| NEW YORK
NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - For Judy Bart Kancigor writing a
cookbook was a labor of love as well as a trip back to her
childhood and the aromas and tastes she grew up with.
Although it is packed with 532 recipes and hundreds of
photographs, "Cooking Jewish," which includes more than 160
stories, is also the history of the Rabinowitz family and the
foods they love to eat.
"It has been a four and a half year nostalgia trip," said
Kancigor of the time it took her to compile the recipes
contributed by 300 members of her extended family.
Whether it is a recipe for Rugelach, Potato Knishes, Gramma
Sera Fritkin's Russian Brisket or Aunt Shirley's Chicken Stupid
every recipe has a history.
Kancigor spoke to Reuters about why she took on the project
and how she hopes it will inspire other families to record the
recipes of their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins before
they are lost forever.
Q: What inspired you to write the book?
A: "This came out of a self-publish book that I had done
before. It was supposed to be just for my family. At the time
my aunts were starting to die off and we were expecting our
first grandchild. That's when it hit me -- that one generation
was leaving and another generation was coming.
"I wanted to make sure my coming grandchild knew the
stories and history of my family, especially the fabulous food.
I wrote a letter to my relatives asking for recipes and stories
and before I knew it in-laws of in-laws begged to be in this
Q: So it is much more than a just a cookbook.
A: "It really is. If you actually read this book, you will
know my family when you get done."
Q: What is so special about some of the recipes?
A: "They come from all over. The contributors range in age
from four to 94. All kinds of cuisines are represented. I
wanted to make sure that all the old Jewish bases were covered.
There are a lots of old Jewish recipes that nobody even makes
anymore, and probably wouldn't. But a recipe is like an
historical document and I wanted my grandchildren, I have four
to them now, to see how people lived ... When you look at the
recipes you realize what people ate and when."
Q: Was it an emotional experience putting the book
A: "Definitely. Over the period of time I was working on
the book seven family members died. Most of my aunts never got
to see the finished product.
Q: What are some of your favorite recipes and stories in
A: "Of course, we have to say my mother's chicken soup
really is the best. There is great controversy about that
because all my cousins said their mother's soup is the best. As
I say in my book, 'When you write your cookbook, you can say
your mother's soup is the best'. But my mother's really is
because she packs a whole produce market into this soup."
Q: And your favorite story?
A: "It has to be the story of my grandfather coming to
America ... In 1906 he was drafted in the czar's army. For
Jewish boys at that time conscription was 25 years. So Papa
Harry was having none of that. He used to love to tell us --
'The czar put Papa Harry on a horse and the czar went this way
and Papa Harry went that way."'
Q: What is the secret of Jewish food? Is it the
ingredients, or the love and the care put into it?
A: "Probably all of the above...I tell people you don't
have to be Jewish to cook Jewish -- to cook with your heart and
your soul. For me, every recipe tells a story, every recipe has
Malaysian Latkes - makes 16 latkes
cup chopped unsalted cashews or peanuts
cup chopped mint or flat-leaf parsley, or a combination
cup finely chopped red bell pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped jalapeno pepper, seeded and
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1- to 2 teaspoons kosher (coarse) salt, or to taste 1
teaspoon curry powder
2 large eggs, beaten
2 large baking potatoes (12 ounces each), cut into wedges
1 medium-size onion, coarsely chopped
cup all-purpose flour
Vegetable oil, for frying
1. Combine the cashews, mint, bell pepper, jalapeño,
ginger, salt, curry powder, and eggs in a large bowl, and mix
well. Set it aside.
2. Shred the potatoes and onion together in a food
processor fitted with the shredding disk. Squeeze the
potato/onion mixture between several changes of paper towels to
release as much liquid as possible. Add the potato/onion
mixture to the egg mixture, and combine well. Stir in the
3. Pour enough oil into a large, heavy skillet to cover the
bottom, and heat it over medium-high heat. When the oil is
quite hot but not smoking, add a scant cup batter per latke
and flatten them with a fork. Fry only as many latkes as will
fit in the skillet without crowding. Cook on one side until
crisp and brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn over and cook until the
other side is crisp and brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the
latkes to paper towels to drain. Keep the latkes warm while
frying the remainder. Serve immediately
(Editing by Miral Fahmy)