Jew­ish Fes­ti­val Food: Eat­ing for Spe­cial Occasions

Mar­lena Spieler
  • Review
By – June 7, 2016

Jew­ish hol­i­days always have spe­cial foods; even fast days are asso­ci­at­ed with meals that pre­cede and fol­low them. The foods served at hol­i­day obser­vances often have sea­son­al asso­ci­a­tions as well as sym­bol­ic mean­ing. This small vol­ume offers read­ers an overview of each hol­i­day and recipes from diverse Jew­ish cul­tures for tra­di­tion­al dish­es served at the feasts.

With the excep­tion of Shab­bat, which occurs every week, Jew­ish cel­e­bra­tions are linked to the sea­sons of the year. The first chap­ter of Jew­ish Fes­ti­val Food cov­ers each hol­i­day on the Jew­ish cal­en­dar with an expla­na­tion of its sig­nif­i­cance, asso­ci­at­ed cus­toms and rit­u­als, and foods. Translit­er­a­tions of the appro­pri­ate bless­ings and col­or illus­tra­tions of arti­facts aug­ment the text. A chap­ter for each hol­i­day fol­lows with recipes. Since the book is a British pub­li­ca­tion, some of the ter­mi­nol­o­gy (aubergine rather than egg­plant) and spelling might be unfa­mil­iar to Amer­i­cans, but the index pro­vides cross-ref­er­ences. All mea­sure­ments are giv­en in both met­ric and Eng­lish equiv­a­lents, mak­ing them easy for all cooks to use. The direc­tions are clear and col­or pho­tographs pro­vide visu­al clues for tech­niques as well as pic­tures guar­an­teed to whet the appetite. All recipes fol­low the kashrut laws.

Those inter­est­ed in broad­en­ing their culi­nary hori­zons will find recipes for both tra­di­tion­al and veg­e­tar­i­an chopped liv­er, Libyan spicy pump­kin dip, and Moroc­can car­rot sal­ad. They can learn to bake mouna, the Alger­ian Shab­bat bread, as well as chal­lah; Ethiopi­an doro wat as well as roast chick­en. There are recipes for horef and haris­sa for those who enjoy spicy sauces. Dessert lovers will find blintzes, Hun­gar­i­an cher­ry soup, Amer­i­can cheese­cake, and rugelach.

Jew­ish Fes­ti­val Food is an afford­able, acces­si­ble cook­book by an expe­ri­enced food writer. It is a per­fect size for use in the kitchen.

Relat­ed Content:

Bar­bara M. Bibel is a librar­i­an at the Oak­land Pub­lic Library in Oak­land, CA; and at Con­gre­ga­tion Netiv­ot Shalom, Berke­ley, CA.

Discussion Questions