On December 24, 25 and 26th we will be serving our third annual Chinese Feast. Seatings are at 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10 PM and reservations may be made by calling 646-494-9508.
The tradition of Chinese food and a movie on Christmas runs deep. Hypothesis about why and how this has become such an ingrained practice range from the historical to the hysterical and Marc Tracy summarized many of them in his Tablet Magazine article which ran before our first dinner in December 2010. The fact that the Chinese generally do not observe the holiday and therefore remain open when most other establishments are closed certainly contributes to the phenomenon, but the popularity of Sunday night Chinese dinners for Jewish families indicates a stronger connection between Jews and Chinese food.
The ‘safe traif’ notion plays a part; after all if you can’t visually identify which pig parts or sea creatures are among the fried rice or within the thick sauces the kashrut line is much easier to tread. Most Jews I know draw their own boundaries within the dietary rules, often with bacon being acceptable while pork loin is not. Growing up in a kosher house we even had a third set (after one for dairy and one for meat) of non-kosher placemats, burried in a drawer outside the kitchen next to a stack of paperware specifically for our take-out Chinese food.
Outside of the kashrut context the story that our love of Chinese foods tells about immigrant settlement and assimilation is a fascinating one. The overlap of ethnic enclaves in the Lower East Side at the turn of the last century provided the opportunity for exposure to new culinary cultures and decades later even birthed the legendary Schmulka Bernstein’s kosher deli-Chinese food restaurant. I never had the pleasure of visiting that spot which closed in the early ’90s, but it’s a concept we dig and this Christmas as in years past we’re taking cues from our everyday practices of curing, smoking and pickling and putting together a three course Chinese feast in the Mile End style. With BAM, Cobble Hill Cinemas or UA Court Street all within walking distance there’s no reason not to carry on the custom.