I asked those who write about, photograph, cook and sell tribe-inspired cuisine about what to read if you’re interested in Jewish food. Check out the previous two posts in this series (“Mollie Katzen and Other Bookshelf Musts” and “Elvis of Knishes and Tasty Gallivanting“) to get a feel for the trending topics along my journey.
Do you follow Shannon Sarna on Instagram? She’s a must-follow in my opinion. You’ll pick up some food photography tips and fall in love with her daughter’s roll-y fingers, which often make an appearance in the images she posts. In addition to capturing photos of challah, brisket and grilled cheese latkes (yes, that really happened), Sarna is also the editor of The Nosher, the food section on MyJewishLearning.com.
Sarna keeps blogs like Zoe Bakes, Naturally Ella and Two Peas and their Pod bookmarked for frequent visits. She recommends Taste of Home Magazine, which she says “is one of my favorite websites and magazines for tried-and-true delicious home cooking, which at the end of the day, is what I think most people really want to eat. It’s fun to think about how one might add pea shoot foam on top of a cupcake (not really), but what people want is great mac and cheese.” Ha. True that, Shannon.
Although I have a suspicion many of the folks included in this series do this, Sarna was my only interviewee who admitted to it: she keeps part of her ever-growing collection of cookbooks in her bedroom (in addition to a shelf for the go-to books on the kitchen counter for easy access). The exclusive collection of books that have made it to the kitchen include Martha Stewart’s Cookies, Joy of Cooking and Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She keeps Janna Gur’s The Book of New Israeli Food, Einat Admony’s Balaboosta, and Michael Ruhlman’s Book of Schmaltz within easy reach, too.
My next stop was The Gefilteria and the man behind this fermentation empire, Jeffrey Yoskowitz. This fermentation entrepreneur wanted to make sure we know that he’s elbow-deep in the process of writing a narrative cookbook on Ashkenazi cuisine (due out in 2016), so his head (and reading list) is very much centering on that right now. Want a sneak peek? Check out his book preview site.
“David Rakoff’s Dark Meat always inspires, as does David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster,” says Yoskowitz. He goes on to lament that Meatpaper (a longform snail-mail journal about meat culture) is no more. Yoskowitz is drowning his Meatpaper-related sorrows in David Sax’s writings on the food industry, specifically Save the Deli and The Tastemakers.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation is Yoskowitz’s most-used cookbook. “In my mind, it’s a classic and a call to action. It’s partly by trying out recipes in that book that I really became an at-home fermenter and pickler.” He also gives a nod to Mitchell Davis’ The Mensch Chef. “It’s a consistently high quality Ashkenazi Jewish cookbook with dependably superb recipes.”
And how to craft the perfect Jewish cooking library? The answer has several parts: “I’m drawn to cookbooks, history books, nonfiction books, cookbooks and books about contemporary food values and ethics in eating.” Sort of like a balanced meal…
“A few of the many foundational nonfiction and history books that I look to are Gil Marks’ Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, John Cooper’s Eat and Be Satisfied, Jane Ziegelman’s 97 Orchard, David Sax’s Save the Deli, Hasia Diner’s Hungering for America, Mimi Sheraton’s The Bialy Eaters, Laura Silver’s Knish and Sue Fishkoff’s Kosher Nation.”
And last, Yoskowitz strongly suggests readings on the cultural and political components of the food industry such as Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation, Oran Hesterman’s Fair Food, Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals “and so many others.”
To finish off my bookshelf/blog reader-stocking suggestions, I connected with Amy Kritzer (top photo) of the What Jew Wanna Eat blog. Kritzer is the voice of Jewish food fusion coming through loud and clear from Austin, Texas. She’s the brains behind Nutella rugelach, latke tacos and kimchi grilled cheese. I admire her delightful food photography, jaunty online presence and the way she’s made a name for herself in the highly competitive food blogging world.
I asked about a few of Kritzer’s must-read blog suggestions: The Nosher for seasonal recipes from a variety of cooks, The Patchke Princess, Kosher Like Me and Jewhungry. Her hometown Austin blog faves are Hilah Cooking and Food Fetish.
“I have more cookbooks than I could ever use,” says Kritzer. “Most are for ogling rather than actually cooking from. My go-to cookbooks for recipes would be Joy of Cooking for staples, any Ottolenghi book for health-inspired dishes and The Flavor Thesaurus for flavor combinations.”
For a mix of Sephardic, Ashkenazi and chicken fat, Kritzer insists that any good Jewish food library begin with several foundational elements: The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food by Gil Marks “is an extensive tome of Jewish food from around the world. I enjoy Jerusalem, The Artisan Jewish Deli at Home and The Book of Schmaltz.”
By now, I am imagining your Amazon wish list is overflowing with items to add to your bookshelves. I’d love to know what you’ve got, what your go-to’s are in the kitchen and what you can’t wait to try. Share your feedback in the comments (and photos of your delicious creations inspired by this series, too).