Thanking Gil Marks

Posted on December 10th, 2014 by

I never met him, but I and the JMM owe a great debt to the late rabbi and historian of Jewish food Gil Marks, who died on December 5. Marks’ magnum opus, The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food was published in 2010 and became an enormously important reference for our 2011 exhibition, Chosen Food: Cuisine, Culture, and American Jewish Identity.  It’s a remarkable work with entries for dishes from Jewish communities around the world, and for the Jewish meanings of foods one would never think of as “Jewish.” His entry on “Challah,” for example, explains the meaning and origins of the name of our delicious Sabbath bread, and describes the sort of loaf it actually referred to in the time of the Jewish Kingdom. He also has an entry on “Salt.” The book also contains recipes and detailed instructions for several of his entries. I have given it as a gift to several of my foodie friends, and I consult my own copy frequently. I highly recommend it as an irreplaceable resource and a fun read.

Recently published remembrances, (links to two good posts: http://blogs.forward.com/the-jew-and-the-carrot/210409/gil-marks-jewish-food-scholar-dies-at-/  and http://tabletmag.com/scroll/187460/remembering-a-jewish-food-giant )of Rabbi Marks note that even greater than his knowledge of Jewish food and its importance to Jewish culture and identity was his enthusiasm and generosity in sharing his knowledge and work with all who asked. The JMM experienced this generosity first-hand when in 2012 he allowed us to post the recipes for cholent and cholent kugel on our Chosen Food blog. With gratitude for his generosity and sorrow at his loss, here is an excerpt from that post.

 

I decided to try a cholent made “the right way,” turning for instruction to Gil Marks’ Encyclopedia of Jewish Food  http://www.gilmarks.com/. Here I found not only the recipe, but the fascinating history of this very Jewish food.

Two Jewish girls carrying pots of food for the Sabbath, Chicago. October 20, 1903. Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum.

Two Jewish girls carrying pots of food for the Sabbath, Chicago. October 20, 1903. Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum.

Cholent (also called schalet), based on the slow cooked stews (hamin, from the Hebrew word meaning “hot”) of the Mizrachi and Sephardi Jews, reached the Ashkenazim of Eastern Europe in the 12th or 13th century, via Spain and France. The word cholent may be derived from the Old French word for warm (chald/chalt) or it may come more directly from the Spanish escallento, also meaning warm. It became the custom for the homemakers of Europe to bring their pots of stew, lids sealed with flour paste to ensure against non-kosher taint, to the local bakery where the coals were banked to remain hot during Shabbat—a custom followed in Europe until the Shoah, and also brought by immigrants to the United States.

Cholent ingredients

Cholent ingredients

 I arranged the ingredients in the pot, following the order specified in Marks’ recipe. I had a little trouble with “water to cover,” since my pot was very full. (In fact, it boiled over during the cooking, leaving me with a major post-Shabbat cleaning project.) Don’t skip the hour long simmer Marks recommends. The cholent must go hot into the oven.

Cooking in the pot.

Cooking in the pot.

Two teaspoons of salt seemed like a lot to me, but it turns out to be just right. And don’t make the recipe at all if you don’t like the flavor of bay leaves. This ingredient is absolutely essential!

I topped the cholent with Marks’ cholent kugel, rolled into a long log that extended down the center of the cholent, from one end of the pot to the other. When I lifted the heavy lid the next day, I found the loaf flattened into an oval, but it was a beautiful brick red-brown from the paprika. It was surprisingly delicious, if somewhat solid.

How was the cholent? The beans and barley were not only cooked through, they almost lost definition. The meat was melt-in-your-mouth soft, and the seasonings were just on the edge of overcooked. I would have liked a little more gravy; don’t lose yours over the side of the pot!

Recipes (courtesy of the Encyclopedia of Jewish Food, by Gil Marks)

Ashkenazic Sabbath Stew (Cholent)

6 to 8 servings

1 ½ pounds beef or veal marrow bones

About 2 cups any combination mixed dried navy, lima, pink, pinto, and kidney beans

3 medium yellow onions, sliced

2 to 3 cloves garlic, whole or minced

6 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered

3 pounds beef flanken, brisket, or chuck roast

¾ to 1 cup barley

2 to 3 bay leaves

About 2 teaspoons table salt or 4 teaspoons kosher salt

About 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

About 2 quarts water

1. In the order given, place the bones, beans, onions, garlic, potatoes, beef, barley, bay leaves, salt and pepper in a large, heavy pot. Add enough water to cover.

2. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, skimming the froth from the surface, until the beans are nearly soft, about 1 hour.

3. Add more water if necessary. Tightly cover, place on a blech (a thin sheet of metal placed over the range top and knobs) over low heat, or in a 225° F oven, and cook overnight. Serve warm.

Cholent Kugel

4 to 6 servings

5 thick slices challah or 2 large rolls, torn into small pieces

1 ½ cups (7.5 ounces) all-purpose flour

¼ cup vegetable oil or schmaltz

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 to 3 teaspoons paprika

About 1 teaspoon table salt or 2 teaspoons kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground white or black pepper

In a medium bowl, soak the challah in water until soft but not mushy, about 2 minutes. Drain and squeeze out the excess moisture. Place in a medium bowl and mash until smooth. Add the flour, oil, egg, paprika, salt, and pepper, adding more flour if too loose; the mixture should be able to hold its shape. Form into a log and place it on top of hot cholent [before placing the cholent into the oven].

 karenA blog post by Curator Karen Falk. To read more posts from Karen click HERE.

 

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Once Upon a Time…04.04.2014

Posted on December 9th, 2014 by

The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Joanna Church at 410.732.6400 x236 or email jchurch@jewishmuseummd.org

 

2011029055Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times:  April 4, 2014

 

PastPerfect Accession #:  2011.029.055

 

Status:  Partially identified – do you recognize these 3 ladies, preparing for the Levindale Auxiliary Village Fair, 1977? Left to Right: 1. Roberta Mimeles Keyser 2. unidentified 3.  unidentified

 

Special Thanks To: Deborah Gotthebling Foland

 

 

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Volunteer Spotlight On: Gloria Savadow, Front Desk!

Posted on December 8th, 2014 by

Gloria Savadow has been volunteering at the JMM for over 6 years.  She volunteers as a Front Desk Receptionist.  Visitors to the JMM might assume that all of our volunteers are Baltimore natives and while in the strictest sense of the word, Gloria is, she hasn’t always lived in town.

Gloria, hard at work!

Gloria, hard at work!

Although Gloria grew up in Baltimore she went to high school in Massachusetts.  She then attended college at the University of Denver and fell in love with the southwest and northwest portions of the United States.  She did however return to the Baltimore area after college since her family was here, and taught English to middle school students.  That only lasted for a short period of time as she then moved to Israel to teach English there too.  Upon the conclusion of that program, she returned to Baltimore for the duration.  First she worked as a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for the blind, and assisted her clients in finding jobs.  Upon completing her Master’s degrees in Counseling and Social Work, Gloria worked at Mergenthaler Vocational – Technical High School (Mervo) for 20 years.  She enjoyed tremendous freedom in her job there.  One favorite example is when she raised money to take the students to NYC to see a Broadway show; another was taking students to Virginia to tour colleges.

In her position as a Front Desk Receptionist, Gloria appreciates that she’s been able to add to her Jewish education.  She enjoys learning from the exhibits and many programs that the JMM offers.  Her favorite aspect of being at the Front Desk is talking with visitors and finding out what in particular they like about their visit to the JMM.  She likes hearing about their tours and visits in the exhibits.  She also appreciates being able to talk and learn with members of the JMM staff.

Besides the JMM, Gloria also volunteers at Center Stage and Everyman Theaters.  She has been an usher at both places for many years and enjoys doing so.  And her very favorite activity is hiking outdoors.  While she was working in schools, she had the opportunity to spend three to four weeks each summer in the US National Parks out west.  She still enjoys doing that when she gets the chance.
ilene cohenA blog post by Volunteer Coordinator Ilene Cohen. The first Monday(ish) of every month she will be highlighting one of our fantastic JMM volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering with the JMM, drop her an email at icohen@jewishmuseummd.org or call 410-732-6402 x217! You can also get more information about volunteering at the Museum here.

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