Years ago I loved being invited for dinner at the home of the late journalist Robert Saint John and his wife, Ruth, who curated salon-like events in their cozy house outside Washington, D.C., where journalists, Israeli diplomats, and government officials discussed politics as insiders. No matter what else was on the menu, the Saint Johns always served a flavorful, cakelike carrot ring. I asked for the recipe, but Ruth would never give it to me; the secret of this dish died with her.
Recently I asked members of my Jewish Cooking group on Facebook if they knew about such a dish. To my surprise, many people remembered the recipe from their childhoods. Dana Levin Schrager, on her blog Foodie Goes Healthy, found the ring in the 31st edition of The Settlement Cookbook in 1954. In 1958, the recipe appeared in Thoughts for Buffets, the Chicago Jewish Community Center’s fundraising cookbook, and in 1967 a simpler version emerged in Elegant But Easy, a cookbook by Marian Fox Burros and Lois Levine.
As I tracked cooks who made it, I found that this was a classic mostly Midwestern recipe popular in the 1950s, made mostly in a ring mold. The carrot ring (recipe here) was, essentially, a modern kugel. According to my friend Lynn Blitzer, who grew up in Buffalo, New York, it was eaten by her family at both Jewish and secular holidays—like Thanksgiving. And it will grace her table again this week.
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