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Why isn't there more 'jewish food' in Israel?

It was mid-May in Tel Aviv and the afternoon heat was rising. Sitting in Eva’s, a small un-air conditioned restaurant, eating chicken soup with kreplach (small dumplings filled with ground meat), sweat formed quickly behind the knees.

特拉维夫(Tel Aviv)的五月中旬,午后的气温正在上升。我坐在"伊娃餐馆"(Eva's)里吃着鸡汤馄饨(包肉馅的小饺子)。由于没有空调,很快我便大汗淋漓。

Eva’s has been located on this dumpy stretch of Allenby Street for 48 years. The menu is classic Ashkenazi – or Eastern European Jewish – food, and the glass display case is full of prepared potato latkes (pancakes) and fried cauliflower. The matzoh balls (soup dumplings) here are ‘sinkers’, in the common parlance. That means that they’re dense and bready, sitting in the bottom of the bowl of chicken soup. (‘Swimmers’ are lighter and spongier, and they float on the surface. The difference is a question of both skill and personal preference.)

"伊娃餐馆"已经在这条破旧的艾伦比街(Allenby Street)开了 48 年。菜单是典型的阿什肯纳兹犹太人(Ashkenazi,或者称之为东欧犹太人)风格的食物,玻璃展示柜里满是精致的犹太薯饼(薄煎饼)和清炒花菜。按照通俗的说法,"死面"面团(类似灌汤包或灌汤水饺)是"下沉之物"。这意味着它们密度较大,会沉在鸡汤碗的碗底。("漂浮之物"则更轻更松软,它们会浮在碗中。技巧以及个人喜好造就了这个差别。)

There were three separate tables of single men in their 70s, one of whom was completing a crossword while working away at a large chicken schnitzel. Business was otherwise quiet. “This is not food for young people,” said proprietor Eva Schachter, whose family is originally German. “It’s grandma food. I’m old enough to remember the taste of the food my mother and grandmother used to make.” Eva smiled, her freckled and deeply wrinkled face framed by a gamine haircut.

里面设有三张单独的桌子,桌旁分别坐着一位 70 多岁的老人,其中一人正在一边玩填字游戏一边吃一大块炸鸡排。没有其他生意。"这可不是年轻人吃的东西,"老板伊娃·沙赫特(Eva Schachter)说道,他们家祖上是德国人。"这是外婆最喜欢的食物。我能够记得我的母亲和外婆所做烹饪食物的味道。"伊娃笑了,她的发型略偏中性,下面是一张满是斑点和皱纹的脸。

One of the biggest shocks for many foreign visitors to Israel is the lack of Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine with which they are familiar. Where are the smoked salmon, bagels and cream cheese at breakfast? What about the delis that define 'Jewish cuisine' from Montreal to Los Angeles? Or the kugel (a casserole made from egg noodles or potato), gefilte fish (an appetizer made from poached fish) and matzoh ball soup served at Jewish tables around the world? Time Out Tel Aviv even has a section entitled ‘Where to find the best Jewish food in Tel Aviv’, and the few cafes that do sell Ashkenazi food (like Eva’s) typically emblazon their menus and awnings with the label ‘Jewish food’, something you would never see at a neighbourhood shawarma joint. These are strong indicators of just how spare this kind of cuisine is here.

对于许多外国游客而言,最吃惊的事情之一就是很少能在以色列见到广为人知的犹太经典食品。早餐中的熏制鲑鱼、贝果和奶油乳酪去哪里了?那些在蒙特利尔或洛杉矶常见的犹太特色美味佳肴呢?或者全世界犹太餐馆里都有的"库格尔"(kugel ,用鸡蛋面或土豆制作的砂锅)、鱼丸冻(用水煮鱼制作的开胃菜)和"死面"面团汤呢?特拉维夫版《Time Out》甚至有一个名为"在特拉维夫哪里能找到最好的犹太菜"的版面,仅有的几家售卖德系犹太菜品(像"伊娃餐馆"那样)的咖啡馆作为代表将它们的菜单和遮阳篷用"犹太菜"标签装饰起来,这些是你在附近的沙瓦玛永远不会看到的景象。所有这些都明显地展示出犹太经典美味在这里有多稀缺。

In reality, Israeli cuisine has long been more closely associated with its immediate environment, a fusion of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern traditions and ingredients. The early Zionists eagerly adopted Arab dishes, such as falafel, hummus, and shawarma, while in recent years Israelis have developed a more diversified palate. Still, ‘Jewish food’ remains scarce. But very few visitors know the reasons behind the dearth of it in Israel: despite the fact that many Jews living in Israel can trace their lineage to Eastern Euripe, they forsook traditional Ashkenazi food both because of scarcity but also in deliberate service to the formation of a new national narrative.


Unlike the relative prosperity of the US, where the deli – which specialises in preserved meats – flourished with the arrival of Jewish immigrants from Europe, the early years of Jewish statehood were marked by austerity. For the first decade following the formation of the state in 1948, the Israeli government imposed rationing on its rapidly growing population. Dwindling foreign currency made imported staples like oil, sugar and meat scarce. Fuel, such as natural gas and electricity, was also in short supply; bagels, which require an extra step of boiling before being baked, were too energy-intensive. The population instead made due with extra helpings of aubergine, which grew in abundance, and spawned such dishes as sabich, a pita sandwich overstuffed with the meaty vegetable.

与相对繁荣的美国不同的是,美国的熟食——主要使用腊肉——被从欧洲而来的犹太移民广泛食用,而财政紧缩是以色列建国初期的一个标志。在 1948 年以色列建国后的十年中,随着人口的快速增长,以色列政府实行配给制。国外货币的减少导致诸如油、糖和肉等进口原料变得稀缺。燃料,例如天然气和电,同样供应短缺;而在烘焙前需要一道额外水蒸工序的贝果烹饪方式太消耗能源。人们将目光转向大量生长的茄子,发明了如"sabich"之类的食物,一种填充了这种肉嘟嘟蔬菜的皮塔三明治。

Even after austerity ended, the Levantine environment was never quite suited to Ashkenazi cuisine. Cattle, a necessary first step for a pastrami-on-rye or braised brisket, originally failed to flourish in the hot climate. But Ashkenazi food always consisted of more than a deli sandwich, so austerity alone cannot explain its failure to thrive in the new Jewish state – and that’s where ideology comes into play.


Early adherents to the Zionist project, committed to creating a Jewish state in the territory now known as Israel, sought to abandon vestiges of their past. Just as the European settlers favoured Hebrew over Yiddish and khakis over frock coats and homburgs, they also purposefully chose to eat indigenous foods over Ashkenazi ones. “Many of the first Ashkenazi Jews who came here, the ideological pioneers, were interested in cutting off their roots from the past and emphasizing the newness of the Zionist project,” explained Shaul Stampfer, professor of Soviet and East European Jewry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “One of the ways of doing that [was] through the food.”

犹太复国计划的早期拥护者们致力于在如今的以色列地区建立一个犹太国家,力争要抹除他们过去的痕迹。正如欧洲移民者选择希伯来语而非意第绪语,以及选择卡其服装而非礼服和礼帽,他们也有目的地选择吃本地菜而非德系犹太菜。"很多最初到此的德系犹太人,也就是那些意识形态的先驱者们,想要切断他们与过去的联系并强调犹太复国计划的新颖之处,"希伯来大学苏联和东欧犹太民族教授索勒·斯坦福(Shaul Stampfer)解释道。"而这么做的途径之一[就是]通过食物来体现。"

The adoption of indigenous food lent the early European implants an air of authenticity. The production of local ingredients – the things that grew well in the desert and along the Mediterranean coastline, and the many dishes adapted from Arab kitchens – became part of the Zionist narrative. Advertisements at the time implored the population to eat locally grown ‘Hebrew watermelons’. The Jewish people had returned to Zion and had the diet to prove it.


Later, as Jewish immigrants from Morocco to Ethiopia began piling in, each with their own unique style of cooking, the creation a national cuisine became ever more important. “They were grappling with people from different cultures and traditions and it was a challenge to convince them that they belonged together,” said Yael Raviv, author of Falafel Nation: Cuisine and the Making of National Identity in Israel. “They had to use everything and anything to forge this unified nation. Food is so tied to Jewish heritage, laws of kashrut [kosher dietary rules], and the Israeli economy is really driven by agriculture – so it became a very effective tool because it could be used in these various ways.”

后来,随着从摩洛哥到埃塞俄比亚犹太移民的涌入,每个地方的人们都带着自己独特的饮食习惯,建立全国性的饮食文化显得更加重要。"它们都是随着来自不同文化和传统的人们而来,很难说服人们他们是统一的群体。"《沙拉三明治国度:以色列烹饪和国家认同的建立》一书的作者雅艾尔·雷维夫(Yael Raviv)说道,"他们必须采取一切手段来加强这个国家的统一。食物与犹太人的传统、隐士教规(犹太饮食规则)联系紧密,而以色列经济的主要驱动力是农业,因此这成为了一个非常有效的工具,并可以用于多种途径。"

The earliest Zionist settlers, most of whom were Ashkenazi, proved willing participants in the building of this unified food culture. “The early immigrants were very committed to making a new life in the land of Palestine,” said Raviv. “That gave them a high degree of motivation to leave behind certain things and embrace new things.” And Raviv noted that there was a certain pragmatism to this attitude: “If you can’t get something, you have to learn to live without it.”


In recent years, Israelis have developed a more diversified palate, with Thai and Mexican restaurants easy to find on the streets of Tel Aviv. Still, Ashkenazi food remains scarce. Several delicatessens have tried to break into the Israeli market – though the training wheels are still on. One of the more successful entrants, Deli Fleishman, describes their sandwiches as a ‘Jewish taste for the Jewish state’ – although their ‘Brooklyn’ sandwich inexplicably contains Argentinian-style chimichurri and is a far cry from New York’s famous Katz’s Deli. “Smoking and fermenting are a real skill,” said Israeli chef Michael Solomonov, the James Beard Award-winning chef behind Philadelphia’s Zahav restaurant. “Only recently have Jewish Americans come to Israel and started making pastrami.”

近年来,以色列人形成了更加多样化的口味,在特拉维夫的街道上到处可以见到泰国菜和墨西哥菜餐馆。然而,犹太菜仍然很少见。一些熟食店想要打入以色列市场——但是目前仍然处于早期阶段。一个更加成功的创新者"Deli Fleishman"将它们的三明治描述为"犹太国度的犹太美食"。尽管他们的"布鲁克林"三明治莫名其妙地包含了阿根廷香辣酱,与来自纽约的著名的"Katz's Deli"大相径庭。"烟熏和发酵是真正的技巧,"来自费城"Zhhav"餐馆的詹姆斯·比尔德美食大奖获得者、以色列厨师迈克尔·索罗门诺夫(Michael Solomonov)说道。"直到最近,以色列美国人才开始前往以色列并开始制作熏牛肉。"


Still, some more traditional elements of Ashkenazi cuisine have had greater success. As part of the nouveau Israeli food movement, which is synthesizing diaspora Jewish traditions from around the world, there’s a renewed interest in North American and European contributions. Classic European Jewish fare like chopped liver is starting to work its way onto fusion menus at high-end restaurants alongside more local ingredients like pomegranates and avocados. At Raz Rahav’s OCD restaurant in Tel Aviv, kasha (puffed buckwheat groats) mingle with trout sashimi and caper aioli. Solomonov has great hopes for the resurgence of this culinary tradition.

但是,一些更加传统的德系犹太人烹饪方式取得了更大的成功。作为融合了来自世界各地散布的犹太传统的以色列美食运动的最新部分,一些北美和欧洲的特征开始明显增多。典型的欧洲犹太美食,例如美味的动物肝脏开始与更多的本地食物(如石榴和鳄梨)一起出现在高端餐馆的菜单上。在特拉维夫的"Raz Rahav's OCD"餐馆,你可以品尝到荞麦粥(膨化荞麦)、鳟鱼生鱼片以及刺山桔蒜泥蛋黄酱,不同的经典美食。索罗门诺夫非常期待这一烹饪传统的复兴。

“People are getting really excited about their roots, and it’s less about the clichés and more about celebrating traditions,” he said. “The next frontier will be Ashkenazi food.”


But back at Eva’s, the Ashkenazi food isn’t a wave of the future or an enticing trend; it’s a comfortable vestige of the disappearing past. “I have my clients,” said Eva, as she nodded towards another older man who walked in, found a table and was offered a taste of a world left behind.

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