Food is arguably one of the best representations of culture, and within Judaism, that is no exception. With recipes passed down generation to generation, nothing is better about Judaism than your bubbe's matzo ball soup or your eema's hamantaschen, or within families not filled with Yiddish culinary geniuses, just your neighborhood deli with bagels smothered in cream cheese and lox hit the spot. However, what most people don't know about Jewish foods is that most of them correspond to specific holidays. So, with Hannukah ripe in our minds, it's time for a little Jewish food history lesson!

Shabbat - Challah

Each week, Jews celebrate the Sabbath as a break from our too-busy lives by breaking bread, or challah, with our friends and families. Wine, challah, and blessings over candles are staples of this weekly tradition, and the best part is that leftover challah can be used the next morning to make challah french toast!

Rosh Hashanah - Apples & Honey

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish new year, often referred to as the "Birth of the World." This holiday is celebrated by eating crisp apples dipped in sweet honey to symbolize rebirth, rediscovery, and the sweetness of a new year. Fun fact: circular foods (such as apples!) represent prosperity in Judaism.

Yom Kippur - Noodle Kugel

Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement, is a day of reflection where Jews fast from sunup to sundown, which forces us to suspend our daily existence, deepen our spiritually, and greater appreciate our everyday lives. At sunset when Jews break the fast, a light meal of dairy foods is served—in my case 6 dinners in one because I'm so starved from not eating all day—with favorites such as sweet noodle kugel, cheesy blintzes, egg  salad, bagels, and fish such as herring, whitefish, and lox

Sukkot - Stuffed Vegetables 

Sukkot is the holiday that starts four days after Yom Kippur and celebrates the harvest season and the 40 years the Israelites lived in temporary shelters while wandering in the desert. Sukkot lasts eight days, and Jews build temporary outdoor structures decorated with fresh fruit, gourds, and other decorations hung from roofs of branches open to the stars. Harvest foods such as pumpkin, squash, and gourds are stuffed with vegetables and meats to symbolize a “full” harvest.

Simchat Torah - Kreplach

Simchat Torah falls on the day after Sukkot ends, and nothing is better than homemade kreplach, stuffed with meat and served in chicken soup to celebrate the immediate beginning again of the yearly cycle of reading the Torah. 

Hanukkah - Potato Latkes

By far my favorite Jewish food, potato latkes fried in oil are a Hanukkah tradition. The oil used to fry these delicious babies symbolizes the one day's worth of oil that miraculously lasted eight days for the Maccabees in 165 BCE and the rededication of the temple in Jerusalem. So this Hanukkah, chow down on this delicious treat with friends while lighting the menorah each night!

Tu b’Shevat - Nuts & Dried Fruits

Tu b’Shevat is essentially the Jewish celebration of the environment, and the day is celebrated by planting trees and donating money to environmental causes. A special “seder” focuses on three symbolic types of fruits and nuts, and four cups of wine! The groups include those with pits (cherries, apricots, olives, dates, plums), those with outside shells that must be discarded (pomegranates, almonds, and other nuts) and those that are edible as they are (figs, grapes, apples, pears, berries).

Purim - Hamantaschen

Purim is the closest thing that Jews have to a cultural carnival, with costumes, plays, and parodies. Jews celebrate the holiday through the reading of the Megillah in a synagogue, or the re-telling the story of how Haman’s plot to kill all the Jews of ancient Persia was thwarted by Esther and her uncle, Mordecai. There is the holiday custom of giving gifts of fruit and sweets, especially hamantashen, as well as performing mitzvahs, or the commandment to do good deeds. Hamantaschen are another personal favorite, and are stuffed with a variety of ingredients from the classic poppy seed or preserved fruit, to the more modern Nutella!

Passover - Brisket

Think of Passover as Jewish Thanksgiving essentially, but instead of celebrating the pilgrims coming to America and having a feast with the native Americans, Passover commemorates the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, so leaving instead of arriving.  Passover celebrates liberation and rebirth over a traditional seder or holiday dinner—complete with a seder plate with foods that represent different parts of the Exodus story—and heaping plates of everything from brisket to matzo ball soup to fresh vegetables, just no leavened bread!

Shavuot - Blintzes

Shavuot occurs seven weeks after the second night of Passover and connects the Israelites rebirth during the exodus to the redemption of receiving the Torah from God at Mt. Sinai. Thus, we celebrate by eating the cheesy sweet treat that are blintzes topped off with the most delicious preserves and fruit.

No one can argue that Judaism has brought us some of the best foods around: bagels, knishes, rugelach, babka, latkes, challah, and kugel to name a few. While not all of these delicacies may correspond to Jewish holidays, many do, and all Jewish foods have a rich history attached to them. So, whether you're eating one of these foods for their respective holiday celebrations or just because they are fantastically delicious, appreciate your bubbe and all other Jewish ancestors for passing down such delicious foods and traditions that we can still enjoy in all of their glory even centuries after their creation.