The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York

Claudia Roden, Author
Claudia Roden, Author Knopf Publishing Group $40 (688p) ISBN 978-0-394-53258-5
Reviewed on: 11/25/1996
Release date: 11/01/1996
Paperback - 592 pages - 978-0-14-046609-6
Hardcover - 978-0-670-88298-4
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As the biblical echo of the title indicates, this collection is as instructive and comprehensive as a textbook. Roden (Mediterranean Cookery, etc.) divides the territory in two parts: ""The Ashkenazi World"" and ""The Sephardi World."" She chronicles the lives of Jews all over the world in short segments on unusual Jewish communities past and present, such as those of Salonika, Greece, and China. These sections, and the many other notes on subjects ranging from the New York Deli to salt herring are gems. Recipes are numerous and diverse: Yellow Split Pea Soup with Frankfurters, Pumpkin Tzimmes, Small Red Kidney Beans with Sour Plum Sauce, Cold Stuffed Vine Leaves, and Fish Balls in Tomato Sauce. Some highlights include the chapter on Sephardic breads (Algerian Anise Bread, North African Sweet Breads with Nuts and Raisins) and the one on Ashkenazic desserts (Mandelbrot, Hanukah Jam Doughnuts). All of this can be a little overwhelming at times (and, as Roden acknowledges in the introduction, many Jewish foods simply reflected the cuisines of the places where Jews were living rather than their own specific culture). Yet with few omissions (e.g., the instructions for making pasta specify rolling out the dough ""as thin as possible"" but don't explain how), Roden proves a practiced, reliable guide. (Dec.)
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