September 19, 2019

Sephardic Food Is Having a Moment

“I’m convinced that the pillars of my grandmother’s home are seasoned with allspice—the indispensable condiment that flavors many of the Egyptian and Syrian dishes she cooked for us growing up. It’s clichéd to say that food is the lifeblood of Sephardic Jews, yet anytime an outsider asks what differentiates my Middle Eastern community from others of, say Eastern European origin, I’m compelled to address our diet.

Food is not just an opiate—overindulge and you’ll feel sick (until the next craving)—but a direct line to our ancestors. Recipes are shared and “willed” to family members like edible talismans. Local bake sales continue to be held almost weekly in people’s homes, where women (and men) peddle their specialties for charity, supporting one another in the process. This one is known for her molachiya, a plant-based soup eaten over rice, that one for her kibbe sineyeh, minced meat topped with bulgur, a cracked wheat. A family gathers around a dinner table, saying, “Fadal—join us,” and soon thereafter six mouths become 12, with leftovers to be had. When a community member passes away, tins of food come to pay their respects: kibbe hamid, a lemon- and mint-infused soup typically eaten with rice, colored with celery, carrots, and ground meat and then fashioned into miniature globes; or whole Pyrexes of frozen chicken and eggplant, to be thawed whenever the hunger for comfort strikes.

In the past five years or so, however, there’s been an added dimension to the way food is experienced in our community. We are undergoing a culinary small-business boom, and women are leading it.”

Read more

JJ Editor's Picks

"Congratulations, Mr. President. It took an extraordinary effort, but you finally managed to spark a serious global crisis. I know you don’t like to share credit, but don’t worry. The current mess in the Middle East centered around Iran is all..."

"We’re approaching the anniversary of one of the nastiest political battles it has been my misfortune to witness—the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court despite credible accusations of sexual harassment and assault and his..."

"There are few one-offs in life on Earth—rarely can a single species boast a trait or ability that no other possesses. But human language is one such oddity. Our ability to use subtle combinations of sounds produced by our vocal cords to create..."

"He walked through the coffee shop door and scanned the crowd. A familiar smile bloomed as he recognized me, despite how my appearance had changed over the years. I’m bald and bearded now, and heavier. I wear an extra decade on my face, and I’m..."

"The poverty rate in the United States fell to 11.8 percent in 2018, according to data released last week by the Census Bureau — the lowest it’s been since 2001. But this estimate significantly understates the extent of economic deprivation in..."

"Streaming is the future of TV. But for now a big part of the streaming business revolves around old TV shows. Latest case in point: Netflix is paying a lot of money for the rights to show Seinfeld to its 150 million subscribers around the world..."

"On the eve of the second Israeli election of 2019, there is no shortage of apocalyptic rhetoric about the potential consequences of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s re-election. From the New York Times' editorial column to The Forward’s..."

"Is there a backlash toward the technology industry in the culture? I tend to think so, having written about its various twists and turns most weekdays for the past couple years now. But sometimes an obsession with a beat can lead to myopia, and..."