The Ger­man-Jew­ish Cook­book: Recipes and His­to­ry of a Cuisine

  • Review
By – October 5, 2017

In the fore­word, Nach Wax­man, founder of the well known Kitchen Arts & Let­ters book­store in New York City, explains of the book, We get glimpses of not just the how to’ but also the how it came to be…What the Grop­mans are offer­ing us is, in every way, a high­ly valu­able con­tri­bu­tion to the lit­er­a­ture of cook­ery, of immi­gra­tion, of Jew­ish his­to­ry and of the mas­sive com­bat­ive forces of cul­tur­al change and deeply held tradition.”

The authors them­selves, a moth­er-daugh­ter team, say that they wrote the book to help pre­serve and doc­u­ment the cui­sine of a near­ly van­ished cul­ture,” refer­ring to that of Ger­man Jews, who lived in Ger­many for hun­dreds of years pri­or to World War II. The book goes into great detail about the his­to­ry of Ger­man Jews and their food, tak­ing the read­er back to the Mid­dle Ages through the Enlight­en­ment, and from Munich to Wash­ing­ton Heights.

The intro­duc­tions to each recipe are intrigu­ing as well as edu­ca­tion­al. We learn that berch­es, the braid­ed cer­e­mo­ni­al bread of Ger­man Jews, dif­fers from chal­lah, the cer­e­mo­ni­al bread of East­ern Euro­pean Jews, in two ways: 1) it is a water bread’ (it is made with­out egg in the dough) and 2) it usu­al­ly includes mashed pota­to.” The chap­ter Shab­bos and Hol­i­day Meals” clues us in that carp was the stan­dard Fri­day night fish of choice,” and berch­es was a Shab­bos essen­tial. Anoth­er impor­tant dish for Shab­bos or hol­i­days, the Stuffed Veal Breast is a true melt-in-your-mouth del­i­ca­cy. Also high­ly rec­om­mend­ed is the Twice-Baked Pota­to Schalet (Kartof­felschalet).

This review­er must admit that as her moth­er is from Alsace, France, not too far from the Ger­man bor­der, she would often pre­pare the mem­o­rable Sweet­breads in Pas­try Shells and the Apfel Chalet mit Bir­nen or Baked Apple Pud­ding. The author informs us that this dish belongs to the fam­i­ly of Jew­ish foods that are baked in the oven as either sweet or savory, known var­i­ous­ly as kugels, Schalets, or char­lottes, and served with almost any type of meal – week­day, Shab­bos, or holiday.”

In a chap­ter focus­ing on sausage and cold cuts, the authors include a list­ing of the Ger­man Jew­ish meat stores in New York City’s Wash­ing­ton Heights as well as a descrip­tion of the range of prod­ucts avail­able. To accom­pa­ny the cold cuts and sausages, one should absolute­ly pre­pare the no-may­on­naise and no-sug­ar Opa’s Pota­to Salad.

A very help­ful Notes on Ingre­di­ents” sec­tion, Core Recipes” (which includes broths, white sauce, rasp­ber­ry syrup, and var­i­ous types of doughs), and both a gen­er­al index and an index by dietary cat­e­go­ry, round out a most charm­ing and pro­fes­sion­al tome.

Danièle Gor­lin Lass­ner (wife, moth­er, grand­moth­er) retired after 35 years at Ramaz where she served as Dean of Admis­sions, For­eign Lan­guage Depart­ment chair and teacher of French and Span­ish. She owns hun­dreds of cook­books. She has trans­lat­ed sev­er­al chil­dren’s books from French into Eng­lish. She has recent­ly trans­lat­ed “ A Mem­oir of Sanc­ti­ty “ by May­er Moskowitz (Mazo Pub­lish­ers, Jerusalem, Israel) from Hebrew into Eng­lish. No mat­ter the lan­guage, food is a con­stant.”

Discussion Questions