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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!

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!

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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Herta Bloch, 2013, NYC

Herta Bloch — who we wrote about in our last post HERE — knew practically everyone in the German-Jewish community of Washington Heights in NYC between the 1940s through the mid-1990s, because during those years so many people shopped at Bloch & Falk, the store she owned with her husband Alfred. They came to buy the German-style cold cuts and sausages (Aufschnitt and Wurst) that were made exclusively of beef or veal (as opposed to the de rigueur pork of most German meat products). All of their products were made and smoked on-site in the back room: kosher salami, ring sausage, pastrami, smoked tongue, corned beef, the ubiquitous cervelat (a hard salami) and many other assorted meats.

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Vintage images of Bloch & Falk store, Washington Heights, NYC Photos courtesy of Herta Bloch

My grandparents, as well as most of their friends and family, shopped at Bloch & Falk. After Oma and Opa moved to New Jersey in the 1950s, they continued to make the short journey back over the Hudson River to shop at Bloch & Falk on a regular basis for the provisions they ate on a daily basis. The store was on Broadway and 173rd Street and was an easy stop en route to or from New Jersey via the George Washington Bridge. I don’t think their refrigerator was often without a stash of cured meats wrapped in white, waxy butcher’s paper. After Opa died, my uncle Andy would often stop in there to shop for Oma, until the store went out of business in the 1990s.

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Vintage images of Bloch & Falk store, Washington Heights, NYC. Photos courtesy of Herta Bloch

Today the type of food Bloch & Falk produced has almost completely disappeared. Sausages and cold cuts with that unique blend of both German and Jewish qualities barely exist anymore — and if so, probably not with the superior quality of B&F, where everything was made by hand, in-house and in small batches. We were surprised to discover, quite by accident, a beef ring sausage for sale at the Kleinmarkthalle in Frankfurt (a large, indoor market with many stalls of food purveyors) in 2011. My mother spotted it first: Rindwurst (beef sausage) written in blue writing on a package in the glass case of a meat vendor we were walking past. Since it is unusual to see beef, instead of the usual pork, sausages in Germany, she inquired of the purveyor and learned that the company — Gref Völsings,  a local sausage company in Frankfurt that has been in business since 1894 — originally made these sausages specifically for their Jewish customers starting about 100 years ago, and has continued making them ever since. My mom bought a vacuum sealed package of the Rindwurst to bring home to Boston. There, she made the same traditional lentil soup that both her mother and grandmother made when she was a kid, using the smoked Ringwurst from Bloch & Falk to impart a smoky, meaty flavor to the soup. To her great surprise, she said it tasted very, very much the same as the Ringwurst from her childhood!

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People who remember the store and their products still lament the loss of Bloch & Falk. To this day, people write comments on blogs and internet chat rooms about their Wurst and Aufschnitt in yearning tones. Herta shrugs off the suggestion that someone, somewhere might make a similar product. “Ah, it would be much too expensive to do it the way Alfred made it. And besides, no one knows how to do it.” Yet, Herta perhaps isn’t fully aware of the growing artisanal food movement, one where people are willing to seek out — and spend more — for quality, hand-made products. Perhaps this is the type of product that would allow two seemingly distant food worlds — one of Old World traditions and the other of modern tastes rediscovering those same Old World traditions, to successfully meet up.

We wonder: would there be a market today for these types of sausages and cold cuts that have all but become extinct? What are your thoughts? We would like to hear from you!

–Sonya

 

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image from aufschnitt.net

 

Boston being Boston, the Boston Globe’s food pages last month turned to Irish food traditions, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. In this article, Jane Dornbusch wrote about a butcher shop in the Irish-American neighborhood of Dorchester in Boston. What struck me most profoundly about the piece was how in many ways it could just as easily have been written about German-Jewish food traditions. It included aspects of Irish food that were unfamiliar to me, and the one that struck me first was the topic of sausage.

Dornbusch writes: “…the shop carries as many as 18 house-made varieties. Even on a dreary winter day, there are several types in the case: lamb, curried chicken, chicken with spinach and feta, Buffalo chicken, Italian sweet and hot, Guinness and leek.”

This same description could have been written about the German-Jewish butchers of Washington Heights when I was growing up in terms of the large variety of sausages available.

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image from aufschnitt.net

The butcher, Alan Gibson, is a native of Ireland who opened the Butcher Shop Market in 2009. He acknowledged that the Irish-American tradition of corned beef was unknown to him in Ireland, but that he, being a food purveyor in Boston, learned about corned beef in order to meet the demand of his customers. He prepares it the natural way, without preservatives, with a simple brine. The color of his corned beef is not the commonly seen red (which is chemically induced), but rather greyish.

The prevailing tradition here is not only the food itself, but also its preparation and adherence to historic standards of purity. This story felt familiar. I could relate – not only to the sausage part, but to the principle of simple food preparation without a whole lot of food industry commercializations. I thank Jane Dornbusch for this story which illuminated an aspect of our own story for me.

The pictures of sausages you see above and below are not Irish. In fact, they are not real sausages at all, but rather sewn and stuffed fabric! We recently discovered this shop owned by Silvia Wald, called Aufschnitt, that makes these “cuddly wursts” in Germany – in the Friedrichshain neighborhood of Berlin. She makes a variety of meaty stuffed items – from small sausage links to large beanbag chairs in the shape of a ham bone. And since they’re made from fabric and thread, they’re all vegetarian (and kosher)!

-Gaby

image from aufschnitt.net

 

As Bostonians (Sonya grew up here, though now lives in NYC; Gaby grew up in NYC and has lived in Boston most of her adult life), we – and our family and friends – are all safe, and hopefully you and yours are, too. We have been saddened, shocked, and awed by the violent events of the past week, which took place so close to home.

 

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If you would like to make a donation, The One Fund Boston was formed by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Tom Menino to assist those most affected by the events of April 15, 2013.

We have been a bit quiet around here recently, but we have several posts coming up very soon on sausages and other things!

[Foto above is of the Boston skyline taken from the T (subway) by Sonya a few months ago.]

-Sonya and Gaby

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