The latest exhibition at POLIN explores the diversity and back story of Jewish culinary culture…
“Show me your plate and I will tell you who you are: where you hail from, who your ancestors were, who your neighbors are and what lifestyle you lead.” It’s on this premise that POLIN’s latest exhibition is built, with the exposition seeking to acquaint visitors with the multi-layered story connected to Jewish culinary culture.
Penetrating ever corner of the globe, it’s a cuisine steeped with symbolism; an underpinning element of Jewish identity, the exhibition leaves in no doubt the crucial role food has played in shaping Jewish ‘distinctiveness’.
“Shaped over millennia in different locations all across the globe, it has remained very diverse until this very day,” say the organizers. “That is why the tale about Jewish food is simultaneously a tale about Jewish religion, culture and history.”
Taking visitors across time and space, What’s Cooking demonstrates how certain dishes evolved as the result of numerous migrations from the Middle Ages to the great waves that occurred in the 19th and 20th centuries.
“We will show the religious foundation which holds Jewish cuisine together – the rules of kashrut which inform the way certain dishes are prepared, as well as breaking away from that tradition today and rediscovering culinary roots,” continue the organizers.
Along the way, guests will discover the links between potato pancakes and latkes, gołąbki with holishkes, cholent and adafina. Moreover, other questions stand to be answered such as why New Yorkers regard pickled gherkins and borscht as Jewish dishes. Additionally, you’ll find yourself learning about Fania Lewando, a pioneering Polish chef credited with writing the first-known Yiddish language vegetarian cookbook in Europe.
As has come to be expected of POLIN’s exhibitions, be prepared to read hefty but illuminating texts that accompany the fascinating images; beautifully presented, the aesthetics are further bolstered by four sculptural installations devised by Anna Królikiewicz. Symbolizing ‘memories’, ‘diaspora’, ‘tradition’ and ‘modernity’, it is perhaps the last that is arguably the most stunning.
“Bringing to mind a metropolis dotted with skyscrapers or a café table with fanciful drinks, the dozen lamps are filled with colored, overflowing liquids,” says the organizers. “The metamorphoses taking place in them symbolically refer to the changes and new interpretations of Jewish culinary culture in the modern period.” Simply beautiful to admire, it says much for an exhibition that has been painstakingly put together.
ul. Anielewicza 6, website
(Photos: Kevin Demaria)