The Jews Left Their Mark on English Cuisine—but Didn’t Invent Fish and Chips

While Jewish contributions to Western culture have indeed been impressive, from time to time overzealous Jewish writers succumb to the temptation to take credit where none is in fact due. Thus one occasionally finds the claim—based ultimately on an essay written by the great Anglo-Jewish historian Cecil Roth in the 1950s—that Portuguese descendants of converted Jews brought fish and chips, that quintessential English staple, to Britain in the 16th century. The distinguished anthropologist Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett debunks this claim, but notes other piscatory delights that are indeed of Jewish origin:

There are many ways to fry fish, several of which appear in the first Jewish cookbook published in the English language, The Jewish Manual (1846). . . . None is specifically identified as Jewish or recommended for the Sabbath, although fish fried in oil and eaten cold was and still is a beloved Sabbath dish on the English table. Israel Zangwill sang its praises in his 1892 novel Children of the Ghetto.

A century earlier, Hannah Glasse published a recipe for “preserving salmon and all sorts of fish the Jews’ way”—a recipe for escabeche, which begins by dredging fish in flour and frying it in oil before pickling it in vinegar. Glasse adds that “all sorts of [flour-dredged] fish fried well in oil, eat very fine cold with shallot, or oil and vinegar.” This recipe appears in the appendix to the sixth edition of The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy (1758) and is believed to be the first time that a recipe for frying fish in oil and serving it cold appears in print as a Jewish dish, at least in the English language.

What distinguishes fish in the “Jews’ way” is not only dredging it in flour and frying it in oil, but most importantly, eating it cold and according it pride of place on the Sabbath table. The fried fish in British fish and chips is a different dish.

Read more at Forward

More about: Anglo-Jewry, Jewish food, Shabbat

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood