As a Black and Jewish educator with Ashkenazi ancestry, Raven Schwam-Curtis has a rich heritage. We chatted with the PhD student and content creator behind @ravenreveals, who dished on her love of Black southern cuisine as well as traditional Ashkenazi recipes — all with a healthy dose of good humour. In keeping with her ever-relatable POV, Raven recognizes the solemnity of the high holy days of Passover, while imbuing them with the cosy warmth of family and tradition.
How does your heritage influence your homecooking?
Black southern cuisine and traditional Ashkenazi foods are regular staples in my diet. Every time I eat one of my cultural dishes, it makes me feel connected to my family and our ancestors. There’s something so precious about that! It’s a warm, fuzzy feeling. Eating food from home unearths feelings of safety and love.
What does Passover represent and mean to you?
Passover marks a pivotal moment for the Jewish people: It represents our escape from enslavement. It is a holiday wherein we remember both the suffering of our ancestors and rejoice for their freedom. Sadness and joy permeate the day.
Is there a favourite memory you have of learning to cook?
My godfather taught me how to make matzo ball soup when I was a little kid. He was really one of the few people in my world growing up that offered me a lifeline to my Jewish heritage. I have always been immensely grateful to him for that. Consequently, matzo ball soup always evokes fond memories.
What are some of your other favourite dishes?
Oooh, I love making my grandpa’s famous cornbread pie! Growing up, I spent a lot of time with my grandparents, and one of my favorite things to do was to sit in the kitchen and chat with my grandpa while he was cooking. My grandpa (Daddypapa) has an archive of stories that he imparts to me when we have these moments. I really cherish them.
Do you have any funny or memorable stories involving cooking?
When I was putting the butter in the Always Pan, I used the small Our Place knife to scoop the butter out of the container. All my other knives are pretty dull, so I didn’t realize the knife was sharp enough to cut through the plastic container and, consequently, my hand! Don’t worry, it was a pretty shallow cut and relatively painless. But I really am a klutz (haha)!