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International Flavors: Asia and the Middle East


Copies of the falafel reader are on reserve in the library office

  1. 1.       What are the origins of falafel?

Falafel has been traced back to Egypt where it was first called Ta`amia, and was made by the Christian Copts of Egypt, who used it as a meat substitute for holidays like Lent.

  1. 2.       What is our Nation’s food “symbol of national identity”?

From my understanding of what a “symbol of national identity” to be I would say that here in the US our symbol is Coca-Cola, or McDonald’s. I say this because in the reading the link the French to wine and the Japanese to rice. So if we are linking the US to a food or drink then it has to be one of those two. You could call it what a country is known for and since both Coca-Cola and McDonald’s are known around the world I would say they fit.

  1. 3.       What two legumes are associated with falafel?

Fava beans, and Chickpeas, or a combination of both.

  1. 4.       Why is falafel considered a “functional food and not an indulgent one”?

Falfal was a quick no-frills, affordable and satisfying dish, and agreed with the ideals of the people to have a productive and efficient meal.

  1. 5.       Define diaspora

A diaspora is “the movement, migration, or scattering of people away from an established or ancestral homeland” or “people dispersed by whatever cause to more than one location”, or “people settled far from their ancestral homelands”. The word has come to refer to historical mass-dispersions of people with common roots, particularly movements of an involuntary nature, such as the expulsion of Jews from the Middle East, the African Trans-Atlantic slave trade, or the century-long exile of the Messenia’s under Spartan rule.

  1. 6.       When and how did the falafel become an “authentic” Israeli food?

It became popular in the 1950’s with the younger generation and as a street food not a sophisticated cuisine, falafel was more readily accepted by the Jewish community. Served at Falafel stands it was still published as a recipe in almost every Israeli cookbook in 1970. As a high protein, vegetarian food falafel fit the agenda of women’s groups to promote the reduction of meat consumption.

  1. 7.       What is parve?

P arve is a Hebrew term (pareve is the Yiddish term) that describes food without any meat or dairy ingredients. Jewish dietary laws considers pareve food to be neutral; Pareve food can be eaten with both meat and milk dishes. Items like: fish, eggs, fruits and vegetables are parve.

  1. 8.       Why is falafels categorization as a parve food important to it acceptance as a “Jewish” food”

Because of the fact that Falafel can be consumed with both meat and dairy meals, it gives the Jewish people something to eat that is not only very high in proteins but is also high in nutrients that the body needs. If it was just a “meat” product or a “dairy” product it would not be able to be eaten as much and may not have the same amount of popularity as it does today.


Questions taken from the Judaism 101 website (see Reading and Resources for this unit). Feel free to use other sources.

     1. Define the following terms

à        Kashrut- Kashrut is the body of Jewish law dealing with what foods Jewish people can and cannot eat and how those foods must be prepared and eaten. “Kashrut” comes from the Hebrew root Kaf-Shin-Reish, meaning fit, proper or correct. It is the same root as the more commonly known word “kosher,” which describes food that meets these standards. The word “kosher” can also be used, and often is used, to describe ritual objects that are made in accordance with Jewish law and are fit for ritual use.

à        Mashgiah- An Orthodox rabbi, or a person appointed or approved by such a rabbi, whose responsibility is to prevent violations of Jewish dietary laws by inspection of slaughterhouses, meat markets, and restaurants where food assumed to be kosher is prepared for the public.

à        Torah- In its most limited sense, “Torah” refers to the Five Books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. But the word “torah” can also be used to refer to the entire Jewish bible (the body of scripture known to non-Jews as the Old Testament and to Jews as the Tanakh or Written Torah), or in its broadest sense, to the whole body of Jewish law and teachings.

    2.  What is the difference between Ashkenazi and Shepardi recipes? http://www.kosherfoodnewyork.com/2010/01/20/ashkenazi-and-sephardic-jews-food-eating-tradition/

            Sephardic Jews are from Mediterranean countries, like Spain and Portugal (“Sephard” is translated “Iberian Peninsula” from Hebrew). Sephardi are also subdivided into Sephardim (Jews from Spain and Portugal) and Mizrachim (Jews from Middle East and Northern Africa). Where as Ashkenazi (“Germany” from Hebrew) means the areas of land alongside the Rhine River. Most of the Jews living now in America are Ashkenazi, as they are descendants of those big groups of Jews, who migrated from Germany in 1800s. Ashkenazi cooking traditions are less influenced by local cuisines, than Sephardic food cooking traditions. Sephardic Jews are mostly living according to Orthodox Judaism laws. It is easy to notice Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews different eating traditions during such holidays, as Passover, when Sephardic Jews are allowed to eat corn, rice, beans and peanuts (Ashkenazi don’t eat such products during Pesach). Sephardic Jewish cooking traditions are more integrated with local cooking traditions.

3. List a minimum of ten laws or rules of kosher

  1. Certain animals may not be eaten at all. This restriction includes the flesh, organs, eggs and milk of the forbidden animals.
  2. Of the animals that may be eaten, the birds and mammals must be killed in accordance with Jewish law.
  3. Rodents, reptiles, amphibians, and insects are all forbidden.
  4. All blood must be drained from meat and poultry or broiled out of it before it is eaten.
  5. Certain parts of permitted animals may not be eaten.
  6. Fruits and vegetables are permitted, but must be inspected for bugs (which cannot be eaten)
  7. Meat (the flesh of birds and mammals) cannot be eaten with dairy. Fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables and grains can be eaten with either meat or dairy. (According to some views, fish may not be eaten with meat).
  8. Must wait a significant amount of time between eating meat and dairy. Opinions differ, and vary from three to six hours after meat.
  9. Utensils (including pots and pans and other cooking surfaces) that have come into contact with meat may not be used with dairy, and vice versa. Utensils that have come into contact with non-kosher food may not be used with kosher food. This applies only where the contact occurred while the food was hot.
  10. Grape products made by non-Jews may not be eaten.
  11.  Bishul Yisroel- In certain circumstances, a Jew (that is, someone who is required to keep kosher) must be involved in the preparation of food for it to be kosher.
  12. Cholov Yisroel- An ancient rule required that a Jew must be present from the time of milking to the time of bottling to ensure that the milk actually came from kosher animals and did not become mixed with milk from non-kosher animals.
  13. Mevushal- Most kosher wines in America are made using a process of pasteurization called mevushal, which addresses some of the kashrut issues related to grape beverages.

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