The Yiddish housewives' cookbook
A rare 1896 tome offers a peek into the wealthy Jewish kitchen of days past.
"Our housewives have for a long time felt they lacked a guidebook to the kitchen, the center of the home which sees to our existence and delights. A cookbook is necessary not only for those unversed in the culinary arts, but also vital to our talented cooks and experienced homemakers."
So reads the introduction to the Yiddish "Kokhbuch far yudishe froyen," published in Vilna in 1896. This rare cookbook by Oyzer Bloshteyn can now be found in the library of Dr. David Weinfeld.
"A young woman leaves her mother's home and begins to manage her own household," the introduction continues. "As a girl, she was busy with school, sewing, knitting and was not involved at all in the kitchen. Today she enters her own and doesn't know where to begin. Educated housewives can find assistance in cookbooks in other languages. That's the truth. But these are not designed for the Jewish kitchen, which requires totally different preparations."
The book contains 668 recipes for "dishes, baked goods, muffins, compotes, ice cream, juices (jams ), drinks, how to preserve meat in salt, how to pickle fish and fruit, and how to prepare all the special Jewish delicacies for the Sabbath, holidays and Passover. All extremely tasty and inexpensive," Bloshteyn promises on the cover.
Those wondering how such a large number of recipes could possibly have been collected will find some answers in the pudding section of the sixth chapter, which covers "Flour Dishes." There, the young Jewish woman is taught how to concoct a flour pudding, bread roll pudding, three kinds of English pudding, black bread pudding, and puddings made from rice, crackers, biscuits, apples, chocolate, vanilla almonds, white cheese, calves liver, cabbage and even whitefish.
Menus contained in this book reveal the wealth of its target audience. For example, Bloshteyn suggests the following afternoon meal for guests: "First clear soup with noodles made by the pastry-cook; then sauted strips of chicken in gravy; cold meat with peas and sauted asparagus; roast chicken or tongue. Followed by roast veal and lamb with compote and salad. Afterward, a torte with wine or pastry and fruit."
Bloshteyn does not skimp on serving suggestions either. For instance, under the heading "Dinner at a Rich Wedding," he writes: "The table is laid with the complete setting of utensils ... wine and tasty fruits. For each diner, a plate, spoon, fork, knife and cups for the number of drinks offered. Bottles must be placed at a distance that may be easily reached by each diner who extends a hand toward them."