Recipe Roots: Vancouver > Ventura, California > San Francisco
Growing up in 1980s California, Evan Bloom’s idea of Jewish food wasn’t limited to the Ashkenazi culinary canon of his family’s roots. There was brisket on the family table, of course, kugel, matzo brei, and trips to delis in Los Angeles that seeded his love of pastrami and rye. But the idea of Jewish flavors and dishes extended beyond the common canon.
“Salmon is just as Jewish to me,” Evan, who co-owns Wise Sons explains. “My mom was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, where salmon is, er, king. We ate salmon like Americans eat chicken: all the time,” he writes in the new cookbook Eat Something: A Wise Sons Book for Jews Who Like Food and Food Lovers Who Like Jews.
Evan’s mother Linda would poach salmon in the oven or wrap it in foil and poach it in the backyard on the grill — always gas, never charcoal. “We’re Jews,” Evan laughs. “It’s more convenient. It’s that idea that 365 days a year, you can pop out to the patio and throw something on the grill.”
The salmon in the Bloom family is finished with sliced lemons and dill — a task Evan helped with before he was old enough to cook. To Evan, that was Jewish, “especially with those flavors,” he adds.
The family’s love of salmon comes from his mother’s roots in Canada, he says. After leaving Czarist Russia to come to North America, Evan’s great-grandparents settled in rural Saskatchewan where Evan’s grandmother was raised as one of nine children. Later, she moved to Vancouver, where Evan’s aunt and cousins still live. “Whenever we would go visit, this was a dish we found on the table,” Evan adds.
Today, the dish is in regular rotation in Evan’s home in the Bay Area. He often makes extra so he can use the leftover fish, as his mom did when he was growing up, to make salmon burgers, salmon salad, or as the topping for a bagel. His father Stuart would also take advantage of leftovers, taking the skin of the salmon and crisping it in the toaster oven for a snack.
Creatively using leftovers is a hallmark of the Bloom family kitchens. “My mom used the word — I think it’s Yiddish — ungepatchke[t],” Evan says. “Very few things she made were the same every time. It was a little of this, a little of that. Whatever was in the fridge became something else. And that’s how I work at home now.”
To us, that too feels Jewish.
Editor’s Note: Evan’s recipe for homemade pastrami — and the story of how he came to own a deli — is also part of our archive. Check it out here.