06 October 2010

Food: 2,000 years of Jewish cooking in France

Where do our family's foods come from? And where exactly is that?

Head's-up on a new cookbook by famed author Joan Nathan covering 2,000 years of Jewish cooking in France.

"Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France" ($40, Knopf) should be out in November 2010.

According to Publishers Weekly:

This well-researched, fascinating cookbook encapsulates 2,000 years of Jewish history in France. Nathan, the James Beard Award–winning doyenne of Jewish cooking (Jewish Cooking in America), applies her culinary detective skills to sniffing out the Jewish influence on French cuisine, and vice versa.

Her rich subject matter yields both vast diversity and unexpected commonalities. Friday night Sabbath dinners alone can range from the Alsatian pot-au-feu to Moroccan adafina (meat stew with chickpeas and rice). The Germanic Alsatian specialties like potato kugel will be familiar to many Jewish Americans, while the North African dishes like brik with tuna and cilantro and m'soki (a Passover spring vegetable ragout originating in Tunisia) reflect Sephardic customs.

Nathan also explores cross-cultural concoctions such as Provençal brassados (a precursor to the bagel), brandade potato latkes, and a Bordeaux haroset by way of Portugal, all of which embody both the complicated migratory paths and acculturation of the Jewish people.

This being France, though, there are lovely renditions of native dishes, too--chestnut cream gâteau, braised endive, cassoulet. Nathan's multi­layered, narrative approach makes this treasury of tempting flavors an entertaining and compelling read.
There are more reviews at Nathan's site, such as this one.

Sounds like an excellent read, regadless of where your family hails from, so look for it at your favorite bookstore. It's on my wish list.

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