Whenever you hear the word Jewish Food, images of Middle Eastern dishes like hummus, falafel, and couscous might pop to your mind. But with 40% of the world’s Jews now living in the USA, we strongly believe that the American Jewish cuisine has become a unique category on its own.
For many Jews, eating traditional foods like brisket and blintzes was a normal part of their lives until they made America their new home. These dishes gained iconic significance as they became part of the Jewish identity. As immigrants arrived to the USA, they felt that they need to pay special attention to connecting back with their roots.
Author and historian Joan Nathan wanted to shed special light on the Jewish traditions in her book Jewish Cooking in America. She traces back the origins of American Jewish cooking back to the year 1654 when a group of 23 Sephardic Jews arrived in New Amsterdam, hoping to make America their new home. This initial group was followed by waves of Jews arriving and changing the demographics in the American society. Jews arriving from various countries had different culinary habits and managed to incorporate their cooking in order to create a special character for the American Jewish cuisine.
Jews experienced changes as they transformed from poor immigrants who are struggling to maintain their Jewish identity in a new country to rich business owners who are taking pride in their Jewish heritage. They began to package and market their favorite foods that became more popular among different members of the community.
The market was a welcoming environment that created a chance for companies that became staples in the Jewish food industry. These companies were the reason Jewish food found its way to supermarket shelves where it would stay for decades to come.
While poor immigrants struggled with keeping enough amounts of food on their dinner tables, American Jews were able to prove their financial success by serving lavish amounts of food. The preliminary Jewish traditions were strongly influenced by the American sized proportions. As a matter of fact, current Jewish holidays and events are all about quantity. You can always see huge amounts of food being served at Bar Mitzvahs and Jewish weddings. Traditional dishes became super-sized and extravagant as the American Jews try to highlight their status in the community.
The American Jewish cuisine was also subject to influences from other groups of immigrants who arrived to the USA. Sushi has strongly invaded kosher restaurants as it offers a convenient option for Jews who are interested in cuisines of other origins. Moreover, there are a lot of popular cookbooks that focus on Chinese kosher cooking.
As the American Jewish community continues to grow and change, the American Jewish cuisine will keep on changing. Some traditional dishes will be lost while others will become more popular and will occupy a special place on the Jewish table.