Memorable Meals

Posted on October 20th, 2011 by

By Amy Smith, Administrative & Development Coordinator

Food is undoubtedly an important part of our lives.  Some of my favorite memories involve meals with family and friends, and my husband and I make a point of eating breakfast and dinner together every day.   But with the opening of Chosen Food (if you’ve been living under a rock, you might not have heard that we’re opening a major exhibition about Jewish food this Sunday, October 23, from 1-4 pm), I’ve started to think differently about food.

There are meals I can’t forget, like my wedding reception in St. Michael’s, Maryland.  Rather than a traditional sit down dinner, Tom and I opted for a classy brunch on the water.  The meal consisted of all of our favorite breakfast foods, including Challah, bagels and lox, and an omelet station.  For a personal touch, our wedding cake (white cake with raspberry filling and a butter cream frosting), was adorned with two custom made Bichon Frisé sugar cake toppers.  These were to resemble Jack and Max, our two Bichon Frisés who served as flower dog and ring bearer in the ceremony.  The cake toppers, seen below, will appear in the Banquet Hall section of the Chosen Food exhibit.

Then there are the meals that are bittersweet.  Last Sunday at the Jewish Museum, JMM trustees and staff gathered for a traditional Jewish brunch to wish Anita Kassof, former Associate Director, farewell before she starts her new job as Deputy Director of the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York.  JMM President Larry Caplan, new trustee Saralynn Glass, and Executive Director Avi Decter all said a few words, and welcomed Deborah Cardin into her new role as Assistant Director. 

This morning, I helped JMM Education and Program staff stuff bags with food samples for the Chosen Food public opening.  During the opening on Sunday, the first 500 visitors will receive an assortment of Jewish goodies, including Tam Tams and Great Kosher Restaurants Magazine.  In the afternoon, I took a trip to the Towson Town Center to pick up a Pottery Barn glass dome to display the cake toppers in the exhibit, and stopped at CVS on the way back for some chocolate for our Collections Manager and Photo Archivist who, like many of our staff, are feeling the pressure of the looming Sunday opening.

Much of my day revolved around food – packaging it, shopping for it, talking about it, writing about it, and eating it.  As I reflect on various memorable meals I’ve shared with friends and family over the past few months, what strikes me is that food has the ability to bring people together.

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“You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s”

Posted on October 2nd, 2011 by

A blog post by associate director Anita Kassof.

How many of us remember that famous advertising slogan for Levy’s rye bread? The fact of the matter is, Levy’s had it right with that 1960s ad campaign; Jewish and kosher-style food have wide appeal. Think matzoh ball soup, bagels and lox, corned beef on rye, and no matter what your background, your mouth starts watering. Statistics bear out the claim. According to Sue Fishkoff, author of Kosher Nation: Why More and More of America’s Food Answers to a Higher Authority (2010), the majority of people who buy kosher food products aren’t even Jewish. 

To honor the New Year—and to prove my point that great Jewish recipes are great for everyone—I share below a favorite recipe for “Jewish Apple Cake,” which I make every Rosh Hashanah as a sweet way to welcome the New Year. I urge you to try it out and see what you think. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Image via Flickr.

The recipe is adapted from Covenant’s Still Cookin’ 50th Anniversary Edition (1997), which I received as a thank you gift after I addressed the Covenent Guild many years back. Founded in 1947, the Covenant Guild is a women’s philanthropic group that raises funds for various organizations in theBaltimore area.

Whatever your own holiday food traditions and however you observe Rosh Hashanah—even if you don’t observe it at all—may the coming months be filled with sweetness for you and your families.

4 eggs

2 1/2 c. sugar, divided

½ c. cinnamon

3 c. flour

3 Tbsp. baking powder

2 tsp. vanilla

1 c. neutral oil (I use canola)

½ c. freshly squeezed orange juice

5 medium apples (I like to use tart ones)

3/4 c. chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Mix cinnamon and ½ cup sugar.

Peel the apples, cut them into thin slices, and toss them with about a tablespoon of the cinnamon sugar mixture. Set aside.

Sift the remainder of the sugar, flour, and baking powder together in a large bowl. Add oil and eggs, one at a time, beating on medium speed as you go. Beat in orange juice and vanilla. The batter will be very thick and goopy.

Coat a large pan or pans with oil or cooking spray, coat with flour, and shake off excess. I have used two round cake pans, or one 9×13 inch pan.

Layer batter and apples, ending with apples, which you should press down into the batter. Use all the syrupy liquid that the apples have released. You can even swirl it on top after you’re done layering things. The cake will be pretty messy and gooey but, trust me, it turns out fine—super moist and not too sweet. Top with cinnamon sugar mixture and chopped nuts.

Bake for about 1 hour, testing after first 30 minutes, especially if you are using two smaller pans.

The original recipe says you can invert the cake on a platter after it has cooled, but I’ve never been able to do that. Never mind—even served straight out of the pan, it’s delicious!


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Jewish Museum of Maryland Weathers Two Natural Disasters

Posted on August 29th, 2011 by

A blog post by Associate Director Anita Kassof.

My monthly blog post comes on the heels of two natural disasters and, for once, I’m delighted not to have much to write about.

While Irene’s arrival was heralded by dire predictions from weather forecasters and admonishments to lay in everything from sandbags to batteries, the as-yet-unnamed earthquake took us all by surprise. I happened to be working at home that afternoon (where I initially attributed my shaking desk to my dog scratching a particularly tenacious flea), so I did not partake in the JMM drama.

When I returned to the office, everyone was eager to share what-I-was-doing-when-it-hit stories, as people do after most natural disasters or tragedies (where-I-was-when-Kennedy-was-shot stories have sustained generations of Americans). Of course, an earthquake is no laughing matter in a museum that houses precious, delicate, or irreplaceable collections, but by the time I showed up on the scene the collections staff had already done a thorough assessment and discovered one or two tumbled objects and no more.

A few objects fell, but nothing was damaged or broken.

The Lloyd Street Synagogue also appeared to have survived unscathed, although the next day an observant docent noted that after our initial check, a small piece of plaster had crumbled from the crown molding. A thorough walk-through didn’t reveal any other apparently new cracks, but when you’re dealing with a 166 year old building, it’s pretty challenging to distinguish a new crack from an old one. To be on the safe side, we’ve invited a structural engineer to conduct a walk through of both synagogues in the near future, though as our preservation architect points out, “If the building isn’t in the street, you’re probably okay.”

A piece of fallen plaster.


Probably a pre-existing crack.


We’d hardly finished talking about the earthquake when the next natural disaster loomed. Friday was a busy day for our collections staff and custodian, as we prepared for the wrath of Irene.

Emergency Management CoordinatorJobi Zink. Who says hardhats can’t go high fashion?

While the sun still shone, my colleagues sandbagged the doors of the Lloyd Street Synagogue, cleaned out exterior drains, prepared our basement rooms for potential flooding, and made sure we were all familiar with the Museum’s emergency response protocols. Fortunately, all our precautionary measures turned out to be unnecessary. Irene left us with little more than a couple of puddles and a few fallen leaves.

But it’s good to have had some practice in preparation, because blizzard season is just around the corner.

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