The Carolina Center for Jewish Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill hosted the Jewish Food in the Global South symposium March 4-5.
The symposium included presentations by Jewish foodways, culinary critics, scholars, James Beard award-winning chefs and more. Panel discussions and examinations of specific ingredients explored what it means to consider food “Jewish” in a complex global market.
The two-day event included a cooking class at Southern Season, a Jewish Food Film Festival at Varsity Theatre, four panel sessions and a keynote speaker. The panels looked at the history and politics of Jewish food as well as newer, more modern Jewish deli food.
The keynote address on contemporary American Jewish cuisine was moderated by New York Times journalist Kim Severson with special guests and James Beard award winners Joan Nathan, author and journalist, and Alon Shaya, head chef of Shaya Restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana.
One of the panels, “The New American Deli: Global Southern-Style,” included speakers with local Chapel Hill ties. Sam Suchoff, owner and founder of The Pig restaurant in Chapel Hill, fuses southern barbecue with Jewish food traditions.
“It’s all about relationships,” Suchoff said. “It’s about the relationship that you have with your food, but it goes beyond the plate back to the history of who brought it there, how it was raised and how that person felt about the job they were doing. It’s about adding value along that chain … It’s the labor. It’s not necessarily about the ingredients.”
Michael Twitty, a culinary historian and writer, looked at both the African and Jewish diasporas as two fusible cultural philosophies, especially in the context of Southern food. By focusing on these foods, Twitty is able to navigate the culinary side of African American and Jewish relations.
“The humor is in the food — the satire, the irony, the stories,” Twitty said. “We talk about food when we eat food, and complain about it and bless it while we eat it.”
The symposium was presented by UNC’s Carolina Center for Jewish Studies, Department of American Studies, Center for Global Initiatives, Global Research Institute, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Center for the Study of the American South and UNC’s FOOD FOR ALL.