It’s no joke that if you offer good food with your Jewish event, you’ll have great attendance. Still, when Michael Schwartz came up with the idea for the Chosen Food Supper Club in early 2017, he had no idea how popular it would be.
The Aleppian Rosh Hashanah Feast is coming up on Sept. 17 in Vancouver and it’s been sold out for months, with a waiting list twice as long as the number of seats at the table.
The Chosen Food Supper Club is an initiative of the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia (JMABC). The Rosh Hashanah meal will be the penultimate event in a series of 10 Sunday dinners that began in April and will conclude in October with a Hungarian-themed supper.
“We wanted to showcase the diversity of Jewish cuisine represented within the B.C. Jewish community,” said Schwartz, director of community engagement at JMABC.
“This supper club draws attention to the fact that our community is made up of people who come from all corners of the world, bringing the cuisine and history of each of those locations.”
The Aleppian dinner will include traditional Aleppian Jewish dishes, such as apples dipped in sugar, leek fritters, Swiss chard with meat, black-eyed peas with meat, candied spaghetti squash and tongue.
Each dish holds special symbolism, and the significance of each will be discussed and explained by Debbie Tabenkin, a Jamaican-born Jew whose father was Syrian and whose family moved to Panama in 1970.
For example, the Hebrew word for leeks sounds similar to the biblical punishment of karet, which means to cut off. The inclusion of leeks symbolizes the idea that we ask God on Rosh Hashanah to cut off evildoers from harming the Jewish nation.
Meanwhile, the Hebrew word for black-eyed peas is rubiah, similar to the word rab, whose root means to increase, so the peas symbolize the increase of one’s merits. And Aleppian Jews traditionally eat meat from the head of an animal, a symbol that they will be leaders rather than followers.
“Central to the meals is a conversation about what the food means, as well as a historical talk by the guest host about where their family came from, what Jewish life was like there and why they left,” Schwartz said.
The guest host of each supper creates the menu and provides the recipes for the meal, and local Jewish chef Don Letendre scales the quantities for the participants and oversees a team of volunteers as they prepare the kosher-style meals at the Peretz Centre in Vancouver.
“Vancouver is a foodie city and food is a good way to bring out members of our community and showcase the diversity and wonders of our community, to the other communities in the region,” Schwartz reflected.
Previous suppers included Delights from the Jews of Rhodes, From Cape Town With Love: A South African Barbecue, Smoked Meat: Authentic Montreal Deli and My Darling Dumpling: Traditional Jewish and Chinese Dumplings.
For more information about JMABC programs, visit jewishmuseum.ca