Thursday, December 9, 2010

Best Tool in the Kitchen

For our wedding Josh and I received many cookbooks. Considering I am new to cooking, these books are a huge help. Unlike Josh who likes to cook on the fly, make up his own recipes, and just follow his instincts, I prefer measurements, instructions, and a neatly laid out process to ensure that the food I am making will come out just right. Not a meal goes by that I do not refer to at least 1 cookbook for help. Luckily, I have plenty to choose from.

Although I now have many wonderful cookbooks full of amazing options, the ones I use the most are the kosher cookbooks. When Josh and I got married, the only exposure I had to keeping kosher was at camp where the food was prepared for us. It is not that kosher cooking is so much different than regular cooking, but sometimes the ingredients or the process are different. These books have really taken a lot of the guesswork out of it for me and allowed me to confidently help prepare many meals, especially for the holidays. Holiday cooking and baking has its own set of flair, which I am working hard to learn. These cookbooks make it easy for me to get up to speed.

But of all of our many cookbooks, none is more helpful than The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden.

This book was given to us by Josh's my cousin Margaret (and her family) who own Ten Apple Farm. And when it comes to cooking and baking, she is an expert.

What is so wonderful about this book for me is that it is much more than a cookbook. It is an actual book that takes a deep look into the history of the Jewish people, the two separate cultures of Ashkenazi and Sephardi, and talks candidly about the Americanization of Judaism. It explains the journey of the Jewish people and our culture through food. It not only tells you how to make traditional cuisine, but where it came from and why it is so important to a holiday meal. Although the recipes are delicious, for me, the story and the history is the real gem of this book.

The most interesting thing I learned from The Book of Jewish Food is about bread. Bread, more specifically challah, is the most important piece to any traditional Jewish meal...or at least I thought so. It turns out that for Ashkenazi Jews like me and Josh, this is true.

But for Sephardic Jews, the traditional bread portion of the meal is not challah but more of a flat bread or pita. The real difference in the types of bread served at meals has everything to do with the part of the world where the two groups are from and nothing to do with the significance of the bread itself. This, to me, is a thousand times more fascinating than anything I can dig up in a cookbook.


Claudia Roden has given me 2 great gifts. The gift of cooking a very traditional Jewish meal (which my mom had already started teaching me), and the much larger gift of actually understanding and appreciating where the traditions came from and why they are so important to carry on.


  1. I need to find that cookbook! (I'm not Jewish, but wish I was :) ) And would love to learn more about the traditions behind the food!

  2. I am with you Emily. I am not Jewish either but wish I were, one day I hope! I have some Jewish cookbooks and enjoy the recipes, celebrating the holidays, and attending Shabbat services at times. Learning the traditions is fun.

  3. If you are interested, I highly recommend this cookbook. It has amazing recipes and is great with the explanations. Thanks for reading!