History on the menu

History on the menu

Exploring Jewish diversity through food

Dulce de Manzana (Apple Preserves)
Dulce de Manzana (Apple Preserves)

Teiglach came along with Tina Wasserman when she moved to Dallas in the 1980s. Wasserman, a cooking teacher and the food columnist for Reform Judaism magazine, didn’t literally transport clumps of the sticky pastries, but among her most cherished possessions, she packed her recipe for the traditional Rosh Hashana sweet hailing from Lithuania. “No one had seen it down here,” said Wasserman, the author of Entree to Judaism: A Culinary Exploration of the Jewish Diaspora (URJ Press, 2010), until she served the dessert to her new friends.

She then introduced the recipe in cooking classes. Before long, teiglach became part of the Jewish culinary scene in Dallas.

The incident is typical of how Jewish foods have traveled around the world, says Wasserman, whose goal in writing her cookbook was to educate about Jewish culture while providing sensational recipes that tell the story of Jewish history.

She began assembling recipes for the book with a question: What makes a food Jewish from a historical viewpoint? “I tried to put the foods we love into a context,” Wasserman said, explaining that she wanted to breathe life into Jewish culinary history.

Each recipe includes the story of its origins, when and why it was eaten, and who cherished it enough to bring the preparation method to a new part of the world.

While Ashkenazim dip apples in honey to connote sweetness in the New Year, Turkish Jews convey the same wishes by partaking in Dulce de Manzana, sweet apple preserves infused with rose water, the signature flavor of many Sephardic pastries.

Dulce de Manzana is the first of 20 dairy foods Wasserman serves at the bagels and lox buffet she and her husband host at their home each Rosh Hashana following the Tashlich ceremony when Jews, often in large groups, cast away their sins from the previous year by throwing small pieces of bread into a natural body of flowing water such as a river, lake or ocean.

“I’m all about connecting to the Jewish community at large,” said Wasserman, whose website —www.cookingandmore.com — creates a community around food. “We’re a shrinking population who used to live everywhere in the world.”

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