup.”
Before, when we were sick, we lived on a strict diet of pot sandwiches.
But it wasn’t just for the food that I visited the neighbors so often. There was something romantic and even weird, something old that I loved. The man wore a funny little round thing on the back of his head. I reported to my mother again: “The man has a hole in his head which he covers with a little hat.”
As time went on, as I got older and moved to cities, I started to taste more Jewish food. In London, people would say to me, ‘Aren’t you just dying for rye pastrami?’ I didn’t know what pastrami was.
For my 30th birthday, someone bought me a cheesecake. I had never tasted cheesecake before.
When I moved to Cape Town in the 1970s and started working on magazines, the delicacy was hot beef on rye. Many of my colleagues were Ashkenazi Jews, whose ancestors came from Eastern Europe, mainly Lithuania and Russia. Others came from Greece, Rhodes in particular, via Congo and Rhodesia and brought with them Sephardic cuisine with a blend of spices.
I started to be invited to Shabbat meals.
French historian Fernand Braudel, in his book Mediterranean, wrote that there was undoubtedly a Jewish civilization, but that it was so individual that it was not always recognized as such. To me at the time, it seemed very New York to me. There was so much zhuz, but what really captivated me was the bread and candles, so basic.
However, what should have been an ancient simplicity has often turned into a Gut.
The Shabbat table stunned me. It was loaded with cold fried fish. There were large jars of different stews – and sometimes even pudding – all mixed together because they had been made the day before and were supposed to last until Sunday. No kitchen on Saturdays.
There was potato salad, fish balls, lots of veg, fried eggplant plates, knish plates, delicious little pies, Jewish samoosa, fish ball soup (gefilte fish ) which I have never got used to, matzo balls, potato pancakes (latkes), kugel, schnecken, Berliner pfannkuchen and apfelstrudel.
I started to learn things about the kosher diet that felt sharp to me and held your breath intelligently. ANimals that “bite” (that is, herbivores that chew their partially digested food before finally swallowing it) and have split hooves are considered clean and allowed. (Split hooves mean they can’t hold prey and can’t be carnivorous.)
Jewish cuisine laid the foundation for great culinary traditions in cities like New York. In the ’70s Cape Town was a celebration of Jewish cuisine with the rise of charcuterie: Rieses in Sea Point, Milly’s in Buitenkant Street and, while not particularly Jewish, for the first time we got artisanal sweets. jewelry at Zerban’s in the Garden Center.
These deli meats offered a mix of exotic imports and specialized in pickled, salted and smoked foods that housewives did not prepare at home. They served corned beef, tongue, and pastrami, one of the great inventions of American deli.
It was worth visiting Johannesburg for a visit to Wachenheimers, a kosher butcher that also served a few tables, just to taste the pastrami on rye.
The South African Jewish Museum tells the story of an immigrant community, almost entirely from Lithuania, who arrived as hawkers working in mining towns and grew into a thriving and vibrant population. The museum also discusses the moral and political issues faced by South African Jews during the apartheid era.
Much of the food was years before its time. Now with Fergus Henderson’s book Eat nose to tail, organ meats became poster food instead of frankenfood we always thought that was the case. The cheaper organ meats – feet, spleen, lungs, brains, liver, and intestines – were widely used in Jewish cuisine.
I’ve always loved the language but rarely see it on a menu. See below for a recipe given to me by a friend.
Although Cape Town’s oldest Jewish community, once 16,000 strong, has shrunk, thankfully there are remains.
If you’re craving smoked salmon and bagel, gefilte fish, or ground herring, there are two great delicatessens left, the famous Goldies at Sea Point and my favorite, Kleinsky’s, also Sea Point, where bagels are cooked properly by them. boiling. . Giovanni’s, Green Point’s finest delicatessen, still has an impressive collection of Jewish dishes such as ground herring, and Checkers, Sea Point, is a festival of kosher delicacies.
But the good news is that Capetonians are also seeing a resurgence in Jewish deli culture with the opening of Max Bagels in Bree Street. Check out their Corned Beef Bagel, with a number of bagel choices: plain, poppy, sesame and with a variation of cream cheese, arugula, tomato and pickle fillings.
The bagel isn’t new to Cape Town, but this favorite American snack has started to rock the city with hole-in-the-wall bagel vending machines making door-to-door deliveries, and places like the historic New York-owned Bagels. to Bernard Milner, whose father owned the famous Milly’s. New York Bagels is located in what was once District Six.
Milner says, “Bagels have definitely become more popular than ever before, and that is probably related to the trend towards craftsmanship and the fact that they are made with more care than in previous years.”
And in a wonderfully diverse twist, you can even get a Halaal-accredited bagel from olive food vendors.
From vanity addresses in upscale New York City to unaddressed homes in Brazil’s favelas and South African townships, blintzes, tzimmes and bagels lead the way in a cuisine that is both poor and well-suited. rich, and wasting is a sin.
1 beef tongue marinated in brine
2 onions, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 bay leaves
Mustard sauce, for serving
Wash and soak the tongue in cold water for 24 hours, changing the water once. Drain and put in a saucepan with cold water to cover. Bring to a boil and when foam appears, pour in the water. Cover with cool water, bring to a boil again and add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer for three hours, until very tender. (Test with a fork at the end of the root.) Submerge in cold water before peeling the skin. Cut the root and the bones.
If serving hot, return the tongue to the broth and reheat before serving, sliced. Serve with mustard sauce. DM / TGIFood