Sunday, September 23, 2007

Review: The World at Table JEWISH FOOD

I frequently preview cookbooks at the library before purchasing them. I only have so much space on my bookshelves and need to be selective. I picked up a great find at the library this week, and this one is a keeper! (Of course I'll return it to the library. Sheesh. But it will be on my Kaboodle wish list. )

Matthew Goodman's Jewish Food: The World at Table, published by HarperCollins provides one of the more comprehensive overviews of Jewish cooking throughout the world. Yeah, we all love Yemenite, Moroccan, American and Hungarian cooking. That's nothing new. But Matthew Goodman goes beyond the usual international Jewish cookbook and intersperses details about additional Jewish communities (many of which no longer exist). For example, he provides details about how Jews ended up in Bombay and Calcutta, India, and then provides select recipes from their community. As one of my sisters just married a young man from the community that formerly lived in Bombay and Calcutta (his father, aunt and other relatives were born there), it was a pleasure to see the Narla Chi Kadi (Bombay Coconut and Green Mango Soup) , Aloo Makala (Calcutta Deep-Fried Potatoes) and Kombdi Cha Kanji (Bombay Curried Chicken). I'll be making that last one for the Friday night Shabbos meal on this upcoming Sukkos holiday weekend. I just don't have any tamarind paste, so I guess I'll have to do without.

In addition to the usual countries (Spain, Yemen and Morocco for example), there are also essays about Alsace, Salonika, Ionnina (I'll bet you never heard of that one - it's in Greece), Bukhara, Rome, and Baghdad.

Matthew also wrote essays on various dishes and explained where they came from, and how there are prepared in different communities. For example, there is an essay about Borekas (did you know that they're originally from Turkey?), and details about Herring, Chicken Soup, Rice, Poultry, Cabbage and others. In the section about Chicken Soup, he explains how chicken soup, considered by many to be associated with Ashkenaz cooking, actually started in other Middle Eastern countries. Iraqi Jews eat chicken soup with rice, in Greece they blend their soup with Egg and lemon (it's called Avgolemeno), and is also popular in Turkey, Italy and Yemen. He then provides a European chicken soup recipe (Goldene Yoich), a recipe from Calcutta called Marag, and Shorba Bi Djaj (the aforementioned Iraqi soup), along with recipes for kreplach and Matzo Balls.

All in all, this is an excellent overview of international Jewish cooking, with a good balance of recipes and background materials. It is not a thorough overview of any particular community's cuisine, but it does provide a wide selection of recipes for every kosher food type. I look forward to referring to this cookbook during my upcoming cooking for the holiday.