From Publishers Weekly
Schwartz (Arthur Schwartz's New York City Food
) breathes life into Yiddish cooking traditions now missing from most cities' main streets as well as many Jewish tables. His colorful stories are so distinctive and charming that even someone who has never heard Schwartz's radio show or seen him on TV will feel his warm personality and love for food radiating from the page. Oddly, even the shorter anecdotes often run longer than the actual recipes; anyone intending to cook from the book should have some kitchen experience or risk frustration at the often brief instructions. Dishes run the gamut from beloved appetizers like gefilte fish to classic meat and dairy main items (cholent, blintzes), plus less familiar items like onion cookies and Hungarian shlishkas (light potato dumplings). Schwartz intersperses engaging commentary on everything from farfel and matzo to Romanian steakhouses and why Jews like Chinese food. Those with Westernized palates may recoil at the thought of gelled calf's feet, but Schwartz shows how stereotypically heavy Ashkenazi food can be improved and made at least somewhat lighter when prepared properly. Cooks and readers from Schwartz's generation and earlier, who know firsthand what he's talking about, will appreciate this delightful new book for the world it evokes as much as for the recipes. (Apr.)
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Although the first Jewish immigrants to New York were Sephardic Jews from Spain, they were doomed to be overwhelmed by waves of Ashkenazi Jews fleeing Eastern European pogroms. So many Jews took refuge in New York City that the metropolitan area became the world’s center of Jewish cooking, at least till the founding of Israel. Schwartz covers the basics of this influential cuisine, from schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) and dill pickles through brisket and cholent (Sabbath stew). The remarkable intersection in America of Jewish and Chinese cultures finds celebration in a recipe for chow mein. Passover dishes, which must follow strict injunctions, earn their own chapter. Photographs, not just of food but also of New York’s people and restaurants, and diverting sidebars contribute further vibrancy to the text. A glossary of Yiddish food words enhances the book’s reference value. Schwartz’s well-earned reputation as a Jewish cookery maven will increase demand for this title. --Mark Knoblauch