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Why American Jews Eat Chinese Food onChristmas译文来源:龙腾网 HTTP://WWW.LTAAA.COM


If there's a single identifiable momentwhen Jewish Christmas—the annual American tradition where Jews overindulge onChinese food on December 25—transitioned from kitsch into codified custom, itwas during Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan's 2010 confirmation hearing.


During an otherwise tense series ofexchanges, Senator Lindsey Graham paused to ask Kagan where she had spent theprevious Christmas. To great laughter, she replied: "You know, like allJews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant."

在这次看似紧张的听证会上,参议员Lindsey Graham询问卡根她是怎么庆祝前一年的圣诞节的。她的回答是:"你知道,像所有犹太人一样,我可能在一家中国餐馆里吃中餐。"她的回答引起了人们的大笑。译文来源:龙腾网 HTTP://WWW.LTAAA.COM
Never willing to let a moment pass withoutremark, Senator Chuck Schumer jumped in to explain,"If I might, no other restaurants are open."

而从来不会让一个时刻留有空白的参议员Chuck Schumer则马上解释道,"如果是我,我也会这么干,因为其他餐馆都没开。"

And so goes the story of Jewish Christmasin a tiny capsule. For many Jewish Americans, the night before Christmasconjures up visions, not of sugar plums, but plum sauce slathered over roastduck or an overstocked plate of beef lo mein, a platter of General Tso's, and(maybe) some hot and sour soup.


But Schumer's declaration that Jews andChinese food are as much a match of necessity as sweet and sour are, is onlyhalf the wonton. The circumstances that birthed Jewish Christmas are alsodeeply historical, sociological, and religious.


The story begins during the halcyon days ofthe Lower East Side where, as Jennifer 8. Lee, the producer of The Search for General Tso,said, "Jews and Chinese were the two largest non-Christian immigrant groups" atthe turn of the century.

这个故事还要从下东区(纽约市曼哈顿区沿东河南端一带,犹太移民聚居地)的平静的日子里开始说起,来自这里的Jennifer 8. Lee(她是《寻找左宗棠鸡》的制作人)说,"世纪之交之时,犹太人和中国人是两支最大的非基督徒移民团体"。

So while it's true that Chinese restaurantswere notably open on Sundays and during holidays when other restaurants wouldbe closed, the two groups were linked not only by proximity, but by otherness.Jewish affinity for Chinese food "reveals a lot about immigration history andwhat it's like to be outsiders," she explained.


Estimates of the surging Jewish populationof New York City run from 400,000in 1899 to abouta million by 1910 (or roughly a quarter of the city's population). And, assome Jews began to assimilate into American life, they not only foundacceptance at Chinese restaurants, but also easy passage into the world beyondKosher food.


"Chinese restaurants were the easiest placeto trick yourself into thinking you were eating Kosher food," EdSchonfeld, the owner of RedFarm, one of the most laureled Chineserestaurants in New York, said. Indeed, it was something of a perfect match.Jewish law famously prohibits the mixing of milk and meat just as Chinese foodtraditionally excludes dairy from its dishes. Lee added:

"在中国餐馆里,你会非常容易的以为自己吃的就是犹太食物(符合犹太教教规的食物),"RedFarm的所有者Ed Schonfeld如是说,这是纽约最著名的中餐馆之一。二者之间在某种程度上确实是天作之合。众所周知,犹太律法是禁止把奶制品和肉类放在一起的,而中国食物传统上也不包含奶制品。Jennifer 8. Lee补充道:

If you look at the two other main ethniccuisines in America, which are Italian and Mexican, both of those combine milkand meat to a significant extent. Chinese food allowed Jews to eat foreigncuisines in a safe way.


And so, for Jews, the chop suey palaces anddumpling parlors of the Lower East Side and Chinatown gave the illusion ofreligious accordance, even if there was still treifgalore in the form of pork and shellfish. Nevertheless, it's more than a curiositythat a narrow culinary phenomenon that started over a century ago managed togrow into a national ritual that is both specifically American andcharacteristically Jewish.


"Clearly this whole thing with Chinese foodand Jewish people has evolved," Schoenfeld said. "There's no question.Christmas was always a good day for Chinese restaurants, but in recent years,it's become the ultimate day of business."

"显然,中国食物和犹太人之间的关系在不断的演变着,"Ed Schonfeld说。"毫无疑问,一直以来圣诞节对中国餐馆来说都是个好日子,但是最近几年,从根本上变成了一个商业日。"

But there's more to it than that. Ask a foodpurist about American Chinese food and you'll get a pu-pu platter ofhostilerhetoric about its inauthenticity. Driving the point home, earlier this week,CBS reportedon two Americans who opened a restaurant in Shanghai that featuresAmerican-style Chinese dishes like orange chicken, pork egg rolls, and, yes,the beloved General Tso's, all of which don't exist in traditional Chinesecuisine. The restaurant gets it name from another singular upshot ofChinese-American fusion: Fortune Cookie.


Schoenfeld, whose restaurant features anegg roll made with pastrami from Katz's Deli, shrugs off the idea thatAmericanized Chinese food is somehow an affront to cultural virtue. "Adaptationhas been a signature part of the Chinese food experience," he said. "If youwent to Italy, you'd see a Chinese restaurant trying to make an Italiancustomer happy."

Schoenfeld店里的特色菜是鸡蛋卷五香烟熏牛肉,五香烟熏牛肉来自著名的Katz's Deli,他认为美式中国食物并非是对文化美德的侵犯。"适应当地是中国食物历史中的重要组成部分,"他说。"如果你去意大利,你就会看到那里的中国餐馆也在尽量的让自己的客人满意。

"I would argue that Chinese food isthe ethnic cuisine of American Jews."


That particular mutability has a meaningfullink to the Jewish experience, the rituals of which were largely forged inexile. During the First and Second Temple eras, Jewish practice centered around templelife in Jerusalem. Featuring a monarchy and a high priesthood, it bears littleresemblance to Jewish life of today with its rabbis and synagogues.


So could it be that Chinese food is amanifestation of Jewish life in America? Lee seems to think so. "I would arguethat Chinese food is the ethnic cuisine of American Jews. That, in fact, theyidentify with it more than they do gefilte fish or all kinds of the EasternEurope dishes of yore."


Over the centuries, different religiouscustoms have sprung up and new spiritual rituals have taken root, many of whichdraw on the past. Jewish Christmas, in many ways, could very much be seen as amodern affirmation of faith. After all, there are few days that remind AmericanJews of their Jewishness more than Christmas in the United States.