Jewish Cooking in America

Joan Nathan, Author Alfred A. Knopf $35 (463p) ISBN 978-0-394-58405-8
You don't have to be Jewish to like the latest entry in the Knopf Cooks American series. You don't even have to like Jewish cooking. A food-lover's guide to Jewish American history and culture, it dishes up not just recipes but appetizing anecdotes, insights about various forms of religious observance and how they have been affected by transplantation to the New World, even a few jokes. Nathan ( Jewish Holiday Kitchen ), a skillful writer and an energetic researcher, evokes the greenhorn's astonishment at the plentitude of oranges; documents the ``revolution'' in kosher cooking inspired by the introduction of vegetable shortening in the '10s; explains how enterprising Jewish admen convinced various food manufacturers to tailor their products for kosher consumers; calls on Southern families who replace the walnuts and almonds of Eastern European cookery with pecans, and visits Maine cooks who prepare mock lobster salad. Her focus is expansive, covering not just standard Ashkenazic and Sephardic dishes and traditions but foods and customs from Bukhara, Salonika, Israel and Georgia as well as original Jewish American hybrids. The recipes themselves, clearly outlined if not always easy to execute, constitute something of a Jewish culinary hall-of-fame, with faithfully preserved instructions for homemade bagels and pickled herring, Lindy's cheesecake and contributions from chic restaurateurs (Wolfgang Puck, Anne Rosenzweig). Illustrations not seen by PW. BOMC alternate, HomeStyle Book Club alternate. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/28/1994
Release date: 03/01/1994
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