Tablet Magazine

Survivors’ Stories—and Recipes

A new book collects the tales of people who lived through the Holocaust, alongside the dishes that evoked memories of happier times

It might seem incongruous to include the word food in the title of a book about Holocaust survivors. Prior to writing this book, I would have agreed. I would think it insensitive, almost cruel, to discuss recipes in the context of such a horrific time when food was scarce and starvation prevalent. Yet after speaking to “my” survivors, I came to realize that memories of food led them to hope, and hope fed their resilience—hence the title. Thinking and talking about cherished food was not a reminder of what they did not have but created hope for what they might have again. Their food recollections provided foundation for them when they were in tenuous settings. It was a bond to those who longed for familiar tastes; it was a way to bring family back to life and bring life to those who felt lost. As we moved from story to recipe, I saw smiles return and clenched hands ease. Food memory is transformative; it is a thread that weaves through all our lives. For Holocaust survivors, it brought them back to happier times. So many remarked that talking about the recipe, the preparation and the gathering around the table bridged their former to their current life. They drew on a recollection of their mother preparing challah for Shabbos or baking a potato kugel for what might be their last Passover Seder together as a family. The constant in all the dishes they shared with me was they represent a memory of food that needs to be preserved. I quickly discovered that Jewish food is hard to define. I began to question, what really makes a food Jewish? To a Sephardic Jew (one who can trace their roots to Spain after the Inquisition), it is stuffed onions and chicken with okra that graced her holiday table. For a German survivor, it might be arroz con pollo and fried plantains that she learned to prepare as a refugee in the Dominican Republic, and for a Polish survivor, it is the coveted Shabbos dinner with chopped liver, matzo ball soup, and roast chicken. The answer to my question was, more accurately, what isn’t Jewish food? There were common features to survivors from particular regions in both their wartime experiences and their cooking style....

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Baking as Therapy

In time of distress, baking can me meditative and therapeutic.

Read here for some of Tablet’s articles for baking inspiration.

100 Foods and Beyond

Check out Tablet’s book The 100 Most Jewish Foods: A Highly Debatable List, and learn the stories behind iconic Jewish dishes. Argue with your friends about what we left out. And if you get hungry, we’ve included 60 recipes, too. And then there’s more...

Play the Jewish Foods Memory Game with your kids. Match up doubles of chicken soup, or borscht, or kreplach, and work up their appetite in the process.

Or try the 500-piece 100 Foods circular puzzle, and set the perfect table filled with your favorite Jewish foods.

Or check out this sticker book, featuring the tastiest items from 100 Most Jewish Foods. Put your favorite stickers on your laptop, your notebook, or your refrigerator.

You can buy all the merchandise, plus The Newish Jewish Encyclopedia, edited by the hosts of Tablet’s Unorthodox podcast, by clicking here.


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Joan Knows Best

Everyone says their mom is the best cook, but when your mom is Joan Nathan, cooking looks a little bit different. Join Joan Nathan and her son, David Henry Gerson, for a video series covering Joan’s favorite Shabbat dinner recipes with a seasonal twist.

Joan Nathan is Tablet Magazine’s food columnist and the author of 10 cookbooks including King Solomon’s Table: a Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World.

Perfect Pita

Joan Knows Best: The best way to make the ancient bread in your modern kitchen—thanks to a tip from chef Michael Solomonov

Shake Up Brunch With Shakshuka

Joan Knows Best: The best way to make this popular tomato-and-egg dish—with some help from Israeli chef Erez Komarovsky

The Pleasure of Pletzel

Joan Knows Best: The best way to make this Eastern European flatbread—with some advice from food writer and radio host Arthur Schwartz

A lot of Jewish food’s appeal, I have found, has more to do with fond memories of growing up than the food itself. Your early sensations are the ones that stay with you. You similarly always remember your first kiss. Technically speaking it probably wasn’t your best kiss, but it is the one that gave you the taste.

How do you hummus?

With the original recipe dating all the back to the 13th century, hummus has become quite possibly the most popular middle eastern dish of our time.

It’s been called a peacemaker, and has been the subject of lots of controversy. Whether it’s your entire meal, or a dip for your vegetables, there are so many opinions, and stories to share about our delectible dish.

The Tab Volume 2

Bookmark The Tab archive to pick up your new weekly printable edition every Friday morning: Tablet’s most readable material, on paper.

Download this week’s edition of The Tab printable digest here.

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