We all know some books of the “read it and weep” variety. But here’s one that challenges you to “read it and eat.”
The catch is, you’ll have to cook what you’ll eat yourself — unless you’re lucky enough to be somewhere in New York within easy getting distance of The Gefilteria.
If you’re of Ashkenazi descent but have given up on your bubbe’s cuisine, The Gefilte Manifesto is the cookbook for you. For authors Jeffrey Yoskowitz and Liz Alpern, it’s an outgrowth of their joint venture into venerable Jewish culinary adventures at their business, The Gefilteria. Located in Brooklyn, this is where they plan, prep and sell the results of New Recipes for Old World Jewish Foods, which is the subtitle of their tome. They worked in this kitchen together for five years before committing their “secrets” to print.
A chance meeting led to these two dedicated cooks, both from traditionally Ashkenazi homes, discovering how much they shared a liking for all those good old foods of their childhoods. But in this world of today, Jewish Millennials would like those foods only if they were ramped up to their healthier expectations. So Yoskowitz and Alpern set about making the changes demanded by potential customers — and by themselves. The result? Eastern European “cuisine” morphed into a new specialty that started with gefilte fish.
Their Gefilteria website explains: “We took the classic dish and re-imagined it, making it colorful, gluten-free and responsibly sourced, with non-GMO olive oil and the highest quality fish. And we also made sure it tasted really great!” Young Jews tried it, and liked it. Dinners hosted by members of this adventurous generation started to pop up. Seeing a good thing, the Gefilteria principals expanded their offerings; the book includes recipes for soups, breads, main dishes and side dishes, and even suggests creative ways to use up your leftovers.
And pickles are almost as important as the gefilte fish! Yoskowitz apprenticed in pickle-making on an Urban Adamah, one of a fellowship of Jewish farms that “cultivate the soil and the soul to produce food.” There he learned the kind of fermentation that pickles and preserves without vinegar — the authentic way of his forefathers.
“Not only does that pickle have a lot of flavor,” he says, “but it’s good for your digestion. It’s probiotic. Eating a pastrami sandwich with a full sour pickle next to it — it’s the best way of helping digest that fatty pastrami!” Yoskowitz likens the good effects his pickles have on the stomach to those provided by yogurt!
The most expert Jewish cooks and food authors are kvelling about The Gefilte Manifesto. Leading the pack is Mollie Katzen, who helped usher in the age of vegetarianism with her famed Moosewood Cookbook. She gives lavish praise, saying it “…beautifully manages to frame traditional Ashkenazi cuisine with perfect twists and newness. It’s no small feat to retain the character of an old, emotionally held culinary culture while imparting fresh life to the standards. Jeffrey and Liz nailed it, not only with outstanding recipes, but also with history and stories and context, impeccably written.”
And Leah Koenig, author of Modern Jewish Cooking, says that this even more modern book “…digs deep into our Ashkenazi ancestors’ recipe boxes, pulls out time-tested favorites and lost gems, and finds ways to make them taste at once fresh and innovative, and utterly authentic.”
To learn more about The Gefilte Manifesto, just type those words into your browser. You can definitely find the book itself on Amazon — or maybe even at Target!