BY ELIZABETH FRIEDLY / AJT //
Food speaks volumes about a culture; it’s something we as humans universally gather around. Culinary choices reflect our economics, values, fashions and general ways of life.
For these reasons, the Breman Jewish Heritage Museum is now featuring a new special exhibit, “Chosen Food,” which opened to the public in January. The exhibit originated at the Jewish History Museum of Maryland.
“The Breman was interested in bringing this down,” said Exhibitions Manager Timothy Frilingos, “because this is an exhibit about food. But more specifically because we know [not only] how important food is in the Jewish community, but also how important it is in Southern culture. So we thought this would be a good way to tie that together.”
The “Chosen Food” displays tell the story of the Jewish American identity through choices in food. The tale is a complex one, consisting of multiple parts and perspectives.
Guests are first invited to take an interactive quiz on dishes and their perceived “Jewishness.” The exhibit as a whole explores the past, present and future of Jewish dining.
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Sections guide the visitor from the private to the public spheres – from intimate holiday meals to the rise of the deli. It details the experience of early Jewish immigrants as well as modern-day families. Museum-goers can readily interact with the exhibit, whether sitting down at a dining room table and listening to Atlanta natives’ stories or taking a simulated whiff of traditional Jewish ingredients.
Stepping through the full-sized re-creation of a kosher kitchen, Frilingos cites kosher practices as the “original conscious eating.” This theme continues in the exhibit’s discussions on the future and the way in which values of Judaism translate into more ethical eating.
Jewish community members and non-Jews alike will find new things to learn from the many facets of “Chosen Food.” While members of the Jewish community might be more familiar with the historical or cultural pieces, according to Frilingos, there are more than just simple facts to be gained.
“For Jews, it’s an opportunity for them to come together and share their stories about food,” said Frilingos. “Almost every section is a jumping off point for people – to talk about their favorite deli that might not be around anymore, to talk about the favorite things they share at the holidays, talk about the favorite uncle who used to tell the best stories around the dinner table. It’s really a place to come with a couple generations and talk about your food traditions.”
“Chosen Food” is on display at The Breman Jewish Heritage Museum, Sunday through Friday, until May 27. For additional information, including ticket prices, visit thebreman.org.