Important distinction, in extremely broad strokes: there are two ethnic/geographic groupings of Jews: Ashkenazi and Sephardic. The former originate in Eastern Europe, the latter from the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Quick and dirty rule of thumb: Ashkenazi = white Jew, Sephardic = brown Jew. (Obviously, there are also Jews in Africa, East Asia, South Asia, and pretty much everywhere else. But for the purpose of this post, Ashkenazi is the mainstream, and Sephardic is how I'm distinguishing myself from it.)
Jewish food as its known in most of the United States has nothing to do with what I grew up with. Bagels and lox, pastrami on rye, knishes and the like all come from the Ashkenazi tradition. As a Sephardic Jew, and specifically an Iranian one, my cuisine matches where I come from: more spices and fresh herbs and vegetables, lots of sweet and sour flavors from using fruit in our savory dishes, and at this time of the year, the best distinction of all: unlike Ashkenazis, Sephardic Jews eat rice during Passover. Because we might starve otherwise.
Here are a few shots from my parents' house last night.
Fresh almonds to greet guests. Green and fuzzy, crunchy and tart.
mom's oldest sister prepared nargesi -- an eggy casserole of fresh herbs and tiny meatballs* -- as her daughter, granddaughter, and great-grandson looked on.
Oh, we also run around the table whipping each other with scallions.
The full dinner spread -- almost. You'll note that we're not even done setting the table, and there is already tahdig -- the crispy saffron rice from the bottom of the pot -- in people's plates. We really are polite people; it's just that hot of a commodity.
However you're celebrating, and whether you're celebrating, here's to expanding our worldview and eating well -- and at best, both at the same time.
* Note that Iranian Jewish nargesi, for whatever reason, is totally different dish rom the Muslim dish of the same name, though the latter looks delicious as well.