Pas­ta, Fried Rice and Mat­zoh Balls: Immi­grant Cook­ing in America

Loret­ta Frances Ichord; Jan Dav­ey Ellis, illus.
  • Review
By – December 19, 2011

This children’s cook­book traces the foods intro­duced by immi­grants to the U.S. dur­ing the time peri­od 1565 – 1921 with nods to the Japan­ese and Chi­nese immi­grants of the 1950’s. The author dis­cuss­es the cook­ing styles of numer­ous eth­nic groups includ­ing the Swedes and the Greeks, the Jews and the Irish. She pro­vides the his­tor­i­cal back­ground of each group, their time­frame of immi­gra­tion, the spe­cif­ic foods favored and a cul­tur­al recipe. Ichord sprin­kles her text with humor and food triv­ia, dis­clos­ing the inven­tor of piz­za and teach­ing her read­ers how to say good appetite in a vari­ety of lan­guages. The sec­tion on Jew­ish immi­grants details the laws of kashrut and intro­duces the cul­tur­al food dif­fer­ences of the Ashke­naz­ic and Sephardic Jews. 

The illus­tra­tions by Ellis are engag­ing and descrip­tive. Favorite recipes from each cul­ture are includ­ed vary­ing from Ital­ian gnoc­chi to Por­tuguese Sweet Bread. Ichord states that the recipes are class­room friend­ly but most are com­plex and require prepa­ra­tion and oven or stove time. 

The over­all extent of infor­ma­tion would require strong read­ers in the third to fifth grade. The mate­r­i­al jos­tles the his­to­ry of var­i­ous eth­nic groups over cen­turies, the phys­i­cal dif­fi­cul­ties of immi­gra­tion while estab­lish­ing the con­cept of merg­ing cook­ing skills, cul­tur­al habits and tra­di­tions in a new coun­try. For ages 8 – 12

Chris­tine Maas­dam holds a Mas­ters in Human­i­ties, cer­ti­fi­ca­tions in Muse­um Stud­ies and Cul­tur­al Prop­er­ty Pro­tec­tion. She is cur­rent­ly com­plet­ing her M.L.I.S. Her inter­ests are phi­los­o­phy and the impact of art and tech­nol­o­gy on culture.

Discussion Questions