13 Mar A Bite of History on Jewish Food
Jewish food tells a story of an uprooted, migrating people and their vanished worlds.
Mention the word Feigels, and someone has a story to share. Mostly it reminds them of time they spent with loved ones.
Jewish food jolts the senses. As we taste and smell and smell and eat, and talk, while we’re eating or while some family member is talking and eating at the same time; we create memories.
Food lives in people’s minds because of what it evokes and represents.
In the late seventeenth century, Jews in Poland moved to Galicia, Lithuania and the Ukraine. There, the Polish nobility asked them to manage their agricultural lands and to settle in the shtetl (newly built towns). The Jews hired flour mills, dairy processing plants and taverns to brew vodka and schnapps.
As time moved on, large amounts of Jews moved out of Poland into neighbouring countries and food from the shtetl (that originated in Germany) such as hallah bread, gefilte fish, chopped liver, cholent and lockshen pudding were transported all over Eastern Europe.
Cooking traditions between Poland and Russia weren’t that different. They shared similar ingredients and notably a taste for carp, salted herrings, sausages and sauerkraut. They all made heavy ryes, cucumber pickles, chicken soup, pancakes and dumplings.
Polish Jews developed a taste for sweetish foods. Their heritage included cabbage leaves stuffed with rice and bagels; boiled then baked.
Lithuanian Jews preferred sour foods such as iced beetroot soup, fermented pickled cabbage, perogen and blintzes.
Feigel filled the little shop with an eclectic combination of traditional foods from Lithuania and Poland; a beautiful combination of hers and Mully, her husband’s heritage.
Now everyone who has ever worked at Feigels most likely has a pickled herring story.