Friday, October 13, 2006

Cooking defines Sephardi Jews at Succot


Foodies will have their tastebuds tickled by this New York Times article. The rich Syrian culinary tradition, which comes into its own at Succot, is alive and well and living in Brooklyn. Enjoy! (with thanks: Albert)

All over the borough, observant Jewish families spent the first week of October building sukkahs, outdoor rooms with open roofs, in preparation for the holiday of Sukkot, which began last Friday and ends this Friday. Perched on asphalt roofs and in concrete gardens, they will eat under the stars for a week to commemorate the Jews’ biblical wanderings in the desert.

For one food-loving community within Brooklyn’s sizable Jewish population, Sukkot has additional significance.

“We always cook a lot, but for Sukkot, we do even more,” said Aida Hasson, who grew up in Beirut and is part of Brooklyn’s tight-knit community of Middle Eastern Jews.

This network of a few hundred families shares roots in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt, and also an extraordinary culinary tradition. They use the term Syrian Jews, to distinguish themselves within the larger world of the Sephardim, the Jews of the Mediterranean.

“We call ourselves Syrian, Sephardic, Middle Eastern, whatever,” said Giselle Habert, who was born in Cairo. “The important thing is that we all know each other, and we all cook the same things.”

This community’s favorites are labor-intensive dishes that are still passed down from mother to daughter: sambusak, crisp little half-moons stuffed with allspice-scented meat or tangy white cheese; mujadara, lentils and rice cooked together and thickly piled with gold-brown strands of onion; mahshi, vegetables like tiny eggplant and finger-size zucchini stuffed with spiced meat and rice; and kahk, sesame-sprinkled rounds of crumbly pastry.Photo shows a dessert table includes, from top, sesame rounds called kahk; preserved apples and spaghetti squash; and cactus pear and pomegranate seeds, fall fruits that are traditional for Sukkot.

Read article in full

Photo by Evan Sung shows a dessert table includes, from top, sesame rounds called kahk; preserved apples and spaghetti squash; and cactus pear and pomegranate seeds, fall fruits that are traditional for Sukkot.

No comments: