Weekly Reader Bon appétit!

November 21, 2021

Art, literature, history . . . these emails are often pretty high-minded. But as we all know, our connections to culture and heritage are often much more visceral. In particular, they have a lot to do with what we eat. As Proust memorably wrote, nothing can bring back memories of times past quite like a bite of some childhood food. For him it was a madeleine; for us it might be chicken soup with kreplach. And nothing gives you an appetite for some good, old-fashioned Ashkenazi cuisine quite like a day in the archives. Bon appétit!

Ezra Glinter

Eating the Archives

The Yiddish Book Center’s collections are—as our name implies—mostly books. But every so often something else turns up. Mikhl Yashinsky stumbled across a brown paper bag full of recipe clippings, in both Yiddish and English. He started wondering what the life of such a recipe collector might have been like and what those recipes might have tasted like. After some research, he had answers to both questions.

Read Mikhl’s essay

Everything Old is New Again

Today, a new generation of chefs, restaurateurs, and purveyors are keeping up with—or building upon—Jewish culinary tradition. Some are reinterpreting their own childhood memories; others are exploring the less familiar recipes of the Jewish eastern Mediterranean. Whatever their inspiration, they are finding a through-line of culture that links the food they eat to the history of their people. Julie Michaels visits six New York restaurants, a bakery, and two appetizer shops to show us how these traditions are playing out in the ever-evolving story of Jewish food.

Read about Michaels’ exploration of new Jewish food

Read about the best rye bread Michaels ever tasted

A Highly Debatable List

On this episode of The Shmooze podcast, Lisa Newman speaks with Alana Newhouse, founder and editor of Tablet Magazine, about her book The 100 Most Jewish Foods: A Highly Debatable List. Newhouse speaks powerfully to the role that food has always played in the religious, cultural, and political lives of Jews throughout the world. She also shares some background on the book’s essays, recipes, stories, and contributors, who include Ruth Reichl, Joan Nathan, Michael Solomonov, Yotam Ottolenghi, Tom Colicchio, and Maira Kalman, among others.

Listen to Alana Newhouse on The 100 Most Jewish Foods

Jewish Soul Food

When is a deli more than just a deli? In this oral history interview, Jack Lebewohl, owner of 2nd Ave. Deli in New York City, describes the special relationship his restaurant has with its clientele.

Watch the oral history excerpt