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Monday, March 1, 2010

CHOLENT: What is it?

True Jewish Food Jody So many foods that we consider Jewish like Corned Beef, Schnitzel, and even Falafel, aren't Jewish at all! They are recipes that Jews all over the world took from our neighbors. There are a handful of foods that were created by Jews for Pesach ... those can be said to be pure Jewish. But the mother of all Jewish foods . . . a food that was made by and for Jews exclusively is Cholent, a Jewish food created specifically for the Sabbath. It is even mentioned in the writings of the 12th Century scholar Rabbi Yitzhak of Vienna! And, the very name comes from Medieval French, "chalant" meaning "becoming hot." Since cooking is one of the 39 kinds of labor forbidden by the rabbis for millennia, Cholent is the Shabbat food par excellence. It is a kind of stew that is put together on Friday, before sundown, and put in the oven or crock pot to cook and stay hot overnight and is eaten at the midday meal on the Sabbath. An Ashkenazic cholent is made from beans, barley, potatoes, meat, and maybe a little kishke.

Sephardic cholents (or "chamin" in Hebrew) can be made from beans or rice, often with whole eggs in them that turn brown as they cook (called huevos chaminados in Ladino). Before electricity and crockpots, people would bring their pot of cholent to the local baker who kept his wood burning ovens burning constantly. They would pick up their steaming cooked cholent on Saturdays on the way home from shul for a hot Shabbat meal.

Ashkenazic - from Jewish communities of Europe
Sephardic - from Jewish communities of Spain and the Mediterranean
Ladino - a Sephardic language which is a combination of Spanish and Hebrew
Kishke - a kind of sausage made from flour and fat stuffed into a casing.
Shul - synagogue

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