From Publishers Weekly
Many traditional Southern foods—pulled-pork barbecue, crab cakes, fried oyster po' boys, to name a few—violate traditional Jewish dietary laws, which forbid the consumption of pork and shellfish. What's a Southern Jew to do? Anthropological historian Ferris (UNC–Chapel Hill) answers that question in a gustatory tour of the Jewish South. She uncovers many dishes that blend Jewish and Southern foodways (recipes included for such tasties as Temple Israel Brisket and Cornmeal-Fried Fish Fillets with Sephardic Vinagre Sauce). Ferris sees food as a symbol that encompasses the problem of how Jews live in a region dominated by Christians: "The most tangible way to understand Jewish history and culture in the South is at the dinner table." Cynics will wonder if a Jewish kugel (noodle casserole) prepared in the South is really any different from kugel in Chicago. Ferris's answer is an emphatic yes—because Jews in the South face different challenges than those in Chicago. Southern Jews must be more intentional about cooking that kugel and passing the recipe down from generation to generation. If this book were a restaurant, Michelin would award it two out of three stars: not absolutely first-rate, but "excellent cooking, worth a detour." (Oct.)
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"Marcie Cohen Ferris's Matzoh Ball Gumbo
is the definitive study on Jewish cooking in the American South, taking the reader on a fascinating journey to dinner tables throughout the Mississippi Delta, Charleston, and beyond. Over four centuries, southern and Jewish cultures have mingled, resulting in Pecan Kugel and Pesach Fried Green Tomatoes. A delicious and sometimes poignant world emerges, complete with the history, stories, and recipes from this unique cultural cross-section of southern Jews."
-Joan Nathan, author of Jewish Cooking in America
"A bountiful feast brimming with well-researched history, loving memories, and unique recipes. This is the perfect introduction to the distinctive faith, culture, and foodways of southern Jews."
-Jonathan D. Sarna, Brandeis University, author of American Judaism: A History
"Delectable, from start to finish. Marcie Cohen Ferris does for the ethnography of food in the Jewish South what Jessica Harris has done for African Diaspora cooking. Matzoh Ball Gumbo
tells the story of how Jews who settled south of the Mason Dixon line adjusted their eating habits to their new surroundings and created a unique creole cuisine. At the heart of the story is a paradox: how can there be such a thing as southern Jewish cooking when the laws of kashrut, governing what foods Jews may or may not eat, forbid such staples of southern kitchens as pork, shrimp, oysters, and crab? When you've tried Baked Redfish in Creole Court Bouillon you'll know."
-Dale Rosengarten, curator, Special Collections, College of Charleston, and coeditor of A Portion of the People: Three Hundred Years of Southern Jewish Life