Thursday, October 25, 2007

Pass the matzo!


I don't really have a particular penchant for it. There are people who consider themselves foodies now. (Or maybe this is an old thing I've just know picked up on.) For these people, eating is an event. They make reservations at fancy places and take their cameras with them, clicking pictures of every detail before devouring their dishes slowly. Some take notes and describe every bite of their meals on their blogs.

I don't understand these people. I'm the girl who will eat Cheerios with skim milk for two meals of the day and think of it as fulfilling and nourishing. If not that, then a Subway sandwich would be nice (six-inch ham on wheat, lettuce, tomato and low-fat mayo, please). And if I'm really being creative: pasta with marinara sauce. Gourmet pizza is my delicacy. Yum.

So, surprisingly, when I saw a flyer for the third annual Jewish Food Festival in Little Rock, I desperately wanted to go.

The Little Rock River Market

I didn't think I'd like much of the food, but I really wanted to make the trip and give it a go. I've had some traditional Jewish food before, but mostly shied away from it. Last Yom Kippur, I mostly stuck to the bagels (plain with plain cream cheese, please).

But I must say: Everything I tried at the food festival was delicious.

This is one of the many food stands
at the festival at the Little Rock River Market.

We only ate the non-meat items because Ryan and I are trying to keep Kosher (more on that in another post), but here is a sampling of what we tried (click on the name for a recipe):

1. Matzo Ball soup
This bland dish is probably my favorite. (That's key. The more bland it is, the more I like it.) I made a really good matzo ball soup for Passover this year. It's not Kosher though, because it uses chicken broth and butter. I'm sure you could substitute something for the broth, and it would be fine. Everyone liked it because it has onions and parsley in it. So I guess I don't like things totally bland.

2. Bagel with Lox
Who knew bagels were a traditional Jewish food? According to the Web site, Judaism 101: The bagel has been a part of Jewish cuisine for at least 400 years. According to Leo Rosten's The Joys of Yiddish, there are references to it as far back as Poland in 1610. In America, bagels are traditionally served with cream cheese and lox (smoked salmon) or other fish spreads (herring, whitefish, etc.). They are also quite good with cream cheese and a thick slice of tomato.

3. Latkes
Most people know these as "potato pancakes." They are kind of like that, but I liken them more to hashbrowns. These are traditionally served during Hanukkah.

4. Kugel
From Judaism 101:

Kugel is another dish that encompasses several different things, and the relationship between them is hard to define. The word "kugel" is generally translated as "pudding," although it does not mean pudding in the Jell-O brand dairy dessert sense; more in the sense of bread pudding. The word "kugel" is pronounced "koo-gel" (with the "oo" in "book"; not to rhyme with "google") or "ki-gel," depending on where your grandmother comes from. Kugel can be either a side dish or a dessert. As a side dish, it is a casserole of potatoes, eggs and onions. As a desert, it is usually made with noodles and various fruits and nuts in an egg-based pudding. Kugel made with noodles is called lokshen kugel.

The kugel we had was of the traditional sort. I loved it. It was my second-favorite dish of the festival. I've had "sweet kugel" before, but I liked this better.

5. Blintzes
Again from Judaism 101:

Blintzes are basically Jewish crepes. A blintz is a thin, flat pancake rolled around a filling. It looks a little like an egg roll. As a main dish or side dish, blintzes can be filled with sweetened cottage cheese or mashed potatoes and onion; as a dessert, they can be filled with fruit, such as apple, cherry or blueberry. They are usually pan fried in oil. They are generally served with sour cream and/or applesauce.

Cheese blintzes are the traditional meal for the festival of Shavu'ot, when dairy meals are traditionally eaten. Blintzes are also commonly eaten during Hanukkah, because they are cooked in oil.

The word "blintz" comes from a Ukrainian word meaning "pancake."

Yum. Mine was filled with cream cheese and served with jelly. Almost too sweet.

6. Falafels
Falafel is a traditional Israeli dish, and is popular throughout the Middle East. Our falafels were served in pita bread with humus.

The festival also featured gift shops and informational booths, including one about Jewish weddings.

The future Mr. and Mrs.

I think that was it for our Jewish fare. We took home a challah loaf for this weekend and some hamentaschan, which are filled cookies traditionally served during Purim.

All in all it was a good experience and gave me a sampling of some popular Jewish fare -- hard to do in Arkansas. But believe me, no one ever lets us forget exactly where we live.

I don't think this Razorback is kosher.

1 comment:

Jody said...

Interesting post. I'm glad you got to try some new foods! Love the pictures! It's funny, as you will continue to learn, that alot of Jewish words are pronounced differently. For example, kugel. I always pronounce it koogel(that rhymes with google!) My grandmother and mother pronounced it that way. How does Ryan pronounce it? Anyway, Buzz and I always laugh about our mixed marriage. He was reform and I was conservative. Also, I was brought up on the non sweet kugel and he was raised with the sweet kugel! Needless, to say I make the nonsweet kugel!!!!!