Feeding Women of the Talmud, Feeding Ourselves: Uplifting the Voices of Talmudic Heroines and Honoring Them with Simple, Vegan Recipes

Kenden Alfond. Turner, $37.99 (382p) ISBN 978-1-68442-700-0

In this enlightening if dense work, Alfond, founder of the Jewish Food Hero cooking blog, pays homage to 69 women from the Talmud, a book of ancient teachings on Jewish law and tradition, with a diverse collection of mostly vegan recipes. Gathered from 129 Jewish women from around the globe, dishes run the gamut from Persian eggplants in walnut sauce to corn latkes with mango salsa. Unfortunately, the multitude of voices feels dizzying. Each chapter features the Talmudic story of a woman, commentary, discussion questions, and a recipe inspired by the story that proceeded it. Questions that follow the story of Bruriah, a second-century CE scholar, for example, invite reflection on gender discrimination, while the accompanying recipe for sourdough focaccia features an “acidity... reminiscent of Bruriah’s struggle.” A variation on millionaire’s shortbread, made with maple syrup and dried figs, is served alongside the story of Bat Abba Surah, whose father arranged for her financial independence after marriage. Several recipes are touted as medicinal: One herbal tea is offered to replenish the nutrients lost after a miscarriage, while a recipe inspired by the story of Likhlukhit—whose husband tried to leave her because of her ugliness—offers a “non-edible skin cleanser and hair rinse” that “would have helped Likhlukhit[’s]... straw-like hair.” Though well-meaning, this is unlikely to appeal outside of the observant Jewish community. (June)
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