Tuesday, March 31, 2009

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Welcome to The Takeaway @ JTSLibrary

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Submit your questions or comments via email (library@jtsa.edu) or ask us in person at The Library's reference desk. We will post our answers and suggestions.

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Holiday Cooking Do's and Don'ts

A visitor requested books that explain what is permitted in the observant home when cooking on the holidays, for example the do's and don’ts of using gas stoves. Some suggestions are: Ehud Rosenberg’s Laws of Cooking on Sabbath and Festivals, a Pictorial Guide (Jerusalem and Spring Valley, Feldheim, 1986) (BM685 .R563 1986) ; Saul Wagschal’s Practical Guide to the Laws of Yom Tov and Chol Hamoed (Gateshead and New York, Feldheim, 1985) (BM690 .W23 1985); and Simcha Bunim Cohen’s The Shabbos Kitchen: A Comprehensive Halachic Guide to the Preparation of Food and Other Kitchen Activities on Shabbos or Yom Tov (Brooklyn, Mesorah, 1991) (BM685 .B644 1991).

Food and the Talmud

We were asked to provide a work listing all the foods mentioned in the Talmud, especially citrus fruits. We suggested Samuel Krauss’ Kadmoniyot Ha-Talmud (Tel Aviv, Dvir, 1923-1945) (DS111.1 .K855 1923 Reference), vol. 2, part 1; the section on fruits is p.224-229. Another source is Yehuda Feliks’ Atse-Peri le-Minehem, Tsimhe ha-Tanakh ve-Hazal (Jerusalem, Mass, 1994) (BS665 .F432 1994).

Jewish Food Facts

A group of people putting together a kosher cookbook wanted to include sidebars of Jewish food facts—why the foods are traditional at certain holidays and what is their symbolic connection to Judaism. In addition to the articles on “Food” (and individual foods) from the Encyclopaedia Judaica (DS102.8 .E53 2007 Oversize Reference) and the Jewish Encyclopedia http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/ , we suggested John Cooper’s Eat and Be Satisfied: a Social History of Jewish Food (Northvale, NJ, J. Aronson, 1993) (BS680.F6 C66 1993). Steven Lowenstein’s The Jewish Cultural Tapestry: International Jewish Folk Traditions (New York, Oxford University Press, 2000) (DS112 .L76 2000) has one chapter on cuisine which treats the culinary differences among Jews from various parts of the world. The Jewish Holiday Cookbook: An International Collection of Recipes and Customs by Gloria K. Green (New York: Times Books, 1985) (TX724 .G74464 1985) includes brief trivia and history for many of the recipes. Claudia Roden's The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York (New York, Knopf, 1996) (TX724 .R53 1996) covers worldwide Jewish cookery; it includes cultural commentary and anecdotes relating to specific recipes, foods, and categories of dishes. Finally, Getting Comfortable in New York: the American Jewish Home, 1880-1950 (F128.9.J5 G47 1990 Oversize), edited by Susan Braunstein and Jenna Joselit (New York, The Jewish Museum, 1990) (F128.9.J5 G47 1990 Oversize) includes a history of domestic culture, including kitchens and cookbooks, but does not discuss individual foods.

The Matzah Ball

Via e-mail, a correspondent asked us to provide sources relating to the “not-so-humble matzah ball”. We suggested Claudia Roden's The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York (New York, Knopf, 1996) (TX724 .R53 1996). On page 85 she gives the following background information:

The Yiddish word knaidl is derived from the German kn√∂del, meaning “dumpling”. Since the early middle ages, dumplings of all kinds have been popular in German, Czech, and Austrian cooking, and came into the Jewish diet. All over Eastern Europe, they epitomize the robust peasant and poor man's food. The basis of many - both savory and sweet, in soups served with meat and gravy — is egg combined with bread crumbs. The Jewish version with matzah, was born as a Passover specialty, but it is so liked that it appears throughout the year. There are very many versions, with chicken fat or oil, and including beef marrow, ground almonds, grated onion, chopped parsley, and powdered ginger.

We also suggested checking a book of Jewish social history, such as Jenna Weissman Joselit’s The Wonders of America: Reinventing Jewish Culture 1880-1950 (New York: Hill & Wang, 1994) (E184.J5 J67 1994).

Another library user asked us to direct him to material on matzah, specifically matzah in pictures. We suggested he check Larry Rivers' History of Matzah: The Story of the Jews by Norman Kleeblatt (New York: Jewish Museum, 1984) (N6537.R57 K54 1984 Oversize), which is an artist’s exhibition on the history of the Jews with matzah as a recurring symbol.

Let's Eat...

Speaking of food, a visitor asked for some sources for his research paper on how the Jewish dietary laws and customs helped forge Jewish identity. We referred him to David Kraemer’s Jewish Eating and Identity Through the Ages (London and New York, Routledge, 2007) (BM710 .K73 2007), which treats food as a community marker differentiating both Jew from Gentile, and Jew from Jew. Other sources are: Jonathan Brumberg-Kraus’ article “Meat-Eating and Jewish Identity: Ritualization of the Priestly ‘Torah of Beast and Fowl’ [Lev11:45] in rabbinic Judaism and Medieval Kabbalah” in AJS Review 24:2 (1999) p. 227-262; Paulette Kershenovich’s article “Evoking the Essence of the Divine: the Construction of Identity Through Food in the Syrian Jewish Community in Mexico” in Nashim, 5 (Fall 2002), p. 105-128; and Orit Rozin’s article “Food, Identity and National-Building in Israel’s Formative Years” in Israel Studies Forum 21:1 (2006) p. 52-80.

Pesach is coming...

As Pesach approaches, and community members are busy preparing their homes for Passover, we at the Reference Desk have been asked for a guide to kosher-for-Passover foods and kashering a kitchen for Passover (with special attention to the newest counter-top construction materials). Although, as with any halakhic question, we suggested the requestor consult his local rabbi, we referred him to the Rabbinical Assembly’s website which has two guides: http://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/docs/RA%20Passover%20Guide%202009.pdf which discusses general principles of Kosher le-Pesach food and describes how to prepare the kitchen for Passover, and http://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/docs/Passover%20for%20RA%20web%20site%20.pdf which provides detailed guidance for purchasing Kosher le-Pesach food in the light of 2009 manufacturing processes. In addition, the Orthodox Union’s guide is available at http://www.oukosher.org/index.php/passover. A more stringent guide is Avrohom Blumenkrantz’ The Laws of Pesach: A Digest, published annually (BM695.P35 B56).