There are a handful of New York City landmarks that most people recognize: Lady Liberty. The Chrysler Building. And Katz’s Delicatessen.
Opened on the Lower East Side in 1888 and purchased by the Russian Katz family in 1903, the delicatessen famous for its orgasmic pastrami sandwiches, its Friday evening frankfurters ‘n’ beans and its Cel-Ray soda is one of the oldest continually operating businesses in New York City. And, at the ripe age of 125, Katz’s is still going strong: each week, the deli serves up more than 10,000 pounds of pastrami, 6,000 pounds of corned beef, and 4,000 hot dogs to locals and tourists alike. That’s a lot of cow.
Katz’s has attracted its fair share of attention over the years. But no one had ever written a book about it until now. In September, current part owner Jake Dell wrote the introduction to Katz’s: Autobiography of a Delicatessen in which he traces the famed storefront’s evolution from a tight-knit neighborhood joint to a star-studded celebrity hangout at the height of the early 1900s Yiddish theatre boom to a can’t-miss tourist attraction in the oughts. Large-format, full-color photos by Baldomero Fernandez detailing every nook and cranny of the restaurant accompany Dell’s text.
When it comes to publishing food or cookbooks, it’s usually the restaurant chef or owner that approaches the publisher with an idea. But in the case of Katz’s, Dell said, it was Bauer and Dean Publishers that, a few years ago, came to him. With the big anniversary fast approaching, Dell thought the timing was perfect.
“It was kind of a no-brainer,” he said.
A once in a lifetime holiday that combines two of the most tasty holidays is a really serious event. Latkes, presents, lighting the menorah, making stuffing, and a turkey on the same night? Talk about a lot of pressure. We’d totally understand if you’re just not feeling up for making pumpkin sufganiyot. And we think you’ll family will understand too once they see some of your other options.
Restaurants aren’t taking Thanksgivukkah lightly. They’re bringing out the big guns in the form of challah stuffing, burnt marshmallow challah donuts, sweet potato latkes, and more. With delectable options like these, it’s a shame we won’t see them again for 79,000 years.
There are few Jews living in the South Pacific island nation of Fiji, aside from a small Jewish community in the capital city of Suva who are mostly descendants of Australian merchants who arrived in the 1880s. One of them is Ofir Yudilevich, executive chef at the InterContinental Fiji Golf Resort & Spa on the main island of Viti Levu. Responsible for four restaurants, catering and room service for an average of 3,000 guest and staff meals a day, Yudilevich has come a long way from his family’s restaurant in New Zealand.
Born in Israel in 1974, Yudilevich grew up in Rehovot, south of Tel Aviv, but moved to Auckland, New Zealand after his bar mitzvah, when his parents divorced and his father was remarried, to a Kiwi. (His mother and sister remained in Israel.) Yudilevich Sr., an Israeli army vet who became a property developer and restaurateur, opened New Zealand’s first Israeli, kosher-style restaurant, Le Haim (kosher certification wasn’t available). The menu, including falafel, shawarma, Grandma’s potato latkes and over 30 salads, was a hit with the Jewish community.
RECIPE: Fiji-Style Pickled Fish
It was also a training ground for Ofir Yudilevich.
“It hooked me on the love of food and working in a kitchen, and I have not looked back since,” he says. With that experience under his belt, he worked at Sheraton Auckland and the chain’s hotels in Sydney, Bangkok, and Tel Aviv. Moving up in the culinary ranks, he spent a year at the Ivy in London. Now he gets to feed visitors to paradise, a dream job if there was one.
Gerri Miller: How does an Israeli-born New Zealander wind up in Fiji?
Ofir Yudilevich: I came here by accident last October. I had finished (a job) in Cebu, the Philippines, and was taking a year’s sabbatical. I became a dive instructor there. The chef happened to resign on the same day, so it was meant to be.
Fiji-Style Kokoda Pickled Fish
The most famous Fijian dish is called Kokoda (pronounced ko-kon-da), which has at its core a ceviche or pickled fish. In Israel and in many Jewish homes around the world, pickled herring is on every grandmother’s table. Fiji takes this basic dish and put a twist on it like only Fiji can, adding coconut and chili to it which takes it to a new level and adds the summer feel to it.
1 pound firm-flesh white fish, such as Spanish mackerel
¾ cut white wine vinegar
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3 cup coconut cream
2 small red chilli peppers (add more to taste if you want the dish spicy)
1 bunch fresh coriander
Salt and pepper
1 small red onion
Optional garnish: chili, coriander, sugarcane sticks
Dice the fish and marinate overnight in white wine vinegar to cure it.
In the morning, wash the fish under cold water.
Then marinate for a second time for two-three hours in lemon juice, to take on a citrus flavor.
Then combine with coconut cream, chillis, diced red onion and coriander, salt and pepper to taste.
Best served cold, this dish can be made in advance and is perfect for a picnic.
The picked fish is preserved, which makes it safe to leave unrefrigerated.
Based on Smitten Kitchen’s lentil soup with sausage, chard, and garlic
1/4 c olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
A pinch of chili pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
4 turkey or chicken Italian sausages (not pre-cooked), with the casings removed
1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes
6 c chicken or vegetable broth
1 c dried lentils
2 heaping handfuls of Kale, chopped into 1-2 inch pieces
In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft, 5-7 minutes. Add garlic, chili flakes, salt and pepper, and cook for 2 more minutes.
Add the sausage and break up into small pieces with a spoon. Heat until cooked through.
Open the can of tomatoes and chop them into roughly 1/2-inch chunks. An easy way to do this is by cutting them with a pair of kitchen scissors while they’re still in the can. Add the tomatoes (with their juices) and the broth to the pot.
When the soup boils, rinse and add the lentils. Simmer for about 30 minutes, until the lentils are cooked. Add the kale and simmer for 5 more minutes.
Keren Shahar-Karbe’s Israeli Shakshuka with Feta Cheese:
Ingredients (Serves 2):
6 tablespoons vegetable oil (not olive oil)
1 diced red paprika
4 grounded garlic cloves
5 very ripe diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
120 ml water
1 teaspoon of sweet paprika
1-2 chopped hot dry chili sea salt
¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder
80 gram crumbled soft feta cheese
Fry the diced paprika until tender, then add the garlic. When the garlic gets golden – careful, it happens quickly! – add the diced tomatoes, the tomato paste and the water. Cook on low fire until the tomatoes get tender.
When the tomatoes are ready, add the spices and the cheese and stir carefully.
Open an egg in a small bowl. Carefully scoop a ‘hole’ in the tomato sauce and slide the egg in. Repeat with all the eggs. Cover the pan and cook on low fire.
When the eggs are cooked but not too hard yet, sprinkle the fresh chopped parsley and serve fresh with warm challah.
It could be just another store renovation in Berlin’s thriving Mitte-district. But Keren Shahar-Karbe is beaming as she walks through the empty rooms of a former art gallery. Some walls have holes and cables stick out of them. “So much has already changed,” Shahar-Karbe said, visibly excited.
In September, the 34-year-old Israeli started renovating the retail space with the two large windows and a door that opens to tree-lined Torstrasse, a street filled with cafés and shops. A few weeks from now, Shahar-Karbe, who currently runs the kosher catering service Keren’s Jewish Kitchen together with her husband, will be opening her own kosher Israeli café and bistro in this space. It aims to be a place for Berlin’s growing Israeli community as well as lovers of Israeli food and culture to connect and hang out.
The house belonged to a Jewish family until they were dispossessed by the Nazis. In the early ’90s, it was used as a squatter camp for anarchists. Now it is back in the possession of the original owners, who live in Israel. Shahar-Karbe plans to put up a plaque commemorating its history — right next to the library of Hebrew books and gallery of Jewish art for which she has dedicated the backroom.
Shahar-Karbe, a Jerusalem native, is a gastronomy veteran. “I did the whole circle around the kitchen work,” she says. She started working next to her studies during high school, and has since worked as a dishwasher, waitress, cook and baker. From early on, she would help her grandmothers in the kitchen, where she learnt to prepare typical dishes of the Mizrahi cuisine — some of which are still her favorites today: kibbeh (stuffed croquette), jachnun (rolled pastry) and bourekas (filled pastry).
It wasn’t until she moved to Berlin five years ago — “for pragmatic reasons”, she points out — that she turned her passion into full-time profession. “I tried all sorts of directions in my life,” said Shahar-Karbe, who also worked with children, as a mortgage consultant and in a bike shop, just to name a few. “But always the kitchen somehow came back,” she added. “And finally I had to say, well, that’s where I am.”
Read Shahar-Kerbe’s recipe for Shakshuka With Feta Cheese
In August, I left Brooklyn and moved to the North Dakota-Minnesota border where my boyfriend, Nick, is a fifth-generation farmer. I arrived just in time for harvest, so with Nick’s 14-hour tractor shifts, our Shabbat meals have been improvised, eaten out of Thermoses, and rustic. (“Rustic” is just my glorified way of saying that bits of soil from the field may or may not have made their way onto our utensils by the time we ate.)
What the locals don’t specify when you’re warned about the brutal winters here is that soup weather arrives much earlier than it does in Brooklyn. Which is something to celebrate; you take what you can when the tales of -40 degree temperatures start circulating. And so my favorite Shabbat meal thus far was a few weeks ago during navy bean harvest. It consisted of a simple but filling soup, shared with Nick during a very bumpy chisel-plowing ride.
The soup is a lentil soup, and it’s one that I made nearly every week during soup weather when I lived in Brooklyn. I’d add kale from the Grand Army Plaza greenmarket and sausage from Fleischer’s; this time I added kale from the farmstead garden and sausage from a local turkey farm. Both renditions were amazing.
Perched up on our little tractor seats, two spoons and one Thermos, our first bites instantly brought us back to Brooklyn in the fall. It was the kind of nostalgia that you really only get from a warm comforting dish, and it came on like a strong drink on an empty stomach. As the sun went down, we gobbled up that soup, and I peered out the tractor window where the crops stretched into the horizon. It wasn’t a traditional Shabbat, and admittedly it wasn’t totally restful either, but it was indeed memorable, beautiful, and delicious.
Click here for Molly Yeh’s recipe for lentil, sausage and kale soup to warm those cold Shabbat nights.
Heading north to Montreal this summer? If you’re not, you should be.
Aside from being the three months out of the year when the city doesn’t look like a snow globe, summertime is festival time in Montreal. From June until mid-September, the newly laid-out Place des Festivals is aglow with lights, sounds, crowds, music and film.
The more well-known events, like Francofolies, a two-week tribute to French culture in Canada and abroad, and the Montreal Jazz Festival, which celebrates its 34th anniversary this year and has hosted the likes of Stevie Wonder, Ella Fitzgerald, B.B. King and Aretha Franklin, have just ended, but that’s no reason to cancel.
All that partying tends to give one hunger pangs, and Montreal is happy to help relieve them. You’ve probably heard of poutine, the heart-attack inducing combination of fries, gravy and cheese curds, but what of Montreal’s Jewish food scene? Like the city itself, its Jewish fare is defined by the blend of English-speaking Ashkenazi heritage complete with a French-speaking Sephardic twist.
From juicy smoked meat to melt-in-your-mouth North African sweets, there’s something for everyone. If you’re new to the city, check out the map below to plan your post-festival food crawl.
Late Night Smoked Meat: Schwartz’s Deli
No Montreal night out is complete without a trip to Schwartz’s. Even at 3 a.m. (closing time for bars in the city), you will find a line snaking out the front door and onto the street, while tourists and locals alike wait to fill their bellies with smoked meat (the Canadian answer to pastrami).
Founded in 1928 by Reuben Schwartz, a Jewish immigrant from Romania, the “charcuterie hebraique” (Hebrew Delicatessen) is the oldest deli in the city, and has occupied a prime spot on Boulevard Saint-Laurent, a.k.a. “The Main,” for more than 80 years.
Each smoked meat establishment jealously guards its recipe, complete with a secret blend of herbs and spices. The good news? If you can’t get enough of the juicy blend, it’s now available in travel-friendly packaging in certain supermarkets around Canada.
Disclosure: Though the white-tiled interior and narrow tables stay true to the deli’s origins, the business is no longer under Jewish ownership. In 2012, Rene Angélil, Celine Dion’s husband and a lifelong smoked meat fan, bought the deli from businessman Hy Diamond.
Must Try: Smoked meat sandwich (when asked if you want it lean, the answer is most decidedly no).
3895 Boulevard Saint-Laurent, Montreal, Quebec, H2W 1X9.
How do you make the world’s tallest kosher sandwich? The Jewish community in Budapest decided it was high time to find out.
When Andras Borgula started planning the Budapest’s sixth annual Judafest, a cultural street fair celebrating Jewish life in Hungary held June 9, he had an ambitious thought: Why not set some kind of Jewish record?
Borgula, 38, founder and director of the Jewish Golem Theatre and artistic director for the festival, said the idea came to him as he tried to come up with something that would be both Jewish — and Hungarian.
“There isn’t so much Hungarian Talmud or Torah,” he said. “But we’re pretty strong in the kitchen. We like to eat, and we like to cook. So, why not a kosher sandwich?”
Borgula’s dream was almost cut short when he found out that the Guiness World Records did not have a category for unusually tall kosher fare. After much pestering and pleading, the world’s arbiter of unusual and outrageous things agreed to create a special category, with the requirement that the oversized lunch be at least two meters (almost 7 feet) tall.
And so, as the 7,000 attendees of Judafest (put on by the Budapest chapter of the American Joint Distribution Committee) crowded into Kazinczy Street in Budapest’s Jewish Quarter this week, Borgula and 25 volunteers were preparing over 400 sandwiches, to be stacked one on top of each other as “one big club sandwich.”
Sadly, they fell just short of the world-record setting goal, running out of bread just as the sandwich reached 1.9 meters.
But, “even if we had more,” Borgula said, “the tower was start[ing] to fall apart.”
Despite the setback, Borgula, who positioned the individual slices of white bread, kosher turkey, hummus and pickles himself, is proud of his community’s achievement. “It’s not an official record, but still, this is an unofficial tallest kosher sandwich of the world, built by myself, and I’m not an engineer,” he said.
So, what to do with such a masterpiece? Borgula thought of that too. With record-level flooding threatening Budapest, volunteers were put to work to fortify the banks of the Danube. Rather than letting the hundreds of sandwiches go to waste, Borgula and other festival-dwellers carried them down to the river and served them to people working to fight the rising tide.
“I think most of the people never heard about Jews, and never tasted kosher [food] in their entire life,” Borgula said. “They were pretty amazed by this.”
If you’re an American Jew, there’s a pretty good chance that somewhere, somehow, someone in your family made dinner on the Lower East Side.
Though the area has been home to a countless nationalities and ethnic groups, it holds a special place in the hearts of American Jews, many of whom can trace their first foothold in the country back to “the old neighborhood.”
On June 5, the Tenement Museum celebrated its 25th anniversary, and the 150th anniversary of the restored building at 97 Orchard Street, which housed over 7,000 people from more than 20 countries from 1863 to 1935.
As a tribute to the many sights and smells imprinted into the tenement’s walls, the gala was set up as an edible timeline, a “taste of the tenements,” catered by current local vendors and restaurants and inspired by the neighborhood’s residents. Here’s a window into what they would have been eating, and where you can find those treats today.
Many years ago, while I was working as a counselor at Beth Tfiloh day camp in the Baltimore suburbs, my favorite camper took a trip to Israel. She came back with the best present a 15-year-old counselor could ever ask for: a jar of chocolate spread.
At the time, I’d never encountered such a thing. And it changed my life. Suddenly chocolate peanut butter sandwiches were the stuff dreams were made of.
Fast forward nearly two decades. We live in a world where chocolate and other nutty spreads are prevalent. Just yesterday the maker of Nutella made news by cancelling World Nutella Day!
At the same time, a minor travesty was unfolding in our neighborhood in brownstone Brooklyn. Ample Hills, Prospect Height’s newest and arguably most popular ice cream shop, announced that it is cutting down from 24 ice cream flavors to 16.
In doing so, they may get rid of Nanatella, a delicious organic banana ice cream rippled with — you guessed it — creamy Nutella.
By the time I moved out of Chicago, the place had lost a good deal of its relevance for me. I had come to know Myron & Phil best as the restaurant just west of the storage facility where I kept most of the junk I thought I would need for my move out east. As a new, not-entirely-devout pescetarian married to a hardcore vegetarian, I had little need for a place that did its biggest business in steaks, ribs and a famed relish tray that came with three big scoops of chopped liver.
Sure, you could order the scrod or the steamed vegetable platter, but to do so was to invite disappointment. By then, my father was having a hard time getting out of the house anyway and going to Myron & Phil without him seemed beside the point. Founded in 1970, this was a restaurant for his generation, the sort of place where he had his usual table (close to the exit), his usual drink (“martini up, blue cheese olives”) and his usual order (“the Pritikin Chicken”). This was the quintessential 20th century Jewish steakhouse, a place where politicians came to shore up the Jewish vote — on the walls were framed, autographed photos of Bill Clinton, Dan Rostenkowski and the other celebs and pols who dined here. I haven’t been back in some time, but if Rahm and Barack’s pictures aren’t on the walls, I’d be stunned.
I remember Myron & Phil as a loud joint — a sort of seven-night-a-week Bar Mitzvah. Whoever was running it when I went there would holler at the line chefs, not by name but by physical description (“Hey, Tall Guy, give it a little more fire.”) Rumor had it that some tough Jews had a card game going in the back, but I never saw any evidence of that. Probably it was just a rumor started by my some of my relatives who populated the joint — men who’d fought their way out of the Depression on the Old West Side of Chicago and found middle-class comfort in oil, car sales, and the steel business. Whenever my dad saw Phil Freedman, one of the two brothers who owned the place, he would say he remembered him from when the Freedmans’ mom ran a cafeteria in his old neighborhood — yes, Myron and Phil had also made it out of the old ‘hood all the way to the north side.
Memories of Myron & Phil return upon reading reports that Myron Freedman, the restaurant’s 95-year-old co-founder, passed away early Wednesday morning. At right about the same time, the restaurant itself caught fire. Myron’s son Mark, who’s been running the restaurant for nearly 15 years, told the Sun-Times that he feels like a phoenix who will have to remake his father and uncle’s place as “the jewel of the North Shore.” Myron & Phil will re-open in about a month, says Freedman. Like all of us, he’s part of a generation that has risen from the ashes of the old one. Maybe I’ll even stop in on his restaurant with my family on my next trip through town. I’ve changed a lot since I was last there and I’m sure Myron & Phil has too. I’ll even bet that there’ll be a lot more on the menu for me to order other than steamed vegetables and scrod.
Adam Langer is the arts & culture editor of the Forward.
Every Jewish cook has their Passover mainstays, which are usually divided down a line: Ashkenazi or Sephardic, depending on their family’s country of origin. On a recent Tuesday morning we decided to cross over and try our hands at making traditional Syrian Passover foods.
Our teacher was Jennifer Abadi, author of “A Fistful of Lentils: Syrian-Jewish Recipes from Grandma Fritzie’s Kitchen,” private chef and teacher of culinary classes all over Manhattan. Abadi recently launched a new blog, Too Good to Passover, which she’s hoping to grow into a book about Sephardic Passover foods, encompassing foods from many different Middle Eastern cultures.
She promised to keep it simple, and she did. We started our cooking class with macaroons. Forget the canned coconut variety you’re used to… these are made of pistachios. Abadi used salted and unsalted pistachios to get a salty-sweet combination that’s popular in Syrian cooking. The sugar and pistachios were pulsed together in a food processor and egg whites and rose water added later (technically, the recipe calls for orange blossom water, but that’s harder to find).
When Haaretz’s food and wine critic, the late Daniel Rogov, moved from Paris to Tel Aviv in the late 1970s, he discovered a cornucopia of Jewish foods from all over the world, stemming from the manifold cultures from which Jews had immigrated. What he missed was one of his favorite foods from his childhood in Brooklyn: a pastrami sandwich on rye.
Indeed, what is arguably the quintessential American Jewish dish has never played a major role in any other Jewish cuisine in the world. There is something irreducibly American about the deli sandwich, which bespeaks the unique history of American Jews.
Much of the Jewish deli sandwich’s popularity in America is tied to the evolution of the sandwich itself, which exploded in popularity after the First World War. Even before the advent of the mechanical bread slicer in Iowa in 1928, the sandwich (originally invented by Rabbi Hillel the Elder, as we commemorate each year during the Passover seder), became one of the most popular of all American foods, with more than 5,000 sandwich shops in New York by the mid 1920s. In a city defined by its manic energy, the sandwich became the perfect fuel for people on the go.
Homemade inari sushi, mandle bread, rice balls, spicy edamame, hamantaschen, and rice crispy treats. If there was anything incongruous about the offerings at the recent bake sales for Japan earthquake relief at Brandeis Hillel Day School, a pluralistic Jewish day school in San Francisco, no one seemed to notice. The mix of Jewish, Japanese and American treats spoke directly to the palates of this unique modern Jewish community.
Though bake sales are “not a tradition” in her native Japan, parent Yumi Murase Berman, has learned about them since immigrating to the United States. Reacting to the recent tragedies in Japan, she reached out to other Japanese-American-Jewish families to host two fundraising bake sales. The menu they created for the bake sale was an extension of the multi-faceted identities that exist for many of these multi-ethnic families and the foods they eat.
American Jews have had a long romance with Chinese food. But the food of this school (which serves both falafel and sushi in its lunch program) and community represents more than culinary tourism or attempts of trying the cuisine of the moment. This mixing of cuisines could be credited to the American tradition of adopting and blending foods of immigrants into a culinary melting pot. But it is equally a natural extension of the Jewish culinary tradition of adapting and integrating local foodstuffs and recipes into the Jewish diet. These blending cuisines and food traditions are part of the ongoing negotiation of Jewish identity and community that we see mediated through food. In this case, it comes not from outside influences but from within the growing Jewish community’s internal Jewish culinary negotiations.
Buenos Aires, best known as the Paris of South America for its vibrant culture and architecture, has become a major tourism destination. And there’s plenty of interest for the Jewish tourist. Argentina has one of the largest Jewish communities in the world, and the largest in Latin America, with estimates ranging from 175,000 to 250,000. The neighborhoods of Once and Abasto, in the heart of the city, are full of synagogues and are the main area for kosher grocers, butchers and restaurants as well as Judaica and Hebrew book stores, largely clustered on Calle Tucuman. In years past, the neighborhood contained a mix of Ashkenazi, Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews, but today, Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews remain the most visible. Many Ahskenazis have assimilated, spreading into the suburbs.
Cuisine wise, Argentina is best known for beef, the staple of virtually every meal. Kosher cuisine here is no different, and visitors used to dry kosher meat will be happy to find juicy, tender steaks in Buenos Aires. Yosef Chamen, of the kosher butcher shop Carniceria Artesanal Kasher (Viamonte 2743 at Boulogne-Sur-Mer; +54/11-4962-5643) says, “it’s because we use smaller, younger cows, not the big ones like you have in the United States that makes our meat always tender.” And kosher food has a following throughout the city, even among non-observant Jews and non-Jews alike, according to Isaac Laniado, owner of the Kosher Pizza Man (Tucuman 3110 at Anchorena; +54/11-4861-7290). “People believe that kosher is a healthier way of eating, and it is true,” he says. So whether you’re a frum or just a curious visitor, there are plenty of reasons to try Buenos Aires’s kosher offerings.
If you’ve ever been to an observant Jewish wedding it’s likely that you’ve come home with a bentsher, a small prayer book used to say blessings after a meal. Your party favor might have even had a cheesy logo on the front – maybe it was the couple’s Hebrew initials intertwined to form a rose. New Kosher’s “community bentsher” is nothing like that.
Instead of the standard Hebrew or Hebrew-English, New Kosher, a website and organization which works to make kashrut more accessible to all, breaks the mold by mixing prayer with stories, poems and even recipes. “If you don’t keep kosher, you don’t see a point or it’s archaic to you, but you want to understand it, the resources available are complicated. So, we took an idea, stripped it down, tried to present it in a way that’s easy to understand and related to daily life,” explains Patrick Aleph, founder of New Kosher, Punk Torah and lead singer of an art/punk/grunge band Can!!Can.
While Aleph and New Kosher’s creative director Michael Sibini crafted much of the bentsher, the poems and recipes come from a wide swath of people including author Matthue Roth, and Leon Adato, who runs EdibleTorah.com, a site that helps coordinate potluck dinners for Shabbat.
As the Forward’s international whisky correspondent I was hoping for some modest representation of the tribe at the 2010 New York WhiskyFest this Tuesday. What I wasn’t ready for, though, was a minyan davening maariv in the lobby just before the doors opened for the non-VIP guests.
That sense of hevruta set the scene for an evening where, among the 2,000 or so attendees sipping, sniffing and talking whisky there was a disproportionate presence of Jews with kippahs, Jews without kippahs and, in a couple of cases, even Jews wearing shaytls. A relative dearth of Jewish women, though, was entirely in keeping with an event that was an almost exclusively male affair.
The arrival of cold season is loudly heralded by advertisements for flu shots and the sounds of sniffles on buses and trains. Colds are inescapable and still, year after year, armed with folk medicine and fierceness, we resolve to cure the incurable. Thankfully, Jewish tradition, from Maimonides to the shtetl, offers us some guidance for using food to cure the common cold.
In the category of folk medicine falls the “guggle-muggle,” a milk and alcohol based drink, or the “Jewish echinacea.” Adored by such contemporary Jewish heavyweights as Barbra Streisand and Ed Koch, this beverage is consumed by the larger Eastern European world, but is most distinctly associated with Yiddish culture.