What a fascinating role the potato plays in Jewish social history. Contrary to the Tudor legend, it was first introduced to Spain in 1570 by the Spanish conquistadors, who discovered it while hunting Peruvian gold. But the Spanish distrusted and ostracised the new tuber. As it was not mentioned in the Bible and originated from a heathen culture, it was frowned on by the Catholic Church.
There are few people in this world — coeliacs excepted — who do not enjoy a bagel with cream cheese and a slice of smoked salmon. But one woman’s love of the roll with the hole became so all-consuming that she wrote a book about its history.
The dinner table at Chanucah is an expression of the different rituals of each family, their culture and the community they come from. However, one thing is common to most families — a focus on fried foods to reflect the story of the festival.
In Israel they make doughnuts, or sufganiyot, filled with jam similar to the German berliner, the Polish paczke or the Russian ponchik. In Yiddish they are known as ponchkes. The word sufganiyot derives from the Hebrew for sponge, which suitably describes their texture.
Chanucah celebrates the supremacy of the Jewish rebels over Greek occupiers. During the period of the Second Temple, the Syrian/Greek rulers forced Jews to worship Greek deities and, under threat of torture and death, prevented them from practising their religions. Thousands of Jews were taken into slavery and massacred, while the Temple was systematically pillaged and despoiled.
On a cold winter’s day, we crave something warming and comforting, and our minds turn to soup. Traditionally, soup has always been part of Jewish culture. The mess of potage given by Jacob to Esau was first mentioned in Genesis.
November is a big month for veggies with the Vegetarian Society announcing the winners of its best independent restaurant competition. Honours went to The Dandelion & Burdock in Sowerby Bridge in Yorkshire, and Middlesborough's Waiting Room, but there are a host of veggie eateries serving up exciting dishes, imaginatively presented. They are ideal for the kosher diner ready to try an alternative to traditional haimishe restaurants.
During these times of financial gloom, political volatility and dark and chilly days, we need comfort. What better way to find it than through the traditional ways of cooking, serving and eating food where every mouthful is a taste of the past?
This extraordinary vegetable, with its polished purple exterior, begs to be cooked and, at the moment, British aubergines are seasonal and delicious. Now they are accepted as succulent, filling vegetables but there were times when aubergines were regarded with suspicion.
For centuries, aubergines - like potatoes, tomatoes and peppers, a member of the nightshade family -were eaten in India and other Asian countries. Europeans remained sceptical - maybe because of the deadly nightshade connection.