The history of Jewish cuisine stretches back more than 3,500 years, to a time when the ancient Israelites lived and farmed in mostly one region. During that period, their existence was closely tied to the land. They grew olives and grapes and pressed them into oil and wine; planted fields with barley, wheat and legumes; milked goats and sheep; and they foraged for wild greens.
Following the Diaspora, a new era of Jewish cuisine began. Jewish communities fanned out from the Middle East and were deeply influenced by the customs, people and ingredients they found in their new homes. However, over the centuries a few primary threads of Jewish culture and cuisine developed, based on several key geographic regions where Jews settled.
Ashkenazi Jews have roots in the area around the Rhine River (now western Germany and eastern France), and eventually spread across Eastern and Central Europe. Sephardi Jews are traditionally rooted in the Iberian Peninsula but many were forced out by the Spanish Inquisition and resettled across the Mediterranean, the Balkans, the Lowlands, the Middle East and North Africa. Mizrahi Jews trace their ancestry to Middle Eastern countries and to North Africa, though there is a fair amount of overlap between Mizrahi and Sephardi cuisines.
Today the definition of Jewish food is as fluid as ever. It is constantly evolving as groups relocate, imported ingredients become increasingly available, and as our modern world and social media continue to build bridges between geographically disparate communities.
5 of the best Jewish foods you have to try