"You don't have to be Jewish" appears in bold type beneath a smiling, non-Jewish face -that of an Irish cop, an oriental, or a black. The poster, a favorite of New York subway riders, advertises Jewish rye bread while asserting a basic truth about our multicultured eating habits. Americans, of all backgrounds, prepare and consume a varied mélange of dishes, snacks, and sweets that encompass the myriad of traditions brought by settlers, recently arrived and long established.
The fact is, the preparation of food is frequently the most persistent of cultural traits, lasting among the descendants of immigrants long after language, song, dance, religious and secular rituals have been eradicated or thoroughly diluted.
Although many traditional foods are homemade, others are prepared for a community by professional cooks and bakers. Just as folk communities have had their blacksmiths, basket-makers, bards, and professional musicians to play for weddings and feast days, medicine shows, and juke joints, they also have their culinary specialists.