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July 11, 2003 - Image 70

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2003-07-11

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n Shabbat, Slav 17,
Young Israel of Oak Park
emitted the husky-sweet
aroma of cholent, a stew
that traces its origins to ancient days.
The occasion: a competition to find
Detroit's best cholent chef.
Although 200 participants spent
the better part of the afternoon
debating the merits of one stew
over another, the winner emerged
— the Motor City Cholent by
Dennis Yashinsky. No one knows
exactly what makes his stew so
special, except that he sautees
onions before throwing them in the
Because the Torah forbids cook-
ing on the Sabbath (Exodus 35:3),
a devout sect of Jews at the time of
the second temple ate something
hot on Shabbat out of respect for
the Oral Law. (They opposed a
group who ignored the Oral Law).
Although it's forbidden to light a
fire on Shabbat, it's OK to use one
that started before sundown. A
cholent starts cooking on Friday
and continues, today in crock pots
or ovens, until Saturday lunch.
The idea for the competition
came from Lisa Winer, a twen-
tysomething YIOP member.
Inspired by the Food Network TV
show, "The Iron Chef," Winer
approached Rabbi Reuven Spolter
about hosting a program called
"The Iron Blech." (A blech is a
secondary heating device that
allows Jews to warm food on
Shabbat without violating laws.)
Winer, an assistant attorney gen-
eral, convened a committee,
including Yeshivat Akiva teacher
Beth Raz and psychology student
Bellischa Mendelsohn.
"We wanted to taste good food,
and we wanted it to be fun," says
The competition was then
opened to the community. Chefs
had to prepare a kosher cholent;
Rabbi Spolter checked ingredients
before they went into the seven-
quart crock pots that the shul pro-

1 8 • JULY 2003 • STYLE AT THE JN

Jason Roskind and
Rabbi Reuven Spol r

Meir Schochet
and his mom,
Abbey Schochet.

Jennifer Stiber and
Lisa Winer

chickpeas, in addition to the stan-
dard meat and potatoes. German
cholents are soupy, and nowadays
some health-conscious chefs make
cholents of chicken and grains.
Seven of the 12 chefs were men,
which is representative of the
many men who make cholent
weekly. The reason, says Rabbi
Spolter, is that "cholent is a man's

food! It's meat and potatoes." Also,
it's easy — a chef can throw in vir-
tually any ingredient and run a
good chance of not messing up.
"Cholent is ingrained in our his-
tory," says Mendelsohn. "My
father's mother used to make it in
the ground to keep it warm. We're
connecting to our past through this

'sa t

Cholent committee: Bellischa Mendelsohn, Ida Kleid, Estelle Gelberman,

Rebecca Feldman, Lisa Winer, Jennifer Stiber, Mintzi Schramm, Beth Raz

Lunch attendees sampled salads
and kugels along with cupfuls of
cholent. Most were meat-based,
but one featured chicken and
grains and another was vegetarian.
Cholents carry the characteristics
of their communities of origin.
Sephardic cholents (called
chamim) contain prunes, eggs and

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