Fighting fiercely over Jewish recipes
Early in the 20th century, hundreds of immigrant Jewish housewives jumped at the chance to share traditional recipes and become Gold Medal Flour women.
“Ask your grocer how you can become a Gold Medal Flour woman,” trilled a big, bold advertisement that appeared within the pages of the Forverts (Forward) newspaper, whose support was enlisted to administer a recipe contest during interwar years. All you had to do was to submit a tried-and-true recipe, a representative Jewish dish or maykhl, to the Forverts contest department, whose panel of judges would vet its authenticity. In each instance, what held the panel’s interest, and resulted in a prize, was not the recipe’s affordability, versatility, aesthetic appeal or even its tastiness, but the way in which it transmitted tradition.
If the recipe passed muster, it would then appear in the “Gold Medal Flour Cookbook,” an ambitious compendium of recipes published in Yiddish in the early 1920s by Minneapolis’s Washburn-Crosby Company, the manufacturers of “healthy, clear, white and natural” Gold Medal Flour. With as many objectives as ingredients, the cookbook was designed in one fell swoop to secure the loyalty of the Yiddish-speaking consumer, to enlarge the palate of foods she served her family and to make sure that the traditional, Eastern European dishes she fancied would endure and hold their own in modern America.
A thousand immigrant Jewish housewives jumped at the chance not only to extend the shelf life of traditional Jewish foodstuffs, but also to become a Gold Medal Flour woman. Ultimately only 100 of them, those whose recipes ran the (limited) gamut from savory noodle dishes to hale-and-hearty soups, were awarded that designation, and with it the heady prospect of seeing their recipe included in a cookbook published by one of the nation’s leading manufacturers.