Friday, January 25, 2013

So, You Know Jews Like Chinese Food, Right?

There are tons of jokes about the Jewish affinity for Asian (particularly Chinese) food. They have a basis in truth and, as I learned at an event held at an NYPL branch, from food historian Sarah Lohman, that affinity could be attributed to both the proximity of the Jewish Lower East Side to Chinatown, and the fact that Chinese food does not use dairy, thus allowing Jews to eat it without violating the prohibition on mixing meat and dairy.

But in Where on Earth Is My Bagel?, Frances and Ginger Park invert this stereotype, having a Korean boy develop a sudden, insatiable craving for a New York bagel.  With Grace Lin's signature folk-art illustrations, this book reads like a modern-day fable... with the boy finding that what he was searching for was in front of him all the time - sort of.  While awaiting a response to his request for "one bagel to go," sent to New York via pigeon, he takes matters into his own hands and asks the local farmer, fisherman, and beekeeper in his rural village if they have his bagel, to no avail.  When he finally receives an answer to his letter, a New York bagel-shop owner explains that bagels must be eaten the day they are made but provides his recipe.  The local farmer, fisherman and beekeeper turn out to have all the needed ingredients.  The only thing missing from this lovely cross-cultural story is the actual recipe!

Thanks to my mom for telling me about this book!


  1. Does the book give the feeling of referring to the stereotype? Even if it is just a wink to the adult reading it?

  2. Beth - I don't think so. The connection just seemed so obvious to me, though.

  3. My favorite NY bagel shop is owned/operated by a family from Thailand. And like the character in this book, I often dream of figuring out a way to get one of those bagels in my mouth (I luckily have a far shorter distance to travel to get one). I haven't tried making my own bagels yet. I just can't imagine that they would measure up. Anyway, I love Grace Lin's illustrations. Will have to check this one out.

  4. Hi, Em! I wonder if it is the same as our favorite bagel shop, which is run by an Asian family although I am not sure which country they are from - Absolute Bagels on 107th St. and B'way.