A Few Vintage Ideas for Chanukah
A blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts from Joanna click HERE.
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:
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:
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.
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.”