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Encyclopedia of Jewish Food Hardcover – September 10, 2010

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Editorial Reviews


'...thorough and fascinating read on the history of Jewish food , recipes and customs.' (Culinaria Libris, March 2011).

From the Inside Flap

Food is more than just sustenance. It's a reflection of a community's history, culture, and values—and this is especially true for the Jewish people—a community that spans the globe. From Brooklyn to India and everywhere in between, Jewish food is represented by a fascinating array of dishes, rituals, and traditions.

Jewish cuisine is truly international. In every location where Jews settled, they brought culinary traditions with them and also adopted local dishes, modifying them to fit their dietary laws, lifestyle, and tastes. Unique traditions and dishes developed within the cuisines of North Africa, Europe, Persia, Asia, and the Mediterranean, but all are recognizably Jewish.

The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food explores the foods and culinary traditions of individual communities, such as the honey-nut sfratto cookies beloved by Italian Jews in Tuscany, as well as those that unite Jews everywhere, like the key elements of the Passover Seder plate. Alphabetical book entries—from Afikomen and Almond to Yom Kippur and Za'atar—present recipes, ingredients, and holidays that are significant to the story of Jewish food, spanning three thousand years.

Even those with a well-developed knowledge of Jewish food will find plenty of new and compelling information here—dishes and ingredients they've never heard of, surprising and delicious variations on favorite traditional recipes, and plenty of historical and cultural tidbits that explore how, when, and why Jewish foods developed into what they are today.

For anyone interested in Jewish cooking, culture, or history, the Encyclopedia of Jewish Food is an enlightening and engaging tour through the culinary heart and soul of a people.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (August 25, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470391308
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470391303
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #90,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By E. A. Schorr on October 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book, Gil Marks' fifth, takes Jewish cookbook writing to a whole new level.
Marks ventures out of the genre of recipes peppered with anecdotes and cultural observations (the hallmarks of virtually all Jewish and general cookbooks with which I'm familiar) and presents us with a resource book for everything we want to know about Jewish food. The book has information about a whole range of "Jewish foods" from the Biblical (e.g., matza), to the rabbinic/traditional (e.g., charoset), to the cultural (e.g., bagels, blintzes, seltzer, etc.), even to items where Jews had major commercial impact, though not normally thought of Jewish in the culinary or cultural sense (e.g., bananas, yogurt). We are also given a historical sweep of how basic universal foods (e.g., bread, meat, cheese) were prepared and appreciated from biblical times to the present.
Where appropriate, etymologies for the names of the foods are given, religious significance or symbolism is explained (supported by a range of references including the Bible, Talmud, responsa, and related literature), and the cultural and culinary context are made clear. Historical factors play a very large role in the explanations; Marks uses his understanding of both general Jewish history as well as the history of the various foods to explain how various Jewish foods developed (or disappeared) for reasons relating to geography and time. For example, raisin wine took the place of 'regular' wine where fresh grapes were unavailable, and horseradish replaced fresh greens for the Passover bitter herb for similar reasons. Conversely, when herring and hamantaschen (or its German antecedent) entered the orbit of Ashkenazic Jews, they readily became part of the Jewish story. And, despite these examples, the book is far from ashkenaz-centric.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Y. Elkin on December 24, 2010
Format: Hardcover
It's not often that the same book can illuminate cultural and culinary history, weave religious laws and mores with historical events spanning millennia, offer up great recipes from communities all over the world and even settle food trivia bets authoritatively. Gil Marks' latest book is just such a rarity and I can only surmise that it must have been as much fun to research and write as it is to read and learn from.

It includes entries on both prepared dishes (from the requisite - and secular - bagels to religiously resonant preparations like the seder night's charoset), and the "back story" of individual ingredients (e.g. cinnamon and coconuts) from a global, Jewish perspective. The explanations of Jewish dietary laws (such as forbidden animal fats) are also well done and equally informative.

This book is a joy to read and was a very well-received gift for two extremely discerning readers and discriminating cooks (my mother and mother-in-law). Highly recommended.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Leah Cooks Kosher on December 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I spoke with Gil Marks at Kosherfest, asked if he remembered me from Hillel UW. I catered their Hillelfest fundraiser which featured Gil Marks after the release of his vegetarian cookbook. He remembered the 20 dobos tortes (original 7 layer cake) I had made for the event. The entire menu that evening was gleaned from cookbooks he's penned.

All that aside, I'm glad I brought an empty suitcase for the return trip home from NYC. This encyclopedia is incredible; and I would encourage some entreprenuer out there to create a Jewish Food Trivia game in conjunction with Gil. Kudos Gil for writing this masterpiece....we can all take it off our to-do lists. An attempt by anyone else at this point would be like a Hoboken Talmud. Purchase this book, study a tractate and we'll have a siyum in about 10 years.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By savvysavta on December 7, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Gil Marks is a Jewish Food Maven who shares his encyclopedic knowledge of Jewish food from around the globe. In his Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, he presents ingredients and recipes both obscure and currently available, giving a historical overview to the culture of Jewish culinary arts. Entries are clear, complete and concise. This volume would make a nice wedding shower gift. It is coffee-table quality. I would have preferred to see colorful photos of some dishes mentioned, but the black and white photos do justice to this masterpiece. I am the proud owner of four of Gil Marks' cookbooks and highly recommend this addition to your culinary library. I'm quite pleased that my order was promptly shipped and arrived in excellent condition. I'll do business with Amazon again.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Alexander Bell on February 12, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I expected another cookbook with recipes from different countries. What I got is a real encyclopaedia with food name headings, explanations and histories, biblical references, sociological and national information and recipes. There are recipes that I've never heard of from unusual cuisines, explanations about what makes something Jewish food, and more.The book is thick and heavy like an encyclopaedia should be. It is full of fascinating, scholarly and well researched information- a good read. The recipes are the bonus. It has already been picked up and browsed by many vistors to my home and everyone finds it fascinating. It is worth 6 stars, but since that is not an option I give it all five.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ron Stark on October 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Gil Marks, and I told him so directly, did a magnificent job with a VERY difficult subject. If you wanna know about Persian Kosher dishes you'll find them here. Of course, all your favorite and many obscure delights are here. You will be amazed.

But the index is not complete enough. It should be easy to find what you want no matter how you look for it in the index. Indexing seems easy but its not. There are too many little things that didn't make it to the index and the index cross reference needs too.

Hopefully my comment will be seen as constructive and should in no way stop you from buying this valuable tome.

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