RHAPSODY IN SCHMALTZ

YIDDISH FOOD AND WHY WE CAN'T STOP EATING IT

Informative, merrily entertaining culinary and cultural history.

An enticing tour of Judaism’s culinary past.

Wex (How to Be a Mentsh (and Not a Shmuck), 2009, etc.) brings lighthearted humor and his considerable expertise on Jewish culture to a wide-ranging look at Jewish food, from biblical dietary restrictions to New York bagels. The Bible forbade Israelites to mix meat and dairy products, eat leavened bread on Passover, and cook on the Sabbath. The last injunction led to the invention of a stew called cholent, which Jews prepared on Friday afternoon and left heating overnight. The meat came from a list of permitted animals: only “ruminants with cloven hoofs.” And those must be killed while still conscious, and bled thoroughly, in the koshering process. Permitted fish must have scales and fins; insects, with the exceptions of locusts, grasshoppers, and crickets, were not allowed. Nobody, Wex writes, “ancient or modern, Jewish or gentile, has the vaguest idea of why the forbidden species are forbidden.” Some ingredients became pervasive in dishes from many areas, especially garlic, onions, and the delectable schmaltz: rendered fat from chickens or, preferably, geese. Although Wex gives few actual recipes, he does provide one for schmaltz, “the champagne of animal fat.” The author explains the popularity of kishka, or stuffed beef intestine tsimmes, a fruit and vegetable stew; the braided challah; chicken soup, which “has served as a specific for what ails the Jews for close to two millennia”; and the latkes (potato pancakes), blintzes (crepes often stuffed with cheese), and bagels that have transcended Jewish cooking and made their ways into mainstream culture. Wex takes on the thorny question of where bagels originated and what constitutes the authentic variety. The bagel, he writes, “has managed the near unimaginable feat of actually becoming American” despite having “half the shelf life of a fruit fly.” But topping one with cream cheese and lox began only in the 1930s.

Informative, merrily entertaining culinary and cultural history.

Pub Date: April 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-07151-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON

THE OSAGE MURDERS AND THE BIRTH OF THE FBI

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Awards & Accolades

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2017


  • New York Times Bestseller


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  • National Book Award Finalist

Greed, depravity, and serial murder in 1920s Oklahoma.

During that time, enrolled members of the Osage Indian nation were among the wealthiest people per capita in the world. The rich oil fields beneath their reservation brought millions of dollars into the tribe annually, distributed to tribal members holding "headrights" that could not be bought or sold but only inherited. This vast wealth attracted the attention of unscrupulous whites who found ways to divert it to themselves by marrying Osage women or by having Osage declared legally incompetent so the whites could fleece them through the administration of their estates. For some, however, these deceptive tactics were not enough, and a plague of violent death—by shooting, poison, orchestrated automobile accident, and bombing—began to decimate the Osage in what they came to call the "Reign of Terror." Corrupt and incompetent law enforcement and judicial systems ensured that the perpetrators were never found or punished until the young J. Edgar Hoover saw cracking these cases as a means of burnishing the reputation of the newly professionalized FBI. Bestselling New Yorker staff writer Grann (The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, 2010, etc.) follows Special Agent Tom White and his assistants as they track the killers of one extended Osage family through a closed local culture of greed, bigotry, and lies in pursuit of protection for the survivors and justice for the dead. But he doesn't stop there; relying almost entirely on primary and unpublished sources, the author goes on to expose a web of conspiracy and corruption that extended far wider than even the FBI ever suspected. This page-turner surges forward with the pacing of a true-crime thriller, elevated by Grann's crisp and evocative prose and enhanced by dozens of period photographs.

Dogged original research and superb narrative skills come together in this gripping account of pitiless evil.

Pub Date: April 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-385-53424-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

NIGHT

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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