A Cuisine without a Community: The Strange Case of Sephardic Cuisine in the US

Document Type

Conference Proceeding



Conference Title

Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS), Toward Sustainable Foodscapes and Landscapes


Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI

Conference Dates

June 19-22, 2013

Date of Presentation



This paper examines the theoretical basis for recognizing an established cuisine - a standard repertoire, ingredients, equipment and techniques as a well as a historical legacy. Can a cuisine exist however without a coherent community of practicioners and consumers? The case of Sephardic cuisine will be examined, which has a 2,000 year old history, and is in no danger of disappearing, even though a Sephardic community is difficult to discern in the US today. I will also trace the basic outlines of Sephardic cuisine from the diaspora to the 20th century and its current popularity today as one among many ethnic cuisines, the lesser known Jewish cuisine, if you will, though represented by many cookbooks and with a stable presence. Where, however, are the people who cook this food today? Are they connected in any meaningful way as a community and does this threaten to turn this cuisine into a museum piece, effectively halting its evolution?