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    Elena Kagan, the Supreme Court, Jews, Chinese Restaurants, and Christmas

    By Jennifer 8. Lee | June 29, 2010

    There was an fun exchange about Chinese restaurants in today’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing of Elena Kagan, whose mom was my fifth grade teacher and whose brother taught in my high school.

    SEN. GRAHAM: And I think you would tell me if you thought he was wrong. So I’m going to assume you thought he was right, because that’s the kind of person you are. And I, quite frankly, think he’s right.

    Now, as we move forward and deal with law-of-war issues, the Christmas Day bomber — where are you at on Christmas Day?

    MS. KAGAN: Senator Graham, that is an undecided legal issue, which — well, I suppose I should ask exactly what you mean by that. I’m assuming that the question you mean is whether a person who is apprehended in the United States is –

    SEN. GRAHAM: No, I just asked you where you were at on Christmas? (Laughter.)

    MS. KAGAN: (Laughs.) You know, like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant. (Laughter, applause.)

    SEN. GRAHAM: Great answer. Great answer.

    SEN. LEAHY: You know, I could almost — I could almost see that was coming. (Laughter.)

    SEN. GRAHAM: Me too. So you were celebrating –

    SEN. LEAHY: Senator Schumer explained this to me earlier.

    SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah, he did.

    SEN. SCHUMER: No other restaurants are open.

    SEN. GRAHAM: Right. You were with your family on Christmas day at a Chinese restaurant — okay.

    MS. KAGAN: Yes, sir.

    SEN. GRAHAM: That’s great. That’s what Chanukah and Christmas is all about. (Laughter.)

    Love that the Jews’ love affair with Chinese food is now part of the Congressional record. My chapter, Why is Chow Mein the Chosen Food of the Chosen People has been excerpted for a project about Jews and mahjongg.

    It’s an endlessly fascinating topic, and the topic of a Night Before Christmas parody as well as academic papers, including this one called “Safe Treyf” [pdf] and another by Hannah Miller. This is why I went on the Jewish book circuit.

    This exchange has been noted by The New York Times, The Atlantic, Politico, Bloomberg, The Huffington Post, among others. Arguably, this will go down in the canon of famous lines from Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

    As to why Jews love Chinese food? My post on pastrami egg rolls highlights some of the reasons.

    Key to remember it’s largely an American Jewish phenomenon. Chinese restaurants are not noticeably popular in Israel for example.

    Thanks to Charlie Savage for sending me the transcript.

    Topics: Jews & Chinese Food | No Comments »

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