Criticize any national or ethnic cuisine and you’re spoiling for a fight.
So writer Josh Ozersky knows he’s stepping on a land mine when he writes, on the Web site of Time, that “Jewish food is awful.”
Having launched his attack, however, the Jewish Ozersky quickly retreats, clarifying that he’s limiting his discussion to “the familiar Eastern European Jewish food that most American Jews of my generation grew up eating: dry and flavorless brisket … [and] tasteless matzoh balls,” among other alleged atrocities. The piece goes on to explore what Ozersky sees as a paradox — Jews’ famous obsession with food and the fact that their own cuisine supposedly isn’t much good.
The Shmooze is tempted to nitpick, noting Ozersky’s strange reference to “what Jews eat in Spain,” as though the country has played any serious role in Jewish cultural life since, oh, say, the Inquisition. (He appears to mean Sephardic or Mizrahi Jews, who of course have spent recent centuries spread across the Middle East, and are now concentrated in Israel.)
Still, Ozersky hints at interesting questions about the future of Ashkenazi food, which doesn’t look too promising. One of American Jews’ greatest culinary contributions, the deli, still has its defenders, despite a steep decline in popularity and influence. Advocates of lokshon kugel may be harder to find.