cover image The Jewish-American Kitchen

The Jewish-American Kitchen

Raymond Sokolov. Stewart, Tabori, & Chang, $35 (191pp) ISBN 978-1-55670-096-5

``What is Jewish food?'' asks Sokolov. ``It boils down to having a Jewish mother.'' Regardless of nationality or background, however, readers will take delight in thumbing through this beautiful, illustrated volume. Down-to-earth, witty and knowledgeable, Sokolov ( Fading Feast: A Compendium of Disappearing American Regional Foods ; The Saucier's Apprentice ) considers the traditional fare of American Jews of Ashkenazic ancestry in 135 simply written recipes and accompanying essays. ``A roast chicken encourages getting distracted by other anxieties, because it just sits there in the oven like a lox, roasting,'' he observes. On latkes: ``Some like them small and crisp . . . others batten militantly on big, more potato-y pancakes.'' The author offers two versions of chicken soup, promising that either ``cures all illnesses,'' and fails to quail before the prospect of innards--though, unveiling a recipe for helzel (stuffed goose neck), he acknowledges, ``I know. It sounds weird and excessively ethnic.'' Sokolov credits East European immigrant matriarchs for developing an American cuisine that evolved from Jewish life in the old country: ``Out of their memory of that world, they created food that was like the old food, but food that was also feasible in America.'' Chapters range from appetizers to meats, noodles, vegetables and pastries, concluding with a recipe for the ubiquitous egg cream (``Don't ask how this folkloric beverage of the New York streets got its grandiloquent name''). Wallach's full-color photographs reveal irresistible culinary landscapes, from the amber acres of kugel to a panorama of raw materials. (Sept.)