"Hugs And Knishes," A New Jewish Food Doc On PBS | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

"Hugs And Knishes," A New Jewish Food Doc On PBS

"Hugs And Knishes," A New Jewish Food Doc On PBS

Yiddish theater actor Fyvush Finkel, actress Tovah Feldshuh, and former New York City mayor Ed Koch in "Hugs and Knishes." Courtesy of "Hugs and Knishes."

Nostalgic Film Shows the Role of Food in Family History

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David Anton's Hugs and Knishes: A Celebration of Our Jewish Foods and Traditions, a new documentary airing on PBS, brings to life the love of food in the Jewish community and respect for family food traditions. 

Anton interviews several ordinary people, as well as three Jewish celebrities (former New York City mayor Ed Koch, Yiddish theater actor Fyvush Finkel, both of whom have passed away since filming and actress Tovah Feldshuh), who wax poetic on the foods of their childhoods as well as their families' relationships towards food ("We ate like a pack of wolves," muses Feldshuh about her family's lack of portion control at one point). 

Hugs and Knishes presents a mostly wholesome picture of family culinary customs through Anton's interviews with his nostalgic guests who tie their pining for mothers' cooking with anxiety over Jewish dissipation. 

However, there is no context presented-- we do not find out who those being interviewed are or why they are being interviewed, neither do we learn much about many of the foods they discuss. Out of a nearly one hour program, roughly 3 minutes are spent on Sephardic cooking, an unfortunate decision. 

The film describes Jewish food as something on the verge of extinction whereas as the pages of The Jewish Week Food & Wine will show you, Jewish food is very much alive, vibrant, and expanding. What is being presented in the movie is stultified, recipes passed down from mother to daughter, while in reality, Jewish food is ever-changing and is open to cross cultural influences, ingredients, and techniques. This, I would argue, is the golden age of Jewish cuisine, but that is sadly absent from Hugs and Knishes.

Hugs and Knishes airs on Thirteen Thursday, 12/8 at 9 pm. Please check with your local PBS station for additional airings. 

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