Topics: Main Topic: Identity and Community, Food, Kashrut, Ritual, Jewish Identity, Jewish Culture, Religious Observance and Practice, Shabbat, Shechita / Ritual Slaughter
Abstract: Kosher food is not necessarily the same as 'Jewish' food. The thesis explores ideas of Jewish identity in Britain in relation to food, examining the period from the end of austerity in the mid-1950s until the beginning of the twenty-first century. The period starts with Britain's emergence from the strictures of rationing and the development of an era of abundance and choice that has led, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, to a complex and ambivalent relationship between food and society. The thesis explores food in relation to the histories of diverse British Jewish communities and individuals deploying a range of evidence including oral histories, memoirs, journalism and cookery books. It studies the practice of Jewish identity and food, looking at Jewish communities ranging from the strictly Orthodox to progressive Jews. Theories of place, displacement and circuitry in the context of a global food economy are central to the thesis as are ideas of memory, myth and ritual. The first two chapters study the religious, political and social context of kosher food practice in Britain, analysing relations between the ecclesiastical authorities, the kosher food industry and consumers in which issues of class and gender are pivotal. Non-Jewish responses to kosher food are also examined. The third chapter interrogates the culinary origins of Ashkenazi and Sephardi food in Britain in the context of the globalization of the food industry, questioning how this affects the 'Jewishness' of specific culinary practices. The final chapter investigates the meaning and development of Jewish food rituals with respect to Sabbath and festival observance. The thesis suggests that despite the particularity of Jewish practice in relation to food, and the specific circumstances of the Diaspora, the Jewish practice of identity through food should not be treated as exceptional. The concept of 'Jewish' food is as problematic and as valid as the identification of any other group with a specific cuisine.