Food, Family and Tradition Hungarian Kosher Family Recipes and Remembrances

by | Sep 5, 2014 | Book Reviews

Food, Family and Tradition Hungarian Kosher Family Recipes and Remembrances
Lynn Kirsche Shapiro
The Cherry Press, 2014
279 pages, $35
ISBN: 978-0-9898479-0-2

As the “2,000 Year Old Man,” Mel Brooks, used to say “Oy, I love a nectarine; half a plum, half a peach, not too sour, not too sweet; it’s a wonderful thing.”

Food, Family and Tradition is a nectarine of a book. Part one is a family memoir with period photographs, biographies and a family tree of Holocaust survivors and victims. Part two is a cookbook containing family recipes updated for preparation in contemporary kitchens.

First, the family memoir: Not a historian, author Shapiro has done a most creditable job of chronicling the history of her parents’ family, many of whom were born in countries whose names and borders have changed. Wherever possible she has used the names of places as they appeared on Holocaust-era maps. The specific area known as Subcarpathian Rus or Carpatho-Ukraine was dominated by Hungary and controlled after World War II by the Communist regime of the Soviet Union until 1989. Currently, it is inside the extreme western border of Ukraine. In essence, a small part of the family escaped to America and Israel. Sadly, the larger part was murdered during the Holocaust, although some in Europe survived both the Nazis and the Communists. My closest boyhood friend arrived with his family as refugees from “Czechoslovakia” just prior to WWII —but spoke Hungarian—and the recipes in this book are reminiscent of the meals I ate in their kitchen as a teenager.

The author has labeled each recipe ‘dairy,’ ‘meat’ or ‘parve’ and has provided head notes that include ingredient substitutions, preparation tips, serving suggestions and timing. Shapiro’s career as an educator was balanced by the integral role she played in her parents’ business, Hungarian Kosher Foods, an all-kosher supermarket in Skokie, Illinois.

Many of the recipes, such as Kasha, Tzimmes and Brisket, are relatively similar to those in cookbooks derived mainly from German and Russian sources (except for heavier use of paprika). But the Kirsche (nee Kirschenbaum) and Weinberger families’ recipes for organ meats such as tongue and liver and for delicacies like roast goose, chulent, roast duck and Hungarian Goulash (Gulyas) bear careful replication and promise joyful eating.

Food, Family and Tradition distinguishes itself from most cookbooks by the touching and informative attention given to family history and customs without diluting the attention to detail required when modernizing traditional recipes for present day use. Although not the size of a coffee table book, it is nonetheless a very attractive book that will be appreciated by the kosher cook and the kosher-style cook as well.

With the many meals for the holidays on the horizon here is a sample recipe.

—Hal Sacks is a retired Jewish communal worker who has reviewed books for Jewish News for more than 30 years.