A Few Vintage Ideas for Chanukah

Posted on December 22nd, 2014 by

Many cookbooks, in the past and today, contain more than just recipes.  These books can be considered part of the “conduct book” market, which developed in the US in the 1830s and has been going strong ever since.  Etiquette guides, housekeeping instructions, party planning suggestions: all these works aim to help you succeed at home, at work, and in society.

A comprehensive cookbook, then, may contain measurement equivalents, technique hints, or canning instructions, as well as advice on cooking for invalids, planning a week of menus, or setting a table.  Useful stuff! Conspicuously absent from mainstream cookbooks, however, is anything related to maintaining a Jewish kitchen.  For example – while it is informative in many ways – Miss Leslie’s New Cookery Book (1857) includes nothing on traditional foods for the High Holy Days, or the rules of Kosher cooking.

Thus was born the Jewish cookbook.  Like most advice books, these guides wanted to help you improve your life, and be the best American you could be … and, in this case, to do both while maintaining, refining, and expressing your Jewish identity. The first American Jewish cookbook was published in 1871, and it was soon followed by many, many more.  Here’s the title page from our copy of “Aunt Babette’s” Cook Book, first published in 1889:

“Aunt Babette’s” Cook Book JMM 1999.065.001

“Aunt Babette’s” Cook Book JMM 1999.065.001

Today we may be just as likely to get our expert cooking, deportment, and decorating advice from a website as we are from a book or magazine, but we still seek expert guidance on questions as simple as how to make the perfect latke, and as complicated as how to celebrate the holidays in modern America. Check out “Celebrate the Authentic Way” and last week’s Jewish Times cover story!

…All of this is simply my attempt at a scholarly justification for looking through our cookbook collection in search of Chanukah menus and decorating advice.  Many, if not most, of the early books focus only on Passover, but by the 1940s Chanukah has entered the mix.  In his 1941 book The Jewish Woman and Her Home (available in our library), Hyman E. Goldin notes that “today, especially in America, [Hanukkah] is gradually becoming a community festival, “ reflecting the holiday’s growing popularity.  Goldin also says “Hanukkah is marked by no special feasting.”  However, in the same year, the popular Jewish Home Beautiful book (also available in our library) was more than happy to provide recipes and decorating ideas for the holiday, including “potato lotkes,” “snow balls or heizenblozen,” and three novelty salads designed to mimic the appearance of a menorah. (A sample table setting, including the menorah salad, can be seen at the end of this post.)


Since there are a few days left of the holiday, you may be hoping for some fresh ideas – enjoy these suggestions and recipes from our collections!


Pots, Pans, and Pie Plates, and How to Use Them: A Collection of Tried Receipts, compiled by the Hebrew Day Nursery, Baltimore (1905), only has a specific menu for Passover, but it does include a recipe for potato pancakes:

From Pots, Pans, and Pie Plates, and How to Use Them: A Collection of Tried Receipts, JMM 1999.105.1

From Pots, Pans, and Pie Plates, and How to Use Them: A Collection of Tried Receipts, JMM 1999.105.1

Alas, the extremely thorough and otherwise marvelous Settlement Cook Book (ours is a circa 1920 edition), which was sold as a fundraiser for recent Jewish immigrants, includes menus for a Passover supper – as well as meals for Lent, Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and Washington’s Birthday – but nothing for Chanukah.  Here’s the suggested “Christmas supper,” in case you want to try it out on the 25th.

From  Settlement Cook Book JMM#1999.065.006

From Settlement Cook Book JMM#1999.065.006

At last, here’s a full meal for you, from The New Jewish Cookbook of Favorite Recipes, Betty Dean (1947 – JMM K2011.5.2):


Tomato juice                                                      Mixed green salad

Liver with onions                                              Pickles

Breaded lamb chops                                       Potato pancakes with apple sauce

Cauliflower – string beans – beets            Tea


And finally, a helpful hint from The Art of Jewish Cooking, Jennie Grossinger, 1958 (1969 edition – JMM K2011.5.1). Here, the author hedges her bets: Though the Chanukah section mentions latkes and kreplach, “we are not giving you any single menu but suggest experimenting with a variety of dishes suitable for festive occasions in the winter.”

table setting ideas

Chanukah table setting ideas, from (top) Jewish Home Beautiful, 1941, in our library; and (bottom) The Complete American Jewish Cookbook, edited by Anne London and Bertha Kahn Bishov (1952), JMM K2011.5.3.

JoannaA blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts from Joanna click HERE.

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Hamantaschen Bake Off….

Posted on March 24th, 2014 by

It all started with a lunch time conversation between Esther, Jobi, Sylvia (one of our volunteers), and myself. It was two or three weeks before Purim, and we were discussing all the different types of hamantaschen and debating their merits. Should one use cake dough or cookie dough? Is chocolate an acceptable filling? (the consensus on that last one was “no.”) And most importantly, of our own individual recipes for hamantaschen, whose was the best?

Then Sylvia said the fateful words: “You know there is only way to decide this, right? You have to have a hamantaschen bake off!”

We immediately knew that she was right. Esther, Jobi, and I quickly drew up some rules and guidelines for the contest and sent out an email to the staff, encouraging them and their volunteers to participate. The date was set for the Thursday following Purim to allow ample time for preparation.

Over the weekend of Purim, I camped out at my parents’ house so my mother could help me recreate her mother’s recipe. All Friday and Saturday, we bent over circles upon circles of dough, spooning lekvar or apricot jam into them and folding them into little triangles. (Funny story: having only ever heard my Bubby, who had a very strong Newark accent, say the word “lekvar,” I could never tell—until just now—if the word was supposed to be pronounced “lekvah” or “lekvar.” Fortunately, that’s what Google is for.) The process was a bittersweet one for us this year.  My Bubby died a year last Sunday, and for the last ten or more years of her life, she’d always come down to Baltimore to stay with us over Purim, and we’d make hamantaschen together. It felt very appropriate to commemorate the anniversary by making hamantaschen together.

The author making hamantaschen

The author making hamantaschen

Last Thursday, the day of the contest, four very different plates of hamantaschen made by two staff members and two volunteers entered the doors of the JMM. We had decided to make everything anonymous: nobody except for the competitors knew who had made the hamantaschen, and judging was open to anyone who wanted to participate. We were surprised by just how different each batch was: besides my very traditional lekvar (prune and raisin) and apricot hamantaschen, there were blueberry hamantaschen with dough that had a texture similar to scones, a batch that had a prune and mun (poppy seed) filling that tasted a bit like fig, and a very experimental batch with crispy chocolate dough filled with cream cheese and chocolate chips! All were delicious in their own way.

taste testing1

The tasting begins!

taste testing2

taste testing

taste testing3

The votes are cast!


At first, it seemed that the chocolate/cream cheese hamantaschen were in the lead because we couldn’t stop talking about them. But when the judging had finished, and we tallied the votes, the dark horse blueberry hamantaschen came in first! The chocolate ones came in as a close second, and the prune/mun and the lekvar/apricot ones tied for third.

At this point, we revealed the bakers:

The  winning blueberry hamantaschen were made by none other than docent Robyn Hughes!

The winning blueberry hamantaschen were made by none other than docent Robyn Hughes!

The chocolate and cream cheese hamantaschen were made by our Marketing and Development Manager, Rachel Kassman.

The chocolate and cream cheese hamantaschen were made by our Marketing and Development Manager, Rachel Kassman.

The prune and mun hamantaschen were made by archives volunteer Dana Willan.

The prune and mun hamantaschen were made by archives volunteer Dana Willan.

And, of course, the lekvar and apricot hamantaschen were made by me.

And, of course, the lekvar and apricot hamantaschen were made by me.

Congratulations and Mazel Tov to Robyn Hughes, who gets the glory and bragging rights for making the best hamantaschen…until next year!

Thank you to everyone who participated, both has bakers and judges!

abby krolikA blog post by Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik. To read more posts by Abby, click HERE.

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Nothing “Beets” Borsch!…No, really, on a cold November day, nothing does beat warm borsch.

Posted on November 5th, 2012 by

A blog post by Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik.

As Hurricane Sandy finally left us, we welcomed in the cold weather with D.C. food blogger, Olga Berman, who showed us how to make her family’s recipe for warm borsch (beet soup).  Her recipe can be found if you search “borsch” on her blog at www.mangotomato.com.

Olga Berman tells us the importance of adaptability and improvisation in cooking (note her improvised pot lid!)

Potatoes and beets cooking side by side.

Olga tastes each one to make sure the seasoning is just right.

The best part—we get to eat it!

Be sure not to miss our next LATE NIGHT ON LLOYD STREET program: ESTHERFEST! on December 6th, 6-9pm.

ESTHERFEST is also the second program in this year’s Brews & Schmooze Young Adult Series.


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