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Kosher USA: How Coke Became Kosher and Other Tales of Modern Food (Arts and Traditions of the Table: Perspectives on Culinary History) Hardcover – April 12, 2016
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You don't have to be Jewish to love Roger Horowitz's Kosher USA! It is three stories in one: a family narrative within a history of kosher within the industrialization of the American food system. Well researched, insightful, and delightful―even for goyim. (Andrew Smith, editor in chief, Savoring Gotham: A Food Lover's Companion to New York City)
Roger Horowitz's Kosher USA is a window into the world of the Jewish dietary laws and the conflict between being American and being kosher. The fascinating narrative tells the story of sturgeon, Coca Cola and Jello, as well as the intricate process of koshering meat in the modern world with the pivotal role of Temple Grandin and the large meat processors. An informative read for those who know and those who know nothing about kosher food's place in the American food system. (Joan Nathan, author of Jewish Cooking in America)
Kosher USA introduces us to a remarkable cast of characters: the rabbis, scientists, home cooks, food companies and activists who spent decades wrestling with the term "kosher" in a passionate effort to tame it. Based on a rich array of sources, written with warmth and insight, this is an exhilarating study of how an ancient religious scruple became a modern American empire. (Laura Shapiro, author of Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century)
Set in the context of Jewish ascendancy into the middle class, Kosher U.S.A. traces the way in which changes in modes of production and the lure of consumption battered, challenged, and sustained an ancient Jewish practice. Horowitz tells a very readable story about the convergence of technology, science, religion, animal-rights activism, and ordinary Jewish consumers. There is no other book like it. (Hasia Diner, director, Goldstein-Goren Center for American Jewish History, New York University)
A thoughtful look at the convergence of faith, ethnicity, and the business of food. (Kirkus Reviews)
An informative and endlessly fascinating account of how Jewish law, modern food production, government regulation, business acumen, and religious politics have shaped the American kosher food industry. Roger Horowitz understands that arcane arguments over glycerin, rennet, and gelatin, and improbable tales concerning Coke, Kedem, Rubashkin, and Manischewitz form part of a larger and more important story. You don't have to be Jewish to appreciate his accomplishment! (Jonathan D. Sarna, author of American Judaism: A History )
Engrossing... Horowitz provides a fascinating window into a rarefied world. (Publisher's Weekly)
I have... fun reading Horowitz's book.... Halfway through Horowitz's book, I get nostalgic. (Globe and Mail)
In a work that is equal parts history, memoir, and cultural analysis, Horowitz traces the dramatic rise of kosher food products, specifically how they made their way into American food culture and were later popularized in the mass market of consumer products. (Library Journal (starred review))
The ever-changing and expanding kosher world makes this book quite timely and significant, as it traces the overlap interaction of religion and science. (Roberta Scher The Jewish Georgian)
About the Author
Roger Horowitz is a food historian and director of the Center for the History of Business, Technology, and Society at the Hagley Museum and Library. He is the author of Negro and White, Unite and Fight: A Social History of Industrial Unionism in Meatpacking, 1930–1990 (1997) and Putting Meat on the American Table: Taste, Technology, Transformation (2005).
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Kosher USA examines the struggle to transform Kosher certification in mid-twentieth century as food increasingly became an industrial product. It explains why certification (the process by which a particular food is verified OK for observant Jews to eat) passed from the hands of rabbis who knew the law but could not apply it to a factory, into the hands of specially trained chemists who are able to follow the chain of evidence to determine whether a permissible raw material emerges as an acceptable final product.
Mr. Horowitz is a skilled writer and patiently explains the intricacy of Jewish food law, highlighting the detailed knowledge needed when a tiny production detail instantly renders a food unfit for consumption by observant Jews thereby losing the company a whole consumer segment. He stresses the role that debate continues to play in Jewish legal formations of all kinds. (I remember twenty years ago a rabbi friend of mine served on a commission to determine if USA humane slaughter rules should be adopted in place of traditional Jewish humane slaughter rules. More recently a Muslim friend served on a Jewish-Muslim panel on a similar question.) Mr. Horowitz is sympathetic to the distress of observant mothers and their modern children when popular products like Coke and marshmallows fall on the wrong side of religious law.
This is a legalistic book and I found it very interesting to read as a story of the sacred and the profane.
I received a review copy of "Kosher USA: How Coke Became Kosher and Other Tales of Modern Food" by Roger Horowitz (Columbia University) through NetGalley.com.
He covers a lot in his book and I am finally happy to have the answers I've been seeking for a long time. No subject is too difficult for this author. He addresses, without judging, everything that goes with the territory. For instance, he discusses the whole kosher meat industry, gory details and all. I was relieved to know that the U.S. is much more humane than ever in slaughtering beef.
Some of the material was difficult to read. I'm not sure why. Some chapters were harder than others. It was easy reading when the material was about the author's family but it got a little harder when he explained details of the food industry. Definitely not a beach read. But definitely very informative and well researched.
Horowitz' narrative voice is very formal, very humble, yet quite tongue in cheek. He describes the seemingly chaotic, part ordained, part hearsay concept of kosher foods in a respectful, firm, and courteous voice and with every teensy bit of it informed by his careful research (of animal-derived stabilizers and thickeners, unpasteurized wine, and industrial-packed meat, for example).