Top Chef: Cholent Edition


I guess we’ll start with this: I don’t like cholent. It’s not my thing. I like a good salad with a good coffee. That’s my speed. But somehow running a coffee competition didn’t seem exactly right so I ended up with a cholent competition. Also, I really really like Top Chef (though again this year I refused to watch the finale — bad winner).

Also, I like my friend Cheryl. She can (and has) get me to do pretty much anything. So we set off in the wilderness of Alon Shevut to make a kiddush. Here’s the deal with kiddush in Alon Shevut: there is never one. One of the craziest things for us about Cleveland was that there was a kiddush Every Single Week. And people went every week. The day of Shabbat in Cleveland and in Alon Shevut are like two different God-given days. In Cleveland, there is a big kiddush and then there is lunch that lasts until 5 pm. In Alon Shevut, there is no kiddush (but there is a short shiur) and then lunch at 11 and home by 2. David and I were really terrible guests for the first few months in Cleveland because we couldn’t believe we were supposed to stay at the table for so long.

When we came back, I sort of suggested this cholent competition and then there I was sending out email after email, hanging up posters, buying paper goods and fielding many many phone calls (mostly from esteemed Sefardi grandmothers). Because, and here’s the other thing, for as much as Alon Shevut gets this reputation for being completely homogeneous, there are many different spheres. We had 17 cholents. None of which I tasted. Our cholents came from recipes handed down from  Poland, Germany, Tunisia, Persia, America, Canada,Iraq and places I can’t find on a map.  And the place was packed. It was like every Bnei Akiva peula I ran 20 years ago. Jews from around the world converging for a common goal: food (I mean, back in the day the common goal was something lofty like Israel, but we’ve moved past that).

I got double-cheek kissed by many many ladies that I don’t know . One of the judges stood up in front of 700 people and gave an impromptu lecture on the history of cholent because he was in the moment. I didn’t buy enough grape juice. We gave out t-shirts sponsored by our local butcher (hilarious). But my favorite moment, by far, was this: David wins the popular vote (I feel the scandal creeping up already) and a fabulous Sephardi grandma wins the judges’ choice. We have no cholent at our house for lunch (David’s crazy cholent pot is at shul) so David heads to the other winner’s house for a bit of pre-lunch lunch because she, like a true winner, prepared a full out cholent at home.



  1. Fern Sanders

    When will you be publishing the winning recipes? You can’t just dangle this tempting bit of information without the follow through.

  2. Chana

    You are too funny.

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