A soup of unleavened bread.
A crescent-shaped pastry.
A turnip harvested in the prairie.
What do these three foods have in common?
They’re celebratory foods made important through tradition and the stories we weave.
History, religion, and spirituality play a part in creating the lore and sacred stories behind our favorite holiday meals and treats, as well as our everyday gruel.
From Jewish passover to Viennese Christmas, let’s take a trip around the world with these celebratory dishes.
Jewish Matzo Ball Soup
Enjoyed during Passover, Matzo Ball Soup is presented at Seder supper.
In celebrating a holiday where the Hebrew slaves were freed from Egypt, the symbolic meal represents this tale in the Biblical Exodus.
The Jews ate unleavened bread when fleeing, which is represented in the Matzo.
The dash of bitter horseradish symbolizes slavery’s bitterness.
The Vanillekipferl is a pastry that’s shaped like a “kipferl” – or crescent moon.
Originating in Vienna around four centuries ago, the pastry’s lore says that the kipferl was developed by Austrians to symbolize their victory over the Ottoman Turks, whose banner held a crescent moon.
Funnily enough, the Vanillekipferl’s shape was developed into other pastries – specifically, the croissant which found its way to France.
The French adapted it with puffed pastry, creating a whole new spin on the tasty treat.
Blackfeet Indian Prairie Turnips
Various native tribes in America viewed certain foods as sacred and tied them to important lore.
Prairie turnips, for instance, were believed to come from the “Sky realm” by the Blackfeet Indians.
Feather Woman (Soatsaki) learned how to harvest prairie turnips from her mother-in-law, the Moon (Ko’komiki’somm).
She then returned to Earth to spread the word, making the prairie turnip a staple in Blackfeet cuisine.
Food + Stories = Tradition
Each of these foods has its lore, and its lore is what makes eat bite special.
From the symbolic nature of the Matzo Ball Soup to the celebratory nature of the crescent-shaped Vanillekipferl to sacred staples like maize to the Mayans or prairie turnips to the Blackfeet Indians, the rich stories that accompany such foods keep the oven hot.
And they keep our traditions cooking.