This New Digital Series Is a Love Letter to Mexican-Jewish Culture

In "Eitan Explores: Mexico City," celebrity chef Eitan Bernath reminds us that Jewish food and flavor spans wherever Jews are in the world.

“The history of Jews in Mexico is as old as the history of Mexico itself,” Mexican Jewish writer Ces Heredia wrote in Hey Alma in 2021. “Our culture is a rich, complex mixture of Catholic and Jewish religious traditions, different indigenous festivities and little bits and pieces we’ve taken from all around the world.”

She adds, “We’ve been here from the start and we’re here to stay.”

Now, Jewish celebrity chef Eitan Bernath is shining a light on that culture, in his new digital series, “Eitan Explores: Mexico City.” The series is comprised of seven bite-sized episodes — each is approximately two minutes long and are/will be available to stream on Bernath’s Instagram page. “I think a lot of people think Jews live in New York, California and Israel,” Bernath says in the show. “But there’s Jews all over the world. And so I wanted to come to Mexico to learn about Mexican Jews and their food.”

In the first episode, Bernath meets up with Mexican Jewish chef Estrella Jafif at a local market. Together, the pair walk around grabbing ingredients for Shabbat dinner. The menu? They will be making a Lebanese lemon and potato soup called hamud. (The recipe comes from Jafif’s grandmother, who brought the recipe from Lebanon and adapted with Mexican ingredients.) But first, snacks! Bernath and Jafif try fresh Mexican produce like mamey and products like Oaxacan cheese.

Later, in the second episode, the cooks get to work in the kitchen. In between shots of tequila and preparing the stew, chef Jafif explains that in Mexico City, Jewish families like hers do a pre-Shabbat sobremesa. Meaning, they have a large lunch before Shabbat begins and then lounge, chat and spend time together until it’s time to light the Shabbat candles. At Jafif’s mother’s apartment, they do just that, feasting on a meal of the hamud, eggplant cooked in a tangy taramind sauce and vegetables stuffed with beef and rice.

Photo courtesy of Eitan Productions

The rest of the episodes will premiere over the course of the next four days (with the third episode debuting today), and promise an exciting itinerary. Eitan will explore Mexican street food in the Jewish community, Mexico City’s oldest synagogue, Justo Sierra, a dish called Gefilte Fish a la Veracruzana, Jewish-owned restaurant Niddo, and Xochimilco, an ecological preserve that grows organic produce via ancient Aztec floating farming systems.

In total, the show is a love letter to and well-deserved recognition of Mexican-Jewish cuisine, educating the viewer that Jewish food and Jewish flavor spans wherever Jews are in the world. Notably, the title of the show “Eitan Explores” hints at the possibility of future digital series across the globe. If that’s the case, I can’t wait to see what vibrant, under-appreciated cuisine of the Jewish diaspora he will celebrate next.

Evelyn Frick

Evelyn Frick (she/they) is a writer and associate editor at Hey Alma. She graduated from Vassar College in 2019 with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature. In her spare time, she's a comedian and contributor for Reductress and The Onion.

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