The Modern Jewish Table is “the Jewish Princesses,” Tracey Fine and Georgie Tarn’s, spirited, fun, visually gorgeous new cookbook. Our hosts beautifully capture the zeitgeist of the modern Jewish woman. Fine and Tarn seek to reimagine the modern Jewish table as a place to serve not only Jewish delicacies, whether local or foreign in origin, but rather a broader spectrum of traditional foods from around the world, modified to fit their own kosher lifestyle. Those looking to infuse global flavors into their kosher repertoire should be pleased with this book’s truly international approach.
The book features a little something for everyone. There are entire sections dedicated to small plates, soups, salads, fish, meat, and vegetarian dishes, followed by three whole sections dedicated to dessert: pareve (non dairy), cakes, and cookies and treats. The meat section features a nice variety of lamb, chicken, and beef recipes, while the vegetarian section certainly goes above and beyond the norm with recipes for appetizers, stews, entrees, and sides.
While Fine and Tarn provide engaging commentary before each section of recipes – instilled with their own special brand of humor and Yiddishkeit – they offer little commentary about the recipes themselves. It would have been fun to learn the origins of the Crème Fraiche Holstein Vegetable Latkes, for example: Are the Holsteins family friends? Where did Fine and Tarn first encounter this recipe, and why did they love it? And what makes the Cuban Sweet Corn Soufflé Cuban? Is it the combination of red chili and grated nutmeg, perhaps?
In the same vein, the book would have benefited from the addition of recipe-specific cooking techniques, and tips for recipe modifications. While an entire introductory section is dedicated to “Setting Your Table,” featuring tablescape ideas for a variety of special events and Jewish holidays, there is no such section featuring the food, nor even occasional suggestions for how to pair the recipes together into the types of creative and whimsical menus one can only imagine Fine and Tarn concoct before each party and holiday.
If you’re looking to immerse yourself in a more content-driven exploration of global flavors, or tips for how to craft new menus for your Jewish holidays, you might want to search elsewhere.But if you’re looking for new ways to bring the flavors of the world into your kosher kitchen, Fine and Tarn’s witty and warm rapport, supplemented by stunning culinary photography, are a delightful entrée to the field.
Joy Getnick, PhD, is the Executive Director of Hillel at the University of Rochester. She is the author of the Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning Beyond Borders: The History of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, has taught history at area colleges, and previously worked in the JCC world and as the director of a teen Israel travel summer program.