The description of manna in the Bible matches what Danin found in the Sinai Desert. He soon discovered that the white drops on the shrub’s stems were the digestive byproduct of insects that feed on the plant’s sap, known as honeydew. The secretion, formed at night, is loaded with sugar. The sweet liquid hardens to the form of white granules and is still collected from spring to early fall in many places in the Middle East today.
Throughout the Maghreb, couscous was traditionally prepared by groups of women, family and friends, who helped each other pass the long hours it took to make. First, they spread semolina wheat, bought by the men and freshly ground, onto a large round platter, sprinkling it with salted water and sometimes flour.
By the time Prohibition began, Jews did make up a significant portion of the alcohol industry—most often in the whiskey business, working as distillers or distributors. But a smaller cohort of Jews also made their mark as cocktail bartenders.
For many Jews, Passover is about what you can’t eat. Those who observe the holiday’s dietary rules must avoid chametz: wheat, rye, spelt, barley or oats. But because these ingredients—with the exception, sometimes, of oats—also happen to be the primary sources of gluten in our food, the Passover diet and the gluten-free diet actually look a lot alike.
The epigram, “They tried to kill us. We survived. Let’s eat!” sometimes serves as a tongue-in-cheek synopsis of Jewish holidays: Passover, for example, recounts the original Jewish survival story in an extended banquet punctuated by four cups of wine.
Chef Michael Twitty—a writer, culinary historian, cook and Hebrew school teacher—is an African American Jew (he converted at age 22) who uses his culinary prowess to explore the threads of his identity. In 2013, he became a well-known presence in culinary circles when he wrote an open letter to celebrity chef Paula Deen, which quickly went viral
Blond and rather slender for its type, a pickle barrel stands by the takeout counter of the famous Washington, DC delicatessen Wagshal’s. Lined with plastic, it may satisfy a certain nostalgia but amounts to no more than a storage unit on the bulk-bin grocery aisle—a pale iteration of the big-bellied, oak casks I remember from my childhood.