Chulent, cholent, hamin, dofina, shkhina… All are slow-cooked stew, traditionally eaten on Shabbos. All can be made simply or not, and all – in my opinion, at least – taste better the less they resemble a cooked salad and the more they resemble a shapeless, nondescript, pot of sludge. Sure, there will always be those who insist on their secret recipe (pssst: it’s beer/bbq sauce/wine/chocolate/more bones/less barley/soy sauce/baked beans) and of course those who fish around for potatoes or a nice chunk of flanken, but a good chulent is a good chulent no matter what lands in your bowl.
And maybe therein lies the secret of the chulent: We Jews aren’t one stereotype. Among the different backgrounds and traditions (and the many without a particular tradition) there are myriad characteristics, personalities, and (flavor) profiles. As we mingle and share of our own unique elements and flavor with the group, we may sacrifice some of our uniqueness as we contribute to a more palatable whole. The most flavorful ingredient (the spices), or the most valuable ingredient (the meat) wouldn’t taste good alone. As they sit together and stew and even shvitz a little with the others in the pot, they gain as much as and even more than they contribute.