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Encyclopedia of Jewish Food Hardcover – September 10, 2010
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From the Inside Flap
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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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Just a fascinating enlightening read. An amazing compiliation of "who knew?". The one that amused me the most was the New York Times description of the bagel as a... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Lloyd Doigan
The history of the world is inside the pages of this all encompassing book. The Jewish Diaspora is full of recipes adopted by Jews all over the world as well as dishes the Jews... Read morePublished 16 months ago by Elaine Corn
"Production values" of book (quality of paper, illustrations, etc) are mediocre. Not a terribly useful book for information of practical use. Read morePublished 19 months ago by Jeffrey L. Czeisler
The author is a real walking encyclopedia of food. Jewish and not. Great work. Whether you are a chef, or just like reading about new things, you'll love it.Published 24 months ago by Haaretz120
Bought the book as a birthday gift for both my sisters. Highly interesting and well written, although some glaring mistakes were found, but not in the food department, more on... Read morePublished on May 10, 2014 by Neal Teitler
The historical book was not only interesting but also provided current recipes that were easy to follow. And a good pricePublished on February 28, 2014 by doug upshaw
This is a great history and food cook book resource. It is just too bad that it is not done in color. The author should re-publish it in color and it would be better. Read morePublished on August 15, 2013 by nursing student