MIRIAM'S KITCHEN: A Memoir by Elizabeth Ehrlich

MIRIAM'S KITCHEN: A Memoir

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An appealing, sensitive account of an assimilated Jewish woman's efforts to embrace the religious traditions of her ancestors. Former Business Week reporter Ehrlich (Nellie Bly, 1989) recounts a childhood where Judaism was merely kosher-style. Like so many other immigrants and children of immigrants, Ehrlich's left-wing parents shunned many of their religion's constraints. While pork didn't make it to their kitchen, shrimp did. And eating corned beef on ""Jewish"" rye became their most Jewish experience, ""the taste without the blessing."" After Ehrlich married, she hungered for something more, finding that cultural nourishment from her mother-in-law, Miriam, who as a teenager had been sent to a Nazi work camp, but survived the horror with her spiritual pantry intact. From this living link to her grandmothers and their traditions, the author was able to learn the recipes to more than a culinary Judaism. The dietary laws led to Sabbath observance, which enriched her family with 24 hours of ""contemplation, rest, and praise as a gift . . . that punctuates the temporal world."" Ehrlich's journey is not without occasional lapses and misgivings. She worries about the parochialism of her children's Jewish day school and prefers to tell professional contacts that she's a vegetarian, so that her dietary restrictions don't ""drive in a wedge."" Nor is she completely comfortable with the Orthodox exclusion of women from the traditional prayer quorum, or minyan. ""I hope that a minyan will gather when I die,"" she writes, ""and that it will have women in it."" While Ehrlich is not all that sure whether prayer matters or God plays a personal role in our lives, she is certain that the religious traditions she has adopted have made her life far more meaningful. Replete with family narratives and over two dozen recipes, Miriam's Kitchen is much more than one woman's journey to spiritual fulfillment. It is a savory stew made from the social and cultural ingredients of American-Jewish life.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 014026759X
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: Viking