Quick & Kosher Glossary

 

Tchotchkes

 

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(Yiddish) knickknacks, the stuff your husband or wife has covering every bit of counter space, so there’s nowhere to set down the mail or your keys.


 

Tahini

 

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(Arabic) Middle Eastern sesame paste dip. Like hummus, it’s a standard Israeli dip, one that Americans have come to know and love (but can never quite replicate, unless they follow the instructions in this book).


 

Tam

 

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(Hebrew) Literally taste, such as “tam Gan Eden — ahh, the taste of the Garden of Eden” but the connotations also can be deadly. If you bring home a a new dress, and your friend yawns,”it has no tam” — it goes back to the store! Anything can have tam, or disastrously, no tam.


 

Yeshivas

 

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(Hebrew) Plural of yeshiva, a school dedicated to teaching Jewish religion, culture and pride to the next generation of Jews. It’s the place most BTs didn’t go as children, and wish they had.


 

Yom Tov

 

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(Hebrew) Literally a “Good Day,” a generic term for Jewish holidays. It’s a time to pull out all the stops when it comes to your menu.


 

Yuntif

 

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(Yiddishization of Yom Tov) It’s a form of Old World slang used even by people whose only Yiddish consists of naming the parts of a chicken. They will greet each other in the street (whether or not they’re actually acquainted) during a Jewish festival with a smile and a nod and a “Goot Yuntif!”


 

B’tayavon

 

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(Hebrew) What you say when you walk into someone’s house and interrupt their dinner; loosely translated into plain English, “bon appetit.”


 

Baalas Teshuvah

 

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(Hebrew) One who was not raised Orthodox, but who explored Jewish religion and culture, and as a result took on religious observance. This is the feminine construction of the term. A male would be referred to as a baal teshuvah. There are so many people who are BTs today that it has become a vibrant sub-culture of Orthodoxy.


 

Bubby

 

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(Yiddish) Nanny, Grammy, Grandma—the woman with the soft wrinkles and soft arms, candy in her pocket and a tissue up her sleeve, hugging you and telling you it will all be okay. A bubby’s chicken soup has serious healing powers.


 

Balabusta

 

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(Yiddish) The perfect homemaker. She cooks, she cleans, she bakes, she owns the best spice rack. And she does it all with grace, donating her spare time to local charities. To show you how low the bar was for me, when I successfully microwaved dinner without setting off the smoke alarm, my dad proudly called me ‘a real balabusta!”


 

Blech

 

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(Yiddish) Not a term of disgust, though it sounds like one! It’s just a metal stovetop cover used on Shabbos to keep cooked foods warm.


 

Challah

 

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(Hebrew) Perhaps the most delicious bread in the world. It’s almost a cake, and has the calories to prove it. It’s the traditional bread of Shabbos and Jewish holidays. Yes, it can put 10 pounds on you in a flash—but it’s so good, who cares?


 

Chulent

 

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(Yiddish) (Yiddish) The slowest cooking beef and bean stew in existence. You start it before Shabbos and it simmers all night until it’s served the next day. Its rich aroma fills the house.  The Yiddish term comes from the French word for warm, chaud, as chulent was developed as a means of putting piping hot food on the table in honor of Shabbos.

In non-Yiddish-speaking countries, Sephardic Jews call this dish chamin, which means the same thing.


 

Chutzpah

 

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(Yiddish) Unbelievable gall. The classic example is the man who murders both his parents and then pleads for mercy from the court—because he’s an orphan!


 

Hummus

 

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(Arabic) Only the best Middle Eastern chickpea dip ever. But you obviously see why we need an exotic name for it. Who would try it if it were just called ‘chickpea dip”?


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