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Kosher food festival to celebrate culinary traditions of 5 nations

Thursday, February 07, 2002

By Susan Jacobs, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Squirrel Hill's Orthodox Jewish community is gearing up for its second Kosher International Food Festival this Sunday, after last year's event drew more than 700 patrons.

Dan Schwarcz, co-chair of the festival, said he was pleasantly surprised by the warm response the festival received.

"I had people coming up to me eight months later saying the food fest was wonderful, are you doing it again," he said. "It broke barriers between synagogues, both for volunteers and participants."

The event includes seven Orthodox congregations.

"We haven't seen something like this in years," said Rabbi Daniel Wasserman of Congregation Shaare Torah. "Effort was expended to see that everyone could sit down and enjoy each other's company."

The festival demonstrates that all types of exotic and ethnic cuisine can be prepared in accordance with Jewish dietary laws, even though some modifications may be necessary.

For instance, traditional Jews do not mix meat and dairy products, so meat recipes that call for dairy ingredients must be made with dairy substitutes, such as tofu. In addition, pork and shellfish are forbidden by Jewish law. Those ingredients can be approximated by seasoning kosher beef or fish to taste like the forbidden foods.

Part of Schwarcz's conception of the food festival is to prove that keeping kosher doesn't have to mean missing out on fine dining.

"There's no reason a Jewish food fest can't be kosher," said Wasserman. "Jews have lived everywhere and kept kosher everywhere."

The seven participating congregations plan to present the food of five different countries. This year, the selection is set to include food from Italy, Mexico, Morocco, Thailand and the southern United States.

Because of its popularity, the event has been moved from a synagogue social hall to the Jewish Community Center on Forbes Avenue. Schwarcz said some people had to be turned away last year for lack of space and hopes that can be avoided this year.

The community center has a large social hall, which Schwarcz said can hold a larger crowd. In addition, patrons can choose to attend the festival at lunch time or supper time. Lunch will be available from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Supper will be served from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Tickets cost the same for both -- $15 for adults, $8 for children and seniors. Advance reservations are available at discounted prices.

For the admission, patrons will receive a set of tickets to purchase individual portions of food.

Related Recipe:

Green Rice

For more information about the Kosher Food Festival, call Marilyn Swedarsky at 412-422-4515.

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