- Creative Corner
Laws of kashrut, sacrifices, Shabbat and holy days provide the foundational elements in Jewish cuisine, while geographic dispersion has led to a diversity of their application.
Jewish food is Jewish because it adheres to the dietary laws that were laid down in the Hebrew Bible. These laws include prohibitions, as well as strict requirements for the slaughter of animals and the preparation of food. For Jews, food that has been prepared in accordance with these laws is considered kosher (fit for consumption).
The basic principles of Jewish dietary laws are as follows:
Observant Jews will eat only meat or poultry that is certified kosher: The meat must be slaughtered by a shochet (ritual slaughterer) in accordance with Jewish law and is entirely drained of blood. Today, kosher meats purchased from a butcher or supermarket are usually already kashered and no additional soaking or salting is required.
Meat and poultry may not be combined with dairy products. This necessitates the use of two sets of utensils. Therefore, Orthodox Jews divide their kitchens into two sections, one for meat and one for dairy. As a result, butter, milk and cream are not used in preparing dishes made with meat or intended to be served together with meat. Oil, parve margarine, rendered chicken fat or non-dairy cream substitutes are used instead.
Each Jewish community has its traditional dishes, often revolving around specialties from their home country. In Spain and Portugal, olives were a common ingredient and many foods were fried in oil. In Germany, stews were popular. In Poland, Jews made lokshen (noodle) or knaidel (matzoh ball) soup and various kinds of stuffed and stewed fish.
Jewish cooking is broadly divided into two main traditions: the Ashkenazi, which originates from communities in Europe, predominately East Europe, Russia and the Sephardi which includes Balkan Peninsula, Turkey, Spain, the Middle East, North Africa.