This blog was born out of two desires. Firstly, I wanted to cook – well, I always want to cook. Specifically, I wanted to make recipes handed down not through cookbooks or media, but rather from friends and family through experience and memory. Jewish food is more than simply a set of cuisines: it is also an everyday practice of living in diaspora, of being Jewish, and of social interaction. Food is a way we tie memory to place, identities to ideas, and all of those to ourselves. Secondly, I wanted to explore Jewish food history in a hands-on way, but not constrained by the tawdry, cliché, and frankly snobbish idea of “authenticity.” I find, too often, that “engaged” Jews are so concerned with being “authentic” or re-enacting some or other historical fantasy of Judaism that they ignore the beautiful Jewishness under their very noses. (I, too, can fall into this trap.) I would rather cook Jewish food as remembered or lived and worry about the dressing of it later.
If you’re still interested, you should feel free to send me recipes or other food-related memories or experiences you want me to make, write about, or discuss! Here is the link to the Google form. If I write about it, you’ll be contacted before and during writing, and you’ll be credited after publishing.
A bit about me. My name is Jonathan Katz. By day I’m a civil servant in the US government in Washington DC. (I used to be a public servant in New York City.) By night, I’m a nerd for all things diaspora and mildly obsessed with food – be it what I just ate, what I am eating, what I will eat soon, or “noms” in the abstract. I’m autistic. I’ve written about urban planning, diaspora, Judaism, food, migration, and other stuff for Greater Greater Washington, Jewish Currents, In Defense of Processed Food, AJAM Media Collective, The Jewish Daily Forward, New Voices Magazine, Roads and Kingdoms, Africa Is A Country, and others.
In addition: this blog has nothing to do with my day job – it does not represent my employer’s views or activities or habits or anything. I write this as a completely separate thing, and nothing in this blog represents my employer in any which way. (I need to say that.)
I just discovered your blog while searching for Litvak cuisine and am enjoying reading your entries. Perhaps you might have some ideas for me. I am a garlic farmer out west. I grow several dozen varieties from all over the world as well as many that i have bred. While garlic’s center of origin is Central Asia it features in most of the world’s cuisine. There is a historical thread of garlic through Ashkenazi diaspora. Jews were disparaged as “garlic eaters”. This may have been as much a class issue bundled into ethnicity. The Koreans were similarly disparaged by their Japanese colonizers as reeking of garlic. Anyway, i recently started growing a Lithuanian strain and when i list a variety on my site, i write something about where it’s from. It is hard to write about Lithuania without acknowledging the decimation of the Jews. Then again, any location will have its own lurid history. So i thought if i could find a Litvak recipe, imbued with garlic, it’d serve as a way to acknowledge Lithuanian Jewry without some heavy handed holocaust reference. Maybe kugel? My association with lukshen kugel is the sweet glop i had as a kid which made me sick. My parents later figured out i had a dairy allergy. I grow a couple tons of potatoes (comprising a dozen varieties) so i have made several attempts at a passable bulbes kugel. Let me know if you have any suggestions. Also, perhaps this is somewhere on your blog, but i wondered if you had musings on garlic in Jewish history? I really liked your relishing the quince. Next year i’ll do more with mine than sauces and jam (though a sweet-sour quince sauce on roasted chicken is pretty choice!)
Again, i really like your blog. Thanks for any suggestions.
Yes! I am on vacation right now but can send you stuff when I am back. I am going to do a garlic piece a little later on, there are some garlic-heavy recipes on here. For potato kugel, try adding crushed garlic in with the eggs, and flour really helps.
One thing I know of is what in Lithuania would be called tsibeles, which is basically onion, garlic, and a bit of egg sauteed together in oil or schmaltz.
Simply, WOW! I just discovered your blog and it’s absolutely amazing. Thank you for sharing all those recipes and knowledge.
hi Jonathan – I’m a Jewish children’s book publisher based in London and I came across your website because I’m working on two food-related books! Both are based on the involvement of the Jewish community in the world chocolate trade over the last 500 years. I’m doing a Zoom event this Sunday with Judi Rose and I would be happy to send you details.
Hi Michael, I only just saw this. I’d love to hear more!