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Miriam's Kitchen: A Memoir Paperback – September 1, 1998
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Food memoirs often delve into the meaning of life. This hardly surprises--memories are as essential to daily life as the food that sustains us. Miriam's Kitchen blends recipes and food reminiscences with family narratives and observations about the author's personal evolution as a Jew. Ehrlich weaves the stories from four generations of family life, punctuated with powerful and often tragic memories. While her mother-in-law, Miriam, is teaching her to make chicken livers with noodles, Ehrlich unexpectedly learns how Miriam, her mother, and husband survived a Nazi labor camp in Poland during the Holocaust. Using vivid and bare yet discreet words, she graphically tells what they suffered and the nightmares that still haunt them.
Ehrlich's own story covers her transformation from a child whose family lit Sabbath candles but went boating on Yom Kippur, to an adult who chooses an Orthodox life marked by ambivalence about the rigors of being kosher and pride in what she is passing on to her children. Recipes for Honey Cake, Noodle Pudding, and many others are buried treasures hidden among Ehrlich's intense words. Sadly omitted is a recipe for potato kugel. Her grandmother uses this tempting pudding to good-naturedly test, taunt, and ultimately as the means for accepting her daughter Selina's non-Jewish fiancé into the family. Happily for us, 24 other tempting kosher recipes make up for this one missed dish. Miriam's Kitchen is a gripping and gratifying memoir of food, life, tragedy, and family survival. --Dana Jacobi
From Library Journal
Ehrlich, a former writer for BusinessWeek, writes with humor and passion about her journey from ambivalent Jew to a woman who observes tradition and teaches her children about their ethnic heritage. Her story begins when she meets Miriam, her future mother-in-law, a Polish Holocaust survivor who "guarded culinary specialties in her mind during years when possession and certainties were ripped from her hands." Through Miriam, Ehrlich awakens to dormant memories and traditions in her past and gradually decides that her own family life would have greater meaning if she made her kitchen kosher. The author opens a window on a culture and tradition that her readers may know nothing about, discussing religious and dietary laws and sharing over two dozen recipes for traditional foods. Orthodox readers will likely see themselves in descriptions of the humor and ambivalence involved in trying to incorporate the traditions in today's society. The writing is crisp and smooth. Recommended for public libraries.?Susan Dearstyne, Hudson Valley Community Coll., Troy, N.Y.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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For anyone that has ever tried to learn old world recipes and learn to maintain a kosher home/kitchen the book speaks volumes. I know many people say the book is repetitive, and it is. I suppose it doesn't bother me because I understand how many times a person and try and fail at maintaining a kosher kitchen and how many times a recipe can fail despite every good intention.
I am not a mushroom eater but I was particularly interested in the egg salad recipe in the book (It is not listed as the others are, just written about in the short chapter titled, "Egg Salad") I was interested enough to try it and I am glad I did. The cooked onion gives a real warm to the dish and I found that I could get away with very little salt. I used canned mushrooms that I had dried and reheated in the skillet with the onions. Very yum!
I owned this book several years ago and after completing it donated the volume to a used book sale for charity. This latest copy was purchased a gift for a dear friend who I am sure will enjoy it as much as I did.
I first came across this book when I was living in Holland, and one day, while browsing the second hand book market in Amsterdam, I came across an editor's copy, how it ended up there I don't know, but I bought the book. I never realized how homesick I was until I read this book. . . it brought back such beautiful memories. The stories reminded me so much of my grandmother, now gone 25 years.
Each chapter is organized by month, reflecting the Jewish holidays that take place in each month, the endless preparation, the planning, and most importantly, the cooking associated with each holiday.
I was also brought up as an Orthodox Jew, and I so dearly remember my grandmother and mother cleaning and cooking for weeks, getting ready, especially for Passover. Walking to shul and then coming home to a delicious meal - I can close my eyes today and almost bring back those tastes.
This book is a loving tribute to Ms. Ehrlich's mother-in-law, but it is a story of life as well, how to survive when survival is unthinkable, how food connects us so strongly with our past, and how making those special holiday meals helps to forge a strong spiritual future for our children.
I did not realize how important it would have been for me to ask for my grandmother's recipes before she died and this is something I will always regret. I was able to find a lot of my grandmother's cooking in the recipes included in this book as well, and I make those recipes often, especially the egg salad, which is exactly how my grandmother made it. When I make it now in my kitchen, exactly as Ms. Ehrlich describes, I can almost feel my grandmother's presence - it makes me want to weep because it is such a small way of feeling close to her again.
If you don't know a lot about the Jewish religion, this book is an easy and interesting way to become acquainted with our customs surrounding holidays, family, life and death. If you have been brought up in the faith, then this book will touch your heart, because it will remind you of your childhood, your grandparents, and perhaps your life now.
Even though it is not a cookbook, all of the recipes are authentic, easy to make, and delicious. I have made all of them, many times over.
I loved this book so much that when I returned to America I brought it with me. Because I was afraid that my editor's paper fronted copy would wear out, since I had used it so much, I bought two additional copies. The first copy I keep with my cookbooks and refer to it often - the second I gave to my mother, who treasures this book as much as I do.
This is a wonderful, affirming story of life. It is a must read.