Monday, December 24, 2007

A Child's [Jewish] Christmas in New Jersey

Yes, many American Jews really do deal with the annual Baby Jesus Birthday Bash by going out for Chinese food and then to the movies. No, this is not a goofy offensive stereotype. "Chinese and a movie" is a treasured memory of my Reform Jewish childhood in the New Jersey suburbs. This, by the way, was the childhood I was forced into having when my parents moved from the Holy Land (New York City/Brooklyn) to the New World (Bergen County).

Lifetimes -- all of them mine -- have passed since those years of Suburban Captivity and although I've long since converted to sushi, I start jonesing for Chinese food on the morning of Christmas Eve. It's probably a good thing that the Chinese chow of my childhood is almost impossible to find these days. It was often dreadful. We thought it was delicious.

During the 1950s and 1960s, "going out for Chinese" meant going to a Cantonese restaurant, usually located in a shopping center, a few doors down from the supermarket and the one-and-only pizzeria in town. Cantonese cuisine was so subtle as to be nearly without flavor; totally unlike the Schezwan style that's now ubiquitous. It was a great corrective to the heavy, acid reflux-inducing fare of Eastern Europe. It was also a great way to assert assimilation and flirt with forbidden food for a greater good, viz., repudiating Christian holy days.

My parents had no problem eating treyf inside or outside our home. The rules of kashruth had been laid to final rest, along with the Orthodox family members who had faithfully observed them. My parents were not unusual in this (dis)regard. Thus, it would come to pass that an entire generation of Jews celebrated Christmas by scarfing down the following, carefully selected from columns A & B:

Won Ton SoupBarbecued Spare RibsEgg RollsMoo Goo Gai PanWor Shu OpSweet and Sour Pork
Pepper Steak
Shrimp with Lobster SauceWhite Rice or Pork Fried RiceFortune Cookies(Not Green) Tea

I don't remember anyone ever using chop sticks.

What am I eating before tonight's Midnight Mass? Chicken soup.

1 comment:

  1. I am totally loving your Catholic Home book, your writing and wit are infectious! Visit me sometime if you get a chance and see how we celebrate our Catholic Home everyday!! I am currently writing a book on Marian Feasts and devotions for Home schooling families!! Many Blessings for a Happy christmas and New Years!

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