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Feasting and FastingThe History and Ethics of Jewish Food$
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Aaron Gross, Jody Myers, and Jordan D. Rosenblum

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781479899333

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479899333.001.0001

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The Search for Religious Authenticity and the Case of Passover Peanut Oil

The Search for Religious Authenticity and the Case of Passover Peanut Oil

(p.212) 9. The Search for Religious Authenticity and the Case of Passover Peanut Oil
Feasting and Fasting

Zev Eleff

NYU Press

This chapter uses the rise and fall of a popular Passover cooking ingredient to explore the role of competing European folkways to determine the religious course of American Orthodox Judaism. In the first half of the twentieth century, traditional-leaning Jews happily used peanut oil in place of chicken fat, relying on the Lithuanian position that peanuts were not considered a “legume,” a category of foods that Ashkenazic Jewry traditionally withheld from during the Passover holiday, in addition to leaven breads. However, late-arriving Hungarian and Israeli folkways fought and triumphed over the Lithuanian foodway by the final decades of the 1900s. This is emblematic of a broader religious confrontation with American Judaism. The use of a variety of sources––responsa, economic, archival, and periodical literature––underscores the importance of “lived religion” and the usefulness of folkways and foodways to gain a fuller appreciation of religious history.

Keywords:   cooking ingredient, Passover, foodways, Orthodox Judaism, lived religion, responsa, peanut oil, chicken fat

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