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The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York Hardcover – November 26, 1996

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The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York + The New Book of Middle Eastern Food + Jerusalem: A Cookbook
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 688 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (November 26, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394532589
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394532585
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 1.5 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,615 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Claudia Roden, author of The Book of Jewish Food, has done more than simply compile a cookbook of Jewish recipes--she has produced a history of the Jewish diaspora, told through its cuisine. The book's 800 recipes reflect many cultures and regions of the world, from the Jewish quarter of Cairo where Roden spent her childhood to the kitchens of Europe, Asia, and the Americas. Both Ashkenazi and Sepharidic cooking are well represented here: hallah bread, bagels, blintzes, and kugels give way to tabbouleh, falafel, and succulent lamb with prunes, which are, in turn, succeeded by such fare as Ftut (Yemeni wedding soup) and Kahk (savory bracelets).

Interwoven throughout the text are Roden's charming asides--the history of certain foods, definitions (Kaimak, for instance, is the cream that rises to the top when buffalo milk is simmered), and ways of preparing everything from an eggplant to a quince. In addition, Roden tells you everything you've ever wanted to know about Jewish dietary laws, what the ancient Hebrews ate, and the various holidays and festivals on the Jewish calendar. Detailed sections on Jewish history are beautifully illustrated with archival photographs of families, towns, and, of course, food. The Book of Jewish Food is one that any serious cook--Jewish and non-Jewish alike--would gladly have (and use often) in the kitchen.

From Publishers Weekly

As the biblical echo of the title indicates, this collection is as instructive and comprehensive as a textbook. Roden (Mediterranean Cookery, etc.) divides the territory in two parts: "The Ashkenazi World" and "The Sephardi World." She chronicles the lives of Jews all over the world in short segments on unusual Jewish communities past and present, such as those of Salonika, Greece, and China. These sections, and the many other notes on subjects ranging from the New York Deli to salt herring are gems. Recipes are numerous and diverse: Yellow Split Pea Soup with Frankfurters, Pumpkin Tzimmes, Small Red Kidney Beans with Sour Plum Sauce, Cold Stuffed Vine Leaves, and Fish Balls in Tomato Sauce. Some highlights include the chapter on Sephardic breads (Algerian Anise Bread, North African Sweet Breads with Nuts and Raisins) and the one on Ashkenazic desserts (Mandelbrot, Hanukah Jam Doughnuts). All of this can be a little overwhelming at times (and, as Roden acknowledges in the introduction, many Jewish foods simply reflected the cuisines of the places where Jews were living rather than their own specific culture). Yet with few omissions (e.g., the instructions for making pasta specify rolling out the dough "as thin as possible" but don't explain how), Roden proves a practiced, reliable guide.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Claudia Roden was born in Cairo, educated in Paris and London, where she has lived for many years. Widely admired as both a great cook and a fine writer, she has written classic works on Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cookery and, most recently, her award-winning The Book of Jewish Food.

Customer Reviews

First recipie book that I read as a novel.
Larisa Berenshteyn
Roden's history of the Jewish people and their food preferences studs the book, and the way she writes the recipes is fascinating.
Cassandra L. Rayne
Most of the recipes I've tried are great too.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 67 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 21, 1998
Format: Hardcover
November 1998 -- I just checked this book out of the library yesterday and stayed up until midnight reading from it to my husband. Now, he's not interested in recipes - it was the stories about Jews in Cairo, Jews in ancient Babylon, Arab and Jewish cooking under the Abbasid Caliphs in Baghdad, Jews in India, and most of all -- ANDALUCIA and the glories of Spain before the "Reconquista" that kept him entertained. Claudia Roden, culinary Scheherezade...
Born in Cairo to a Sephardic family who left Spain in the 15th Century, Roden has a lot of good things to say about Arabs and Jews in the Middle East. She doesn't gloss over the difficulties but she's much more interested in talking about the long, long shared history of the two peoples.
And she's interested in great food. You should check out the recipes from the various Indian Jewish peoples. I am planning to cook at least twelve of her recipes in the next month.
Roden's writing style is direct, simple and wonderful. I am such a fan!!!
As a Lebanese American Gentile married to a Jew (of Ashkenazi descent), I feel so grateful to have this book. It confirms my passion for all things Sephardic/Levantine, and gives me a culinary bridge to my extended, multicultural family.
Thank you, Claudia! You're a beacon of peace, besides being a culinary star!
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43 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Itamar Ronen on December 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Nowadays, when hundreds of cookbooks flood the book market, and each regional or ethnic cuisine type gets its share of ink and paper, choosing a cookbook is not an easy task. Well, this task becomes much easier when one book of its kind stands far above the rest - and I believe that this is the case with Claudia Roden's book of Jewish Food. This book is remarkable in many ways - the clear and simple way in which the recipes are presented, the wonderful historical inserts, and above all - the feeling that there's someone with you in the kitchen when you cook, someone who's deeply informed about the recipe and its cultural background, and who's also there with you, helping you to make the best out of it. The book is masterfully organized - the grouping of recipes is so logical and yet not annoyingly rigid, and the index is a masterpiece on its own - there's no way you can miss a recipe that you want: you'll find it under its name, or under any of the principal ingredients used in it. Timing given for each recipe is relatively realistic, and so are the serving amounts. I strongly reccomend this book.
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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By HeyJudy VINE VOICE on March 5, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Claudia Roden's opus, THE BOOK OF JEWISH FOOD, must be considered the definitive work on the history of the cuisine of the Jewish people.

Anyone wishing to own a single Jewish cookbook need look no further than THE BOOK OF JEWISH FOOD.

This is a work of amazing scholarship, tantamount to a doctoral dissertation which clearly would earn honors; a Nobel laureate if that award were to be granted for cookery books.

Roden takes on a subject that almost is too vast, covering every area in which there ever has been a Jewish population, including Ethiopia, India and China.

She not only presents a large variety of recipes typical of each separate region, but she illustrates both the similarities of these recipes and their differences.

The food, well, the food is marvelous; delicious enough in the description that one's mouth waters merely reading the text.

This book is much more than a cookbook. It is a work of social anthropology and food historiography, with recipes that are--yes!--good enough to eat.

THE BOOK OF JEWISH FOOD is a work of genius. It clearly is the definitive Jewish cookbook for the coming millennia.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Klytemnestra on March 8, 2004
Format: Hardcover
A wonderful book that most of my family and friends own, my non-Jewish flatmate read through like a novel, and I always have difficulty putting down. Since Ashkenazi cooking can be found in countless other Jewish cookery books, I appreciated the main focus on Sephardic cooking. I am vegan and even so found hundreds of recipes. The cultural background information is fascinating, and the religious information enables you to produce something a bit different at the festivals - we had the most fabulous (Iranian, I think) stew last Rosh Hashanah, together with home-made challah, and were quite spoilt for choice when it came to making haroset. The only problem is that I get so seduced by reading the recipes that I end up making too much food! However, my friends have certainly been enjoying the pastries I take to meetings. I have had no problems following the delicious recipes and Roden is usefully realistic about substitutes for ingredients unobtainable in Britain, warnings for extra-hot dishes and so on. She also gives basic recipes followed by several variations for many dishes, especially the popular ones; this can be useful if you want a different slant on a traditional dish, for example a borsht which isn't too violently beetrooty. The personal touch - anecdotes about where she met the recipe donor, or traditional dishes in her family - is delightful.
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45 of 52 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The book is filled with delightful illustrations, photographs, and the sort of Jewish history I hungered for. But speaking of hungry, if you plan on doing more than just reading this book you may be disapointed, as I was.
The recipes were too basic. Once I followed through with them, I realized that Ms. Roden had to be leaving fairly important things out. She states that she chose the versions of the recipes that she found most appealing, but I believe her choices in fact reflect her desire not to frighten more simple and less experienced chefs with too many instructions or ingredients. But it is not helpful to leave out basic instructions, ie: in the "Pot Roast" recipe she fails to instruct the reader to brown the meat before adding the water. For Ashkenazi recipes there are many more helpful books on the market. For myself, I'm still searching for a good Sephardi cooking resource.
In the end, I'm not sorry I bought the book, while it is not a great cookbook, it is a beautiful treasure of a book and an outstanding tribute to our culture.
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