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THE JEWISH HOLIDAY KITCHEN by Joan Nathan

THE JEWISH HOLIDAY KITCHEN

By Joan Nathan


Nathan, coauthor with Judy Stacey Goldman of The Flavor of Jerusalem (1975), ransacks the culinary history and geography of Judaism to arrive at some 150 recipes for holiday, Sabbath, and ceremonial fare.

In some cases the association of food and occasion is traditional (most of the Seder offerings); in others the recipes are shunted into more or less arbitrary slots in order to fill out chapters--e.g., gingerbread cookies to occupy the kiddies at Chanukah. Versions of Ashkenazic, Sephardic, and assorted Middle Eastern classics range from painstakingly authentic to frankly bastardized (sweet-potato tsimmes with canned pineapple and marshmallows). The organization is intended to provide representative menus from Jewish communities of many national origins. To some extent Nathan's international foraging is illuminating (see her fascinating compilation of versions of the Passover charoses); it is also at times strained and distracting. What is worth more than rubies is her generous selection of quotations from old cookbooks and elderly Jews who still preserve their earliest culinary memories.

Erratic, but at best wonderful.