A New First – Cookbook Reviews

As usual, it’s been really a long time since I’ve written here. Life has been crazy. Crasily great that is! Thank Gd! For the first time in a very long time, I have been happy day after day! It is my sincere thanks that I address to HaShem, Gd Almighty for all the blessings He showered my way lately.

The little guy has just turned four months! Four incredible months that I have been privileged to witness this tiny human being grow and change every day. I only wish I was able to see that with my own girls when I was in college, and then crazy busy working and running around, and frankly, I wish I was more mindful of that precious time. However, I was just 19 when my older daughter was born, so I am not criticizing myself too much. I guess I did all right, if she grew up into a PhD, right?

I’ve spent the last academic year learning every day, and teaching most nights. This is as challenging as it is rewarding, and I am happy to say, I am not planning to stop. However, I’ve decided, after speaking with some of my students/readers, to embark on a new small project. I have lots of cookbooks. Most of them are kosher cookbooks. I decided to profile a cookbook a week, not based on the recipes, but mostly, on my overall feel of them.

So, let’s see where this journey brings us, shall we?

I thought I would start with a couple of books paying tribute to late Gil Marks z’l. I was privileged to have met Gil a couple of years before he made aliyah and we kept a little bit of a correspondence until his untimely passing. No wonder his most fabulous book is called “Encyclopedia of Jewish Food”. The man really was a walking food encyclopedia. However, unlike the book on your shelf, he was an open one. I remember dining with him and a friend of mine, when he would tell a story about every dish that was served. He had a food/religion blog, where he managed to bring food into every Parsha of the Chumash.

So, I felt it would be fitting to start with this amazing book – Encyclopedia of Jewish Food. Yes, it is as big as any encyclopedia would be. Yes, it is pricey – my cover says $40, and while I thought one could buy it cheaper somewhere, looks like the price has gone up a lot since Gil has passed, but it is SO WORTH it if you like to know where your new recipe came from or when and where a particular ingredient made its way into your ancestral cooking.

This is not one of those books where you have five pictures step-by-step for one dish. There are no colorful photos, but plenty of maps showing the ways different food items travelled through the world, and scenic historic pictures of everything food related in the communal life of the Jews throughout the world.

This book has every place, every ingredient, every food-related tradition mentioned.

Some entries are very long – like the one for ‘potato’ spanning almost three pages, or the one for a ‘wedding’, some – short, like ‘Sabzi’, which is just a “Farsi word for herbs”, and is mentioned in connection with a “distinctive feature of Persian cuisine” being a mixture of herbs that are introduced into many dishes – something I heard by now from my Persian son-in-law.

Most of the recipes will have at least one, and sometimes many variations depending which area the dish is/was popular in. Take a look at the Strudel!

If you have children and they are into cooking, I think this is the best book to make special destination cooking parties – you will find all you need in this book – what? where? how? What a fun way to learn about traditions and food!

If you are like me, and love to read amazing food-related information – this is the first book to have in your collection. You will love it!

I will talk about other Gil’s books in the future, but I hope this was a good start.


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