Hello!

We launched a Kickstarter campaign earlier this week and just realized we haven’t yet shared it with you here! Our campaign is to raise completion funds for our book – to pay for things that we, as the authors, are expected to pay out of pocket. This includes such things as:

— a food stylist for the photo shoot (to ensure the food photos look as good – and delicious – as they possibly can

— our illustrator, Megan Piontowski, for the wonderful drawings she is making for the book

— the expense of having a professional indexer create an index for the book (very important, especially for a cookbook!)

— to transcribe our many audio tapes of interviews with German-Jews.

One of the wonderful things about crowdsourcing is that many small contributions = a huge difference!  Another is that this type of fundraiser lets many people get involved with our process. We will update the campaign page often with news about the book. We welcome anyone who has stories or recipes about German-Jewish food to share them with us! And yet another wonderful thing is rewards! We are offering a wide range of rewards for donations, everything from an e-recipe, to artwork, to tote bags and aprons, to a homemade meal cooked in your home, and of course signed copies of the book. Hear more in the video above and/or click HERE  to go to our Kickstarter page. 

We feel humbled by the incredible outpouring of support for our project in the past several days. We are so appreciative and send out a gigantic thank you to everyone who has contributed thus far. We will be listing names of supporters here soon. We would be grateful to have your support as well. Thanks!

Herta in elevator

We are very sad to announce the passing of Herta Bloch on December 24, 2015 at the age of 94. We feel fortunate to have met Herta a couple of years ago, and to have spent two lovely afternoons visiting her in her Washington Heights apartment, where she had lived for more than 50 years. One of those afternoons, we sat in her living room overlooking the Hudson River as she told us stories about her life — her youth in Germany, emigrating to the U.S., and stories about running her store Bloch & Falk with her husband, Alfred. She spoke in great detail about the store, and she could recall individual customers, even those she hadn’t seen in many decades. Our post about Bloch & Falk, which we published here in 2013, has had an overwhelming response – mostly from people who had shopped there and have very strong and wonderful memories of eating the wide variety of meats – (wursts and aufschnitt) that the store produced. There have been almost 150 comments to date, reflecting how unique and special the store was, both for the products it produced, as well as for the generosity and kindness of its owners. You can read that post HERE.

On our second visit with Herta, we spent an afternoon baking krokerle – chocolate-hazelnut spice cookies – in her kitchen. She was a gracious host, and we had a lovely time chatting and laughing. Afterwards, we crowded around her tiny kitchen table and had cookies and coffee. You can read that post HERE.

We are glad, too, to have met her children: Marion, Andrew, and Richard (now sadly deceased, but whom we had a phone conversation with several years ago and who introduced us to Herta in the first place), and their families. Our heartfelt condolences to them on their loss.

Thanks for sharing with us, Herta! May you rest in peace.

12/27/2015 [obituary from Riverside Memorial Chapel in NYC]
Herta Bloch, nee Wertheimer, was born in Kippenheim, Germany a town in the black forest area, with a population of 1800 and approximately 40 Jewish families. The family came to America on April 1st, 1938 and settled in Manhattan. She worked as a live-in maid so that her parents could rent out one of the rooms for extra income. She married Alfred Bloch on March 30th, 1946 after he returned home from the Army. They worked together everyday in the family kosher butcher shop, Bloch & Falk, which catered to the German Jewish population of Washington Heights. They had 3 children, Marion, Richard and Andrew. Richard passed away 2 years ago, on 12/27/13. Marion Cherson Bloch is married to David Cherson, and they have one daughter, Shoshana Cherson. Shoshana is engaged to André Dudkiewicz. Richard Bloch was not married at the time of his death and had no children. Andrew Bloch is married to Kathy Hayes-Bloch, and they have 2 children, Kiera Bloch and Evan Bloch. All but Richard are still living. Herta had a sister, Margot Kohn, who died on 10/16/12. Margot is survived by her husband Jacques Kohn, but they have no surviving children. Herta had a large network of extended family and friends that she kept very close contact with right to the end of her life. She had many first cousins, spread all over the US, England, Australia and Israel that she has maintained close ties with. She was extremely devoted to her family. Herta lived an exemplary life filled with humor, grit and resiliency, making the best of any life circumstance that came her way.

We are both honored and flattered by the article “Can German-Jewish Food be the next culinary trend?“, written by Wes Eichenwald for The Jewish Advocate, the Boston weekly newspaper. But more than that, we are so happy and appreciative to see our subject written about in a way that highlights its multiple angles – both culinary and cultural. The article is being published today, September 4, 2015, in the holiday issue of the newspaper — but you can also read a digital version of it on the Jewish Advocate’s website HERE .

In other news, we have been hard at work on the cookbook – writing and testing recipes, writing and testing recipes, writing and testing recipes, etc. You get the picture.

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 left (by Don Gropman): Sonya & Gaby in cooking mode; right: testing a trout recipe

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We are very excited to be cooking and serving a Pesach seder meal in collaboration with Ulrich Krauss at Zagreus Projekta gallery in the Mitte neighborhood of Berlin that exhibits art and also serves food. By coincidence, the building was originally built (around 100 years ago) as a mikvah — a ritual bath. Some of the original tiles are seen above and below. 

✶ ✶ ✶

German-Jewish Pesach Seder Meal

Saturday March 28th at 8pm

 Zagreus Projekt, Brunnenstrasse 9a, Mitte

 info + reservation click HERE (scroll to bottom of page)

or call +49 30 28 09 56 40

✶ ✶ ✶

✶  MENU  ✶

Charoset

Horseradish

Matzo

Chicken Soup with Matzo Balls

Fish Salad

Veal Roast

Matzo Schalet

Cabbage Salad

Vegetables Vinaigrette

Grimsele with Wine Sauce

 ✶

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We are writing a cookbook! We are very excited to announce that Brandeis University Press – a member press of University Press of New England – will publish our German-Jewish cookbook as part of the HBI Series on Jewish Women. The book, to be published in 2017, will include:

• approximately 100 recipes (sourced from historic cookbooks, archives, interviews, friends — and, of course, family recipes)

• photographs by yours truly, Sonya Gropman, and illustrations by Megan Piontowski

• a look at the food culture of German-Jews through individual stories, including those from our own family

• a brief history of the culture of Jews in Germany

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This book will contain recipes that were cooked by Jews in Germany pre-World War II, as well as post-war, after emigration. These recipes use mainly fresh, seasonal ingredients; lots of vegetables, fruits, grains, meats, and of course, cakes!  Perhaps most importantly, this food is delicious! Dishes such as chilled fruit soups, vegetable slaws and salads, baked Schalets (aka kugels), Sabbath fish (such as Pike and Carp), roast meats and poultry, dessert puddings, and much more.

In addition to wonderful food, this book is also about preserving a vanished culture. Therefore, we are collecting both recipes and stories. If you (or anyone you know) have recipes to share with us, or food memories of shopping, cooking, eating, holiday meals, etc. (either in Germany, or after leaving Germany), we would like to hear from you! We will, of course, credit anyone whose story we tell in the book. Thanking you in advance!

You can leave us a comment below, or email us at german.jewish.cuisine@gmail.com

Also, we will be in Berlin later this month. We will be teaching a cooking class at Goldhahn & Sampson (the class is sold out, but there is a waiting list in case any spots become available), and meeting with people related to our book. If you know anyone in Berlin who you think we should contact (for example, someone with a story to tell or someone who works with food), please let us know!

That’s all for now. We will be updating our book progress on a regular basis. Until then, we are wishing you a Happy Spring!

Gaby AppleJelly 2

Sonya and I are both agriculture lovers, though we live in relatively urban areas — Sonya in NYC, me in a “streetcar” suburb of Boston (one of the communities that sits along what once was a route of streetcars that ran around the circumference of the city in an 8-mile radius). Umpteen years ago, Sonya gave a lovely little apple tree to me and her father, Don, as a gift. We planted it in the middle of our small garden, surrounded by a few other edible backyard crops such as a massive raspberry patch and a sprawling concord grape vine, which shades our entire deck in summer. Both of these crops result in annual harvest traditions — the raspberries become jam and the grapes become concentrated juice (which we usually drink mixed with water or seltzer).

Gaby Apple Tree CU

The apple tree unfortunately has much of its sunlight obscured by tall trees surrounding our backyard, and until this year we have let it grow with minimal interference on our part – just giving it a basic annual pruning. While we’ve enjoyed seeing it outside the kitchen window, and it has acted as a shield from the sightline of a neighboring house, it has produced just a few small apples over the years. One year we took the extra step of spraying a dormant oil on the tree in March, but basically we have played at this endeavor and not regularly done the things that need to be done in order to get a proper crop. Until last year, when we did a major pruning which chopped down the overgrown vertical branches and left one large branch reaching out towards the south (aka sun). By late June of this year, it was obvious that we had some very pretty apples growing on the tree, and lots of them. The tree seemed grateful for its haircut and decided to produce on that south-reaching branch. By late September, most of the apples were beautifully red and round (the apples in the photo below were the rejects — I never had the chance to photograph the apples pre-jelly making). The only problem was that the nice white insides were dotted with brown spots. We did not see any worms or other pests, just blemishes. I tried making applesauce, but the whole thing turned a very unpleasant brown color, much darker than usual. I did not have a cider press available, so I turned to the culinary activity that I know and enjoy — making a preserve.

Gaby AppleJelly w Apples

One of the mythical stories about my paternal grandmother, Rosa, in Germany was her preserving of fruits for the winter. It always feels like a connection to that dear lady when I do this activity. So, making apple jelly became the answer to using these imperfect apples. This jelly is a lovely translucent light pink color, but is a bit  too sweet to my taste (I was afraid to use less sugar, as it was my first time making apple jelly). The recipe calls for seven cups of sugar to four cups of fruit juice. Despite the sweetness, it has a fresh, subtle flavor and aroma of apple and tastes good on top of breakfast toast with butter. I used the recipe for apple jelly from the little pamphlet included in the package of Certo pectin.

–Gaby

My image of Bamberg began before I ever went there — starting with the black-and-white photo of the rivers and bridges and medieval buildings hanging in our New York City apartment during my childhood, and continuing with my father’s tales of the glories of his native city (and my birthplace) – all memories wrapped in lushness.

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[reproduction of medieval map of Bamberg]

 Close to the old medieval center of town is the Hain, a neighborhood of late 19th century mansions of light-colored stone, square and stolid. I saw it for the first time in 1973, when my father guided us to the places he had always talked about. He showed us the building on Hainstrasse where the Jewish social club (Ressource) had been located. In 1973, it was an insurance building. We actually went to the door to see if there was any indication of its previous incarnation. Nothing. Many of the builders and original owners of these homes were Jewish; they were hop merchants and factory owners. The Dessauer family was one of those and number 4a Hainstrasse is the address of the Villa Dessauer, which today houses the  Municipal Museum of Bamberg.

When Hitler came to power the Villa was inhabited by the Pretzfelders, Jewish descendants of the Dessauers. In 1939, while the Pretzfelders were still living there, #4a became a “Jew House” (Judenhaus).  The Jews of Germany no longer had any rights as citizens. They were removed from their own homes into group quarters. My grandparents were relocated there from their own long-time residence, as well as numerous other Jewish people. They had been friends with the Pretzfelders and one can only imagine the psychic and physical impact of such a dislocation. By late 1942, all these people had been deported to their various fates in ghettos and death camps and none of them survived. After the War, the Villa became the America House, a part of the U.S. Government whose job it was to re-educate German citizens with democratic principles. After the Americans gave it up, the Villa became the Municipal Museum.                                                           IMG_0481  IMG_3202

 [left and right, interior of Villa Dessauer, Bamberg, 2013]

In 1991, I had an exhibit of my artwork there, along with three other American artists. My work was titled “In Search of the Lost Object”. It was a multi-media installation in several rooms of the Museum, and it was about the fate of our Jewish Bamberg family — those of us who survived, and those who didn’t. Since my grandparents, who were deported to a camp east of Lublin in April, 1942, had resided and suffered in this building, my show was full of ghosts and my mind was filled with imagined scenarios. It was the most powerful experience of my life as an artist.

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[left, Chriss Fiebig and Gaby in Bamberg, 1990; right, Chriss’ bookplate]

During a trip to Bamberg in 1990 to prepare for the exhibit, Sonya and I met Chriss Fiebig. She was a striking woman with blonde hair pulled back into a tight bun, piercing blue eyes set in an angular face and a deep laugh. Chriss was a fierce advocate of all things Jewish in Bamberg. She felt certain that her grandmother had been Jewish and she adopted Judaism as her identity. She learned Hebrew and married a religious Jewish man in Paris, where she had gone to become a model. When the marriage failed, she returned to Bamberg. Chriss was active in more ways than I can say: in restoring the Jewish cemetery; in giving tours to visiting Jews and gentiles alike; in teaching about Judaism to seminarians; in leading interfaith services, and on and on. She became my guide and mentor in Bamberg and I will always be grateful to her for her combination of warmth and shrewdness. When an expanded version of my show was at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City in 1994, we invited Chriss to join a panel that also included Reb Zalman Schacter-Shalomi and the Reverend James Morton, then Dean of the Cathedral, to talk about Jews in Germany today. For me, Chriss was a cheerleader, guide, and a dear friend.

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[Gaby, with art work at Villa Dessauer, 2013. Top, “White Dove”; all others, details of “Document Wall”] 

 In November, 2013, the two pieces from the 1991 show that the Museum had acquired were to be exhibited again as part of a large historic exhibit called “Jüdisches in Bamberg” (Jewish Life in Bamberg). (the exhibit is up until June 1, 2014.) It was very sad that Chriss was not there for this show — she died quite suddenly in 2004. She is buried in the Jewish cemetery in Bamberg. Regina Hanemann, the Director of the museum, guided the process of this show over a period of years. She is sensitive to all aspects and she was a generous and caring guide to Sonya and me during our one-week stay in Bamberg. Among other things, Regina is aware of our interest in the food history of German-Jews. She pointed out the berches       (bear-ches) bakeries in Bamberg and had fresh berches from one of those bakeries at the reception, in our honor. It was very moist and chewy, the way it used to be in New York when I was growing up.

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 [Berches served at opening reception of “Juedisches in Bamberg”, Villa Dessauer, Bamberg, November, 2013]

The new exhibit traces the history of Jews in that city. Included are artifacts, photographs, portraits, written material, art work and videos. Looking at the intervening 19 years, there has been a massive change.  The show curated by a young historian, Timo Saalmann , reflects the amount of academic interest there is today in all things Jewish in Germany. The preservation of memories and historical information is a driving motivation. I was pleased to be able to speak at the opening to a packed audience, in bad German, about the changes I have witnessed, and about my family’s ongoing connection to Bamberg.

— Gaby

 

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