Nana Lena’s Kitchen: Recipes for Life

Amy Ostrow­er
  • Review
By – June 25, 2012
Remem­ber the pre­cious times you spent in your grandmother’s kitchen, watch­ing her make rugelach, brisket, or kugel; lis­ten­ing to her rem­i­nisce about the old days and absorb­ing her pearls of wis­dom? Amy Ostrow­er does, and for­tu­nate­ly for all of us, she shares those expe­ri­ences through this delight­ful memoir/​cookbook hybrid. 

Chap­ters fea­ture one or more recipes of tra­di­tion­al Jew­ish food, first offered in Nana Lena’s own words or via live­ly dia­logue. The recipe is revis­it­ed in tra­di­tion­al form at the close of the chapter. 

Born in 1912, Ostrower’s grand­moth­er, Lena Good­man Herzberg, was deeply engaged in fam­i­ly and com­mu­ni­ty life in Berkley, VA. The recipes in this book flank Nana Lena’s sto­ries: los­ing a sis­ter and an aunt in the flu epi­dem­ic of 1918, meet­ing and mar­ry­ing her hus­band dur­ing the Depres­sion, watch­ing her sons go to war, doing com­mu­ni­ty ser­vice work, hol­i­day cel­e­bra­tions, deal­ing with her brother’s Alzheimer’s dis­ease, and much more. Nana Lena’s Say­ings” (eg., Make a mitz­vah, it will come back to you”) and fam­i­ly pho­tographs help com­plete the pic­ture. With each sto­ry, be it fun­ny, sad, joy­ous, or instruc­tive, Nana Lena pulls you deeply into the ordi­nary and extra­or­di­nary events that shaped her 80-plus years. Glos­sary, index of recipes.
Robin K. Levin­son is an award-win­ning jour­nal­ist and author of a dozen books, includ­ing the Gali Girls series of Jew­ish his­tor­i­cal fic­tion for chil­dren. She cur­rent­ly works as an assess­ment spe­cial­ist for a glob­al edu­ca­tion­al test­ing orga­ni­za­tion. She lives in Hamil­ton, NJ.

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