Our friends at the Lalley Centre Foodbank bravely signed up to be guinea-pigs for our micro food-chat, where we explore museum objects using the medium of taste. A small band of friendly and curious participants from the Friday club sat down to hear food stories from the Museum’s collection and tell their own, proving that food really does transcend cultural experience.
For amuse-bouche – a conversation about Jewish children being evacuated from Manchester in WW2 and attempting to eat vegetarian if not kosher.
Alexander Altmann was Manchester’s only communal Rabbi from the late 1930s to the late 1950s. A job offer enabled him and his family to escape Berlin and he was influential in Manchester until he went on to a Philosophy lectureship in the US in 1958. Here he wrote instructions to Jewish evacuees on how to behave and how to eat!
For starters – a mystery implement and a tabbouleh salad
After many unsuccessful guesses about the use of this object (including our own – we thought it was a herb chopper…) our fabulous curator reminded us it would have been used to chop herring. Often brought with Jewish migrants from Russia and Eastern Europe, this particular chopper was made in Manchester in the late 19th/early twentieth century and marketed to the Jewish community. Having thought that it was used to chop parsley, we tucked into tabbouleh while discussing a possible Chinese connection, fish stew in Nigeria and false assumptions about museum objects!
For the main course – a story of identity and borekas
This photo of Annie Conway in the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue (which is now Manchester Jewish Museum) shows her holding a plate of borekas. Annie married into a Jewish family and became a stalwart of the synagogue community using her sewing skills to make cushions and beautifully upholster the doors of the Ark. These pastries for the Sephardi tradition caused us full tummies and lively debate on triangular pastries in Ashkenazi Jewish tradition but also in cultures around the world.
Thanks to Sam and Julia – we’ll definitely come back!