If you’ve ever eaten food cooked by a Jewish grandma, you know that it’s really, really good. Sadly, as the numbers of old-world bubbes dwindle, so, too, do their irreplaceable recipes.
Now, one organization is here to save the day.
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The Jewish Food Society has two main objectives, both online and offline. Online, they’re putting together a detailed archive of emotionally resonant, Jewish recipes from all around the world—not only from grandmas, but also from cookbook authors, chefs, and younger Jewish food enthusiasts, too. They often spend entire days with potential recipe sources, cooking and learning from them before bringing the recipe back to their small office space to test it, photograph it, and finally, share it on their site. This archival process is the crux of their mission.
But offline, they’re doing something equally important. In an attempt to bolster Jews’ engagement with their culinary heritage, the very-new society is hosting cooking classes, curating “food experiences” and events, and spending in-person time documenting the stories and recipes of interesting Jews. They’re even hosting a Mexican-Jewish Passover seder at the James Beard Foundation next week.
“This is something I’ve been developing and dreaming about for the past decade in different capacities and different positions,” Naama Shefi, Executive Director of the Jewish Food Society, told Food & Wine in a phone interview. She’s had a hand in promoting Jewish and Israeli culture for years, and even started her career at the Israeli Consulate New York. “The bottom line is, I’m really trying to communicate a diverse, creative representation of Jewish food. I want to reintroduce people to Jewish food and go way beyond what they might think.”
And while the organization only recently achieved non-profit status (about two months ago), it’s already garnered a great deal of support among the Jewish community. Last month, Shefi hosted the group's first public event, "Schmaltzy," and had a wait list of over 200 people.
“We did not expect so much interest at such an early stage,” Shefi continued. “'Schmaltzy' attracted a fashionable, creative crowd and evolved into a pretty cool party. We find that people are excited and curious to explore a wide range of Jewish food traditions, and there's a hunger for the unique experiences we're trying to create."
Count us as members of that group of excited people. If the Jewish Food Society has any chance of reviving our grandmothers’ amazing kugel recipes, that's all the incentive we need to get on board.