About the book
The core of this website is its collection of recipes for Shabbat stews from around the world. But the site is also connected with a book I am currently writing that explores the history of this most Jewish food. My name is Joel Haber, and in my book I use this kaleidoscopic dish to explore Jewish history and culture, tracing the routes of our diasporic migrations. Below, find a description of the book itself.
Chulent: The Most Jewish Food on Earth
Jewish foods from around the world are exceptionally diverse. For example, t’bit, a Sabbath lunch dish of Iraqi Jews, features slow-cooked chicken stuffed with – and buried in – rice. Libyan orisa, meanwhile, blends lamb, wheat, and tomatoes for a similar purpose. And the chulent that gives this book its title comes from Poland, and contains beef, barley, potatoes, onions, and kidney beans.
Three different Shabbat stews, with completely different names and recipes. In this book, however, I argue that all these dishes (and the many others like them) are not actually distinct foods at all, but rather variations on the same one. They are all one-pot meals that cook for an entire night, and their ingredients – though varied – echo each other. Throughout the book, I refer to them all by the convenient (albeit sometimes inaccurate) collective term “Shabbat stew.”
Gradually over the past 1,500 years, this single humble stew has traveled the world, accompanying the Jewish people on their wanderings throughout the Diaspora. In Chulent, I follow the Shabbat stew on its World Tour. Along the way, we explore the Jewish people’s broader story.
Entertaining and informative, this book appeals to food-loving readers who are interested in the deeper meanings and cultural significance of Jewish cuisine, as well as of gastronomy in general. Though not a cookbook, Chulent illustrates the text with recipes for contemporary and historical Shabbat stews drawn from Jews of varied geographic origins, along with accompanying photos.
The variegated Shabbat stew is indeed the most Jewish of foods. It is a dish that is virtually unique to the Jewish nation, and it has accompanied our people everywhere we roamed across the earth. And just like the Jews themselves, this food expresses the paradox of an almost infinite diversity paired with an extreme underlying unity. Chulent celebrates this dish in all its glory, exploring the distinctiveness of the Jewish nation via its most beloved food.
I am nearing completion on the first draft of the manuscript, after which comes the editing process andeverything leading up to publication. To remain up to date, stay tuned to this website and/or its sister site, The Taste of Jewish Culture. You can also subscribe to my monthly newsletter where you’ll receive regular updates as well.