How Can We Get To Know Other People’s Cultures Through Food?

A Story Of Stepping Outside Your Comfort Food Zone



My family is Ashkenazi/Mizrahi Jewish. Most of us are very involved in the culture.  The food we eat is very important for us to have when we’re together.

I grew up eating pierogies, cholent, and challah all pretty regularly. 

Cholent is usually made by my mom on Fridays, and we eat it that night for dinner as well as on Saturday (Shabbat). Cholent is a beef stew that we make in a crock pot. It is traditionally made on Fridays so that you do not have to do work to make it on Shabbat. We combine beef stock, beef, carrots, celery, and sometimes eggs into the pot and cook it overnight. Cholent is one of my favorite foods to eat on Shabbat.  My mom makes it once a month for our family. It’s the main meal we all tend to eat together. 

Pierogies are mostly eaten with my dad’s side of the family.  They make them from scratch when they visit. Pierogies are a dumpling type dough around potatoes, cheese, and usually another type of filling. It can be onions, sauerkraut, or sour cream added in. They are supposed to be soft with one side being slightly crispier.

Making challah is my job in my family. Challah is a traditional bread in Jewish culture.  We usually braid it and top it with salt, herbs, and oil.  If we make it sweet, we add honey and sugar to the top. I make it on holidays and more so in the Fall for the High Holy days, but my family will request it more often to have around the house.

Gefilte fish and stuffed mushrooms are things we make usually just for holidays and times with bigger family gatherings. These are also my things to make. I started making gefilte fish for my family when I found the recipe from when my mom was a kid. It is her favorite dish so I enjoy making it for everyone. Gefilte fish is my favorite because it is the meal that I am in charge of making myself on holidays and for family get togethers.Stuffed mushrooms are something I love because I eat it with both sides of my family, although it’s different with the different sides. My dad´s family just includes cheese and mushrooms while my mom´s includes cheese, garlic, and matzah meal in the stuffing.  

Later in life, I will definitely pass on the recipes for cholent, stuffed mushrooms, and gefilte fish. I appreciate these foods and I would like to share them with my future family because they are important to me and how I have connected with my family now, and how my family has connected with others in the past.

For this article I had Diego try gefilte fish because it is the most interesting food that he had not previously tried.  

It is a hot served fish, gefilte fish is supposed to be more airy and light than plain fish. I enjoy having the broth with it as well.

Diego:  Trying Ferris’ Food

At first, Gefilte fish looked interesting… 

I personally don’t like carrots so it was a challenge for me, although I do really like fish. It had a nice smell though:it reminded me a lot of the tuna croquettes my dad makes for dinner. Overall I was really nervous but it did smell good.

It was actually not as carrot-y as I thought. The vegetables both add a lot to the taste and the fish goes so well with everything. It’s definitely something I would eat again. 

Pierogies remind me of dumplings. I really like dumplings. They were buttery and smelled really nice. The recipe is also very simple but effective at the same time.

They were so good. In my opinion, Pierogies are very well balanced because the inside is made of only cheese and potato, a great combination, while the outside is very tasteful thanks to the butter.  

I learned that Jewish food has been adapted to be easier to make and the ingredients are easy to find, because culturally, Jewish people have been forced to move into different places due to oppression and genocide in history. This rough past has caused multiple changes in recipes, which I find really interesting. It makes you think: trying someone’s food is trying someone’s culture.  You get to experience something important to them and you get to taste a new part of the world.

In the end, this was such a fun experiment. It’s a great way to learn more about the people you care about. I would encourage everyone to share and try family recipes with the ones they love. 

For our next article, I will share a family recipe and Ferris will try it.  I plan to go for a classic, “Enchiladas Queretanas,” a traditional dish from my home state in Mexico, Queretaro. 

Enchiladas are fried tacos (better known in the U.S as “taquitos”) that are filled with chicken, for this recipe. Then the taquitos are poured over with salsa roja, which is made of chiles anchos, garlic, onions, evaporated milk, water, chicken broth, and sour cream. After this, I compliment it with panela cheese, lettuce, and refried beans. They’re extremely tasty and easy to make.  They are important to me because I grew up eating them and their origin from where I’m from, so it’s a must for me. 

Ferris, on the next experiment:

I would enjoy trying Diego´s enchiladas – they sound good. I think I would enjoy them without the sour cream.