Originally published on Food and Fond Memories on September 18, 2014 by sandyaxelrod 0 Comments (Edit)
Food, Family and Tradition Hungarian Kosher Family Recipes and Remembrances is the full title of a new book by Lynn KIrsche Shapiro. This was the hardest and at the same time most wonderful cookbook I have ever read. Now of course I must explain. This book is about Holocaust survivors and the recipes they enjoyed since long before World War II. Throughout history, and still today, not everyone has religious freedom. Jews, especially, have been persecuted and executed for their religious beliefs. They often had to flee, when they were able to, or hide their religion when they were not. Even through years of desperation and annihilation we have survived.
For my family it was Tsarist Russia. My grandparents were young a young, happy married couple with an infant, my mother, when they were forced to flee. First they had to stay safe until my mother was old enough to travel. Then it took two years living in fear of being caught traveling on foot and sometimes by train until they reached Riga, Latvia. From there they went to Southampton, England and boarded a ship to America where they truly believed the streets were paved with gold.
For the family of Lynn Kirsche Shapiro it was the Hitler and the Nazis. It was a miracle that anyone survived the death camps. Over six million Jews did not. Lynn has brilliantly told her family’s story starting before the gates of Hell opened. Life was rich and full of celebrations as there are many Jewish holidays and joyous occasions to celebrate. Food was plentiful and the meals were bountiful. That all changed when the Third Reich took control. But Lynn has interwoven the history with the amazing recipes. Her families recipes are some similar to my family recipes. I was immediately transported to my Bubie and Zeyda’s home for holiday meals and shabbos dinners. I wanted to cook everything in the book.
But the first thing I made was blintzes and the recipe was perfection. Unlike the first time I made them. When I was newly married and wanted to show Steve what a good cook, a balaboosta, that I was. I went to my grandmother’s for the recipe. I actually don’t know that she ever used one. But she gave me very clear instructions. Except for one tiny detail. She forgot to tell me that I needed a 6 or 7 inch pan to make the crepe. Well I used the only frying pan I had at that time and it was 12 inches in diameter. When Steve came home for dinner he wanted to know what was for dinner because it really smelled wonderful in our little apartment. I responded with a blintze. Steve said “You mean blintzes?” No, I replied and presented him with his plate. On it was a blintze hanging over the sides of our 10.5 inch dinner plate. It was really quite laughable but tasted yummy. We still laugh about it to this day and that was about 45 years ago!
But I digress. The difficult part of reading Food, Family and Tradition was trying to see through my tears. So many horrifying and tragic memories. When I got to the recipes I was quite relieved and thought that I could put my tissues away. But there are many anecdotes that are very moving interspersed with the mouth watering recipes. But like my father’s mother, who I am named for, used to say “It was so good. I had a good cry!” Of course she probable said it in Yiddush.
Each recipe (labeled dairy, meat, or parve), has headnotes that inform today’s cook about ingredient substitutions, preparation tips, serving suggestions and timing along with priceless remembrances – sweet, bitter and bittersweet – that puts these recipes in the context of rich, vibrant Jewish life and culture in Eastern Europe prior to the Holocaust.