Food for Thought
Snappy Eats of 1932: Jewish Community Cookbooks
Here in the Dorot Jewish Division, we have over 400 cookbooks that were published outside the United States: from Canada and Mexico, South America, Asia (including Israel, of course), Oceania, and Africa (including a cookbook from Melilla, the city on the north coast of Morocco that's actually part of Spain).
Some of the more unusual locales represented are the Bahamas (The Bah-Haimisha cookbook), Philippines (So eat a little), Panama (Anniversary cook book), and Curaçao (Recipes from the Jewish kitchens of Curaçao). These cookbooks give ample evidence of how Jewish cookery has been adapted to local ingredients. The Philippines cookbook, for example, has a recipe for "stuffed bangus;" it turns out that bangus (also known as milkfish) is an abundant fish in the Philippines, and the recipe is essentially a kind of gefilte fish.
But a New York Times article about Gloversville, N.Y. got me thinking about some "exotic" places right here in the U.S.A., and the small but vibrant Jewish communities that took part in a time-honored American tradition of producing charity cookbooks.
The Williamson Temple of Williamson, WV produced The road to good food in 1946; the Salt Lake City Section of the National Council of Jewish Women published Sharing cooking secrets in 1949; the Hebrew Ladies' Aid Society of Joplin, MO compiled the Joplin cook book in 1912; and Temple Anshe Hesed of Erie, PA created Temple's tempting tasties around 1930. The aforementioned Gloversville, a town in upstate New York, had a large enough Jewish population to support a Jewish Community Center, which published at least two editions of its Cook book of prized recipes.
And Temple Anshe Emeth of Pine Bluff, Arkansas produced my all-time favorite cookbook title, Snappy eats of 1932.
When we think of the great waves of Jewish immigration to the U.S., we often think of families crammed into tenements in the big cities. Our cookbooks document another side of the American Jewish experience: Jews persevering and prospering in the wide-open spaces of places like Wichita, Bangor, and Pine Bluff.