Friday, September 22, 2006

Salt bagels and jalapeno cream cheese

Growing up in the Bible Belt, Judaism was under my radar, I'm ashamed to say. Yom Kippur wasn’t a school holiday, and hamentashen was just a buttery fruit-filled cookie. But even though I didn’t have a name for it, I was fascinated with Jewish culture as a kid. When my father’s friend's daughter had her bat mitzvah, I was eager to attend as Devo had played at Muffy Tepperman’s bat mitzvah on the TV show Square Pegs, therefore making the religious ceremony very cool. And in Woody Allen movies, I kept hearing about this mysterious sounding food combination called bagels and lox, so the first time I saw it on a menu in a Houston restaurant, I ordered it and fell in love.

Tonight at sundown is Rosh Hashana. And while I don’t have honey cake, I do have this: a book I’m eager to read. It’s called Matzoh Ball Gumbo, and it surveys what it means to be a Southern Jew from a culinary perspective. More cultural history than recipe tome, its central theme is that a culture is partly defined by the foods eaten and shared, something I certainly agree with. And when we’re displaced, how we readjust our culture to fit with our new surroundings--something I completely identify with being a Homesick Texan and all.

Perhaps I’ll write a book called Salt Bagels and Jalapeno Cream Cheese.