Women carry tsholent (a dish of meat, potatoes and beans) to the baker's oven on Friday afternoon, where the heat retained by the oven will slowly cook the...


Tsholent (sometimes spelled cholent), the Sabbath stew, is representative of the Ashkenazi Shabes meal. It is a hearty, meaty stew prepared a day in advance and left to slow cook on a burner or in the oven overnight. The smell of the tsholent pot whetted the appetites of hungry Jews returning from synagogue prayers on Saturday afternoon.

Studio portrait of a bagel vendor with a basket of his wares in Kishinev, Bessarabia (now Moldova) circa 1900.

Gefilte Fish

Gefilte fish (stuffed fish), perhaps the food most associated with Eastern European Jewry to this day, is also the traditional first dish of any Shabes or holiday meal. There is a tradition that festivities should be celebrated with "Boser v'dogim" (meat and fish, in Hebrew), food delicacies to mark the special day. The name, "stuffed fish", comes from the original preparation of the dish, which dates back to the Middle Ages in Germany. Chopped freshwater whitefish (usually carp or pike) was cooked and then stuffed back into the fish skin. Later, the skin was omitted and just the fish stuffing became the dish. Some Jews today continue to use carp, and stuff minced fish into the middle. There are many variations of the gefilte fish recipe: Polish Jews generally prepare it with a sugary taste, while the Lithuanians prefer it peppery. This distinction was the source of countless minor domestic disturbances, but most householdsstill would agree on serving gefilte fish with a healthy dose of khreyn, the grated horseradish-beet sauce.