We have posted a lot of silence here since last spring, but that doesn’t mean we’ve been quiet. We’ve actually been quite busy, and a *lot* has happened in that time. We realize we’ve been negligent in terms of updating — here, finally, is an update to fill you in on everything! First, we extend our huge thanks and gratitude to everyone who supported our Kickstarter campaign! The funds raised will be very visible in the finished book, for they made the photographs and illustrations possible!

We are excited to say that The German-Jewish Cookbook: Recipes and History of a Cuisine is on schedule for a publication date in September, 2017,  a mere seven months away! When we know the exact date, we’ll certainly announce it here.

A test batch of fried Knee Doughnuts, so named because they are shaped over one's knees!

A test batch of fried Knee Doughnuts, so named because they are shaped over one’s knees! Photo by Gaby

To backtrack, we spent the summer finishing the book. In June, we were lucky enough to be invited to stay at the house of friends in Vermont where we had a 10-day work retreat. We spent the time working very long days, recipe testing and writing, albeit in very beautiful, green surroundings.

In late July/early August, we did the photo shoot for the book, shooting all the colour photographs of prepared dishes. There were three, sometimes four, of us crammed into the not-tiny-but-also-not-large kitchen at my parents’ (Gaby and Don) house. We wound up doing almost all of the photography in there, as well as all the cooking. We were literally shooting photos right next to the stove most of the time, which is where the window with the best light happens to be situated. Fortunately, we all soldiered through with good humor, and we all emerged unscathed, with no one having backed into a hot oven or some such calamity. I was the photographer, Gaby assisted with everything, Don washed many a dish*, and the final member of our team was the uber talented food stylist Catrine Kelty, who worked her beautiful magic on our food. She also happens to be amazingly fun and a joy to work with!  

One of the few shots not done in the kitchen. Sonya on ladder with Catrine. Photo by Melanie McLaughlin

One of the few shots not done in the kitchen. Sonya on ladder with Catrine. Photo by Melanie McLaughlin

Gaby and I cooked all the food, with Catrine and Don assisting along the way. It was a veritable marathon of round-the-clock cooking at all hours of the day (before, during, and after the shoot day), and sometimes into the wee hours of the night. It was an exhilarating, exhausting, challenging, and very fun experience. And, we did get to eat – there was a ton of leftover food each day that we did our best to get through.

Eating leftover food for lunch during the shoot.

Eating leftover food for lunch inside, on a rainy day during the shoot.

 

On sunny days, we had lunch out on the deck. So.much.food. #coffee

 Lunch out on the deck on a sunny day. So.much.food. #coffee Photo by Melanie McLaughlin

For the remainder of the summer, we toiled over the manuscript, getting it into finished form in order to submit it to our editor at University Press of New England/Brandeis University Press by our deadline in September. In late December we got the manuscript back from the copy editor and finished the editing phase, with a few more revisions back and forth. The book is now winding its way through the production process.

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Buying a live carp at a Polish fish store in Greenpoint, Brooklyn at Christmas. I brought it to Boston (packed in a LOT of ice) to test a recipe.

In the meantime, while all of the above was happening, Megan Piontkowski was working on her wonderful hand-drawn illustrations which will be seen throughout the book, in addition to the photos. We had lots of discussion with Megan thoughout the process of working with her about various foods and dishes, and what they should look like. A shout out to Megan for her fortitude in forging ahead with illustrations of some very meaty dishes, despite the fact that she is a vegetarian. 

We thank everyone for your interest in our book and in the many comments you’ve left here. Apologies if it’s taken us a while to get back to you.

More soon! We’ll be back here in this space sooner rather than later.

*My parents’ dishwasher went kaput on the first day of the shoot. Fun times.

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. 

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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

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✶  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

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