For the past week and a half, I’ve been sitting in on sessions of the Great Big Jewish Food Fest, an excuse for people who love Jewish food to come together via Zoom and Facebook and schmooze (or smooze, as a Virginia-born former boss of mine used to say) with some Very Important Jewish Cooks and Writers, including Joan Nathan, Michael Twitty, Michael Solomonov, Claudia Roden, Julia Turshen, Molly Yeh, Ruth Reichl, and Leah Koenig. Most of the sessions have been archived online here for your watching enjoyment, and if you have any interest in Jewish food at all, you should watch because they are delightful.
Among them was a workshop on preserving your own family’s recipes, taught by members of the Jewish Food Society, a nonprofit that works to collect, save, and celebrate Jewish recipes. They offered advice on how to interview family members about the food they remember, how to work with old-style cooks to transform “a bissel of this” and “a handful of that” into more universally recognized measurements, how to test recipes so other people can make them, and how to share with the rest of the family. (They’ve since condensed this advice into a PDF worksheet.)
The members of my own family, I must admit, were not really much for cooking. Our most cherished ancestral recipes were ones my grandmother clipped from the newspaper, and the most important lessons she passed on to me were about clothes shopping. But I really love this idea of preserving old recipes, and also using it as an excuse to hang around with older family members (even if it is only through video chat). If you’ve been looking at the news at all these past few months, you can’t help but think of death and realize that time is short. Death looms, so let’s all get together and eat! And if you feel like sharing your family recipes in the comments, I’d love to see them.