The Conspiracy

Moved by Our Hearts, Not Our Tastebuds

While Christmas tree lots empty and malls turn into theme parks, this holiday season has seemed to keep everybody on a festive high. While most kids around the world will be anticipating presents and cookies, I’m waiting in anticipation myself. No, not in hopes of getting goodies in a stocking or a thick slice of ham for dinner, but for a night of Chinese food and a movie.

“The Hebrew year is 5771 and the Chinese year is 4707. That must mean, the joke goes, that against all odds the Jews went without Chinese food for 1,064 years.”

So says Marc Tracy in Tablet. All I can think, is what a catastrophe those years must have been.

Every year, it’s the same. One order of General Tso’s chicken, a package of wontons and a spring roll on the side. Hold the sauce. But then I started to wonder, why Chinese food? Doubtful that the Torah would give me any insight as to why Chinese food became Jew-ish, I did a little investigative journalism.

The Tablet story pointed out how the tradition began in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, inhabited by primarily Eastern European Jews, Italians and Chinese.

Tracy writes, “Italian cuisine and especially Italian restaurants, with their Christian iconography, held little appeal for Jews…Chinese restaurants had no Virgin Marys. And they prepared their food in the Cantonese culinary style, which utilized a sweet-and-sour flavor profile, overcooked vegetables, and heaps of garlic and onions. Sound familiar?”

Like every other holiday, we have continued to create rituals and pass them down from generation to generation. After all, tradition is the lifeline of Judaism. And like most other Jewish holidays, this involves food.

“They [Jews] are moved by their hearts, not their tastebuds,” Tracy writes.

While I would end it there, I came upon a Youtube video I just couldn’t pass up. Feeling like the only Jew who eats Chinese food on Christmas? Brandon Walker thinks you’re not alone.

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2 Older Responses to “Moved by Our Hearts, Not Our Tastebuds”

  1. minda
    December 23, 2010 at 12:17 pm #

    from the golden ghetto of Baltimore

    we are going to see a nice jewish girl named Natalie on m”s

    David CHu won over Umami for seudat revi’i(reviving)

    Shabbat Shalom

  2. David Zarmi
    December 23, 2010 at 3:33 pm #

    I have also heard the logical explanation that Chinese restaurants were the only ones open on Xmas.

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