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Hello! It’s been a while – a very long while, we didn’t mean for almost 6 months to lapse – and there’s been a lot going on since we last checked in here. We’ll do our best to start catching up on the past five months (a very exciting and busy five months!) since our book The German-Jewish Cookbook was published in September. First, it was such an exciting experience to hold an actual book in our hands – OUR book – after working on it for so long. We realized the project took the better part of nine years (!!!) as we can date the early stages of our research back to 2009. Phew.

It never gets old seeing our book “in the wild”, and it was especially great to see it in the window of Kitchen Arts & Letters, the wonderful culinary bookstore in Manhattan – not only because it’s a shop we’ve adored and have been visiting and shopping at forever, but also because Nach Waxman, the founder, wrote the foreword to our book. And Matt Sartwell, the co-owner, is so helpful in so many ways and is an all-around mensch. We were especially tickled to see the book sitting next to Leave Me Alone with the Recipes by Cipe Paneles in the front window (look it up if you’re not familiar with this special book!).

 

The German-Jewish Cookbook in the window of Kitchen Arts & Letters, the culinary bookstore in NYC.

In many ways the world has become a tad bit smaller for us since the book was published as we began connecting with interested readers in real life, meeting people at book events and/or hearing their feedback about the book in comments and emails. Making these connections feels so important, as it is truly the main reason we wrote this book – as a way to preserve and share the food of a culture, something that unifies people.

We would love to hear your feedback and see photos of the recipes you are making from the book! Please share photos on social media if you can, using #GermanJewishCookbook so we’ll find it — either on Instagram (use #GermanJewishCookbook and tag @sonyagrop) or on Facebook (Facebook.com/German Jewish Cuisine), or Twitter (@Ger_Jew_Cuisine). Or simply email us photos: german.jewish.cuisine@gmail.com

 

Butter cookies (heading into the oven to bake) that we brought to our book talk at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, MA last November.

 

We have had many opportunities to meet people at the numerous book events we have had thus far on both the east and west coasts — in New York City, Boston, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles to date — where we have held events at a wide array of venues: book stores (both general and those that specialize in culinary books), universities, community centers, synagogues, Jewish organizations, and the NY Public library. Our events have been varied in nature, including book talks and readings (many of which include food tastings), cooking demonstrations, cooking classes, and restaurant dinners with special menus featuring our recipes. We are looking forward to meeting many more readers at future events. We have upcoming events scheduled in New York City; Boston; St. Petersburg, Florida; Germany (Berlin, Bamberg, and Munich); Ann Arbor, MI, with more to come. In the near future, we are excited about these upcoming events:

  • February 28th – a book talk at Espresso 77 in Jackson Heights, NYC
  • March 1st – a discussion about the book with the inimitable Mimi Sheraton at the 92nd St. Y in NYC
  • March 20th – a panel discussion with us and Atina Grossman and Jeffrey Yoskowitz at the Leo Baeck Institute (at the Center for Jewish History) in NYC
  • March 27th – a talk we will present at the Culinary Historians of Boston (in Cambridge, MA)

Please visit our events page for a complete listing of upcoming events. Please note: we will update the events page as additional events are added, so please check back.

 

Gaby speaking to the audience during our Jacques Pépin lecture at the Gastronomy Department at Boston University in November.

 

It is always exciting for us to meet people who are of German-Jewish ancestry who want to connect with their roots and share their family stories and/or their own food memories. We have met such people at just about all of our events across the country. One person brought along a bottle of fruit syrup that was empty but had a perfectly preserved (and beautiful) label still gracing the front. The bottle represents a strong link to her culinary past, as well as to her parents and her childhood, and she told us she keeps it carefully wrapped in a safe spot. Another person took a bite of Berches (the German version of challah) that we served at one of our events and tears started falling from her eyes – she told us this was the first time she was tasting this bread in 40 years, and that it tasted just as she remembered it!

 

This long-empty bottle of German strawberry syrup was brought by someone of German-Jewish background to one of our events.

 

It is also exciting to meet people of German background (non-Jews) who often recognize their own past in our recipes, foods that were perhaps made by their parents or grandparents. After all, German-Jewish cooking – which is both German and Jewish – is a culinary tradition which came to a halt in Germany in the 1930s during the Nazi era, when Jews fled. This resulted in a food tradition that in many ways is frozen in time, rendering it “old-fashioned”. The food we present was eaten before that time, and also continued to be eaten in varying degrees of adaptation by emigres in their new homes, in foreign countries.

 

The special German-Jewish menu listed on the chalkboard at Gravy restaurant in Vashon, WA last October.

It is also exciting to meet people who are not Jewish, nor German, who comprise a good part of our audiences who are interested in our book and its food traditions simply because they want to discover a new style of cooking. Some seem  fascinated with the fact that the recipes are embedded in a story that recounts memories of past generations. Others, in the details of this central European cuisine which highlights ingredients that are fresh and seasonal – and includes more vegetables than either German or Jewish food is generally given credit for.

We were thrilled to see how Chef Dre Neeley of Gravy, a restaurant on Vashon Island, near Seattle, interpreted our recipes for a special dinner menu he and partner Pepa Brower served last October. It was a 7-course meal, which heavily featured the incredible selection of fish available in the Pacific Northwest. Note that the menu is listed on the chalkboard in the photo above (though the amuse bouche of chopped liver pâté, shown below left, was not listed). On the right is salmon in aspic.

 

The fact that we are a mother-daughter team ALSO fascinates many, and we think one of the main reasons is that it emphasizes the multi-generational aspect of our project. But it also undoubtedly makes everyone wonder whether they’d be able to survive a nine-year project with their mother or daughter with humor and good nature intact. We have –though we’ve certainly traversed our fair share of stormy weather.

Sonya (left) and Gaby (right).

 

A few more photos of events and people we’ve met during the past five months of book events. It was a delightful afternoon and  such an honor to do a book talk at Omnivore Books in San Francisco. Many friends and family showed up on a sunny day.

Sonya (left) and Gaby (right) with Celia Sack (middle), owner of the wonderful shop Omnivore Books in San Francisco.

 

In Seattle, we taught a sold-out cooking class at Stroum JCC. We created an ambitious menu, cooking and baking an entire meal. There were plenty of tasks for everyone (peeling, grating, rolling, chopping, beating, boiling, draining, icing, etc) and when everything was done we sat together at a long table and schmoozed as we ate. Lisa Hurwitz (front +center in photo below, right) organized the class.

 

 

Book Larder is a delightful bookshop in Seattle that specializes in culinary books. It also has an in-store kitchen where cooking demos and classes are hosted. The in-house chef, Amanda, baked one of our cakes to serve during our evening book talk!

 

The audience at Book Larder in Seattle during our book talk.

And finally, we were so honored to be joined by Steven Lowenstein – historian and author of numerous books on German-Jewish culture – at our book talk at University of Southern California in collaboration with Hebrew Union College. Professors Paul Lerner and Leah Hochman invited us to do this talk, which had a great turnout of both students and members of the public.

(left to right) historian Steven Lowenstein, Sonya, Gaby, Professor Paul Lerner, University of Southern California

— Sonya & Gaby

We realize we’ve been absent from these parts for quite a few months…it turns out that the many (many!) steps of writing a book take a lot of time. The cover of our soon-to-be-published cookbook is above (photo: Sonya Gropman, food styling: Catrine Kelty). To say that we are excited is a bit of an understatement, we are very thrilled.

For info on where to buy the book, visit our book page.

We will be doing many book events all over the country, starting on the east coast in September in New York City and Boston. These will include readings, talks, cooking classes, special restaurant menus, etc. and almost all will include book signings. See a listing on our events page and be sure to check back, as we’ll be updating it as we add new events. We hope to see you in person at some point soon!

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.

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

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