Long ago, a few Jewish foods made themselves an indispensable part of the way Americans eat. So thorough was their assimilation that their popularity swiftly overshadowed their cultural origins. (These days, who thinks "Jewish" when they reach for their bagel and schmear?) In recognition of these culinary superstars, Moment editors put their tastebuds to work to come up with a list of their favorite Jewish-American foods. We're willing to bet you eat them more often than apple pie.--Rachel E. Gross
1 THE BAGEL
In 1956, The New York Times struggled to explain these mysterious rounds, settling on "a doughnut with rigor mortis." Today, the bagel needs no explanation. Its popularity has proved as eternal as its circular shape, making it America's most popular breakfast bread and spawning such abominations as blueberry bagels. Many Americans aren't aware that the bagel is Jewish, or that the word comes from the Yiddish bei gen, "to bend." All they know is that they need one for breakfast, toasted.
Sunday brunch in 1930s New York meant a plate of Eggs Benedict--but not if you kept kosher. Jews came up with an ingenious alternative, replacing ham with lox, hollandaise with cream cheese, and an English muffin with a bagel. And voila, an American classic was born. Now you can find lox--or more often smoked salmon, which is cooked through rather than cured in brine--on crepes, in sushi, and even at Starbucks.
Your Jewish mother was right: Scientists from Tel Aviv University's Sackler School of Medicine recently confirmed that chicken soup is indeed medicinal, unclogging stuffy noses and preventing inflammation. But no further evidence is needed that the "Jewish penicillin" has become a universal symbol of comfort, nourishment and mothers the world over. Often served with egg noodles, kreplach or plump matzo balls, the soothing brew has become a national cold cure.
3 CHICKEN SOUP
First we fried them in honor of the Hanukkah miracle, in which a little cruse of oil lasted a whopping eight days. Then we kept frying them, because they also turned out to be miraculously tasty. By tapping into the same potato-oil combo that gave us French fries and potato chips, latkes proved too addictive to be contained to the holiday season. Today the "little oilies" aren't just hot, they're haute: Fine-dining establishments serve them made with everything from zucchini to butternut squash, garnished with creme fraiche, wasabi and caviar.
5 CORNED BEEF ON...