Ashkenazic Cuisine

European Jewish cuisine developed along with the migration of the European Jewish community--from west to east.

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The Jews of Eastern Europe had special eating habits for Friday night and Saturday, the Sabbath. The Friday night meal was the most luxurious of the week. A typical meal might include sweet and sour fish, chopped goose liver, pickled meat, and kugel (a sweet noodle pudding). Braided challah bread would be served as well. On Saturday, cholent--a slow-cooked meal made from meats, grains, and beans--would be served along with cold left-overs from the night before.

Emancipation changed the social and economic position of European Jewry, and that affected Jewish eating as well. Ashkenazic food, which had until this point been peasant food, became more refined in certain places. Austria-Hungary, with its large assimilated, middle-class Jewish population, developed a range of well-made doughy products and pastries, and the Jews there began cooking with wine and paprika.

Ashkenazic Jews began immigrating to the Unites States in the 17th century and came in mass numbers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The foods that they brought with them--including chopped liver, borscht (a type of beet soup), bagels, and pickles--became familiar forms of American cuisine. These foods, commonly referred to as “Jewish food,” are, despite their lower-class origins, still eaten and beloved.

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