As soon as I saw this book, I knew I wanted to read it. Food, Family and Tradition is a cookbook offering family recipes passed down through generations. It is also a wonderful family memoir, with contributions by children and grandchildren, telling the stories of their beloved parents and grandparents. This remarkable family has survived the unspeakable tragedy of the Holocaust, breaking the continuity of an Eastern European family tree, but bringing forth the new branches of generations to come in the USA, Europe, and Israel.
In writing her book, Lynn Kirsche Shapiro has collected the history of her cherished family, told their stories, explained their beliefs and customs, and shared their family recipes. Lynn is an accomplished woman in her early 60’s, a grandmother, teacher, recipe developer, business woman, traveler, and now an author. Her parents were the founders of the largest all-kosher supermarket in the Midwest, which has continued as a family business to the present day. As survivors of the Holocaust, the family carries the memories of the many relatives who did not survive, and the traditions of Jewish life and culture in Hungary prior to the tragic losses that changed the world. By sharing these stories, memories, and recipes, Lynn Kirsche Shapiro introduces us to the heart and soul and history behind the foods and customs of her family heritage. In the process of creating this book, she was able to include her own children, extended family members, and people that she met along the journey who were connected to the events and locales that influenced her family’s history.
The first part of the book is all about the family, including photographs, biographies, a family tree of survivors and victims, and stories about Jewish culture and traditions. In telling the story of one family, Shapiro speaks for all whose lives were uprooted and stolen by the Nazis. The personal stories and details come to life, bearing witness indelibly for future generations. In doing this, the author fulfills her father’s desire that the truth be known to the world. The second part of the book contains over 150 family recipes, updated for today’s kitchen, and carefully documented as a way to share her mother’s legacy even though blindness has changed her life irrevocably. There are ten chapters of recipes, covering appetizers, breads, main dishes, soups, desserts…savory and sweet. Each recipe is practical, with simple and clear instructions. The original recipes were passed through generations, and measurement of ingredients were not exact, but the recipes in the book have been thoroughly tested. Throughout the recipes are precious remembrances that bring to life the the culture of Eastern Europe prior to the Holocaust.
Each page of the book is like digging through an old trunk of mementos and artifacts … as if you’re discovering these things for yourself in an attic. Some pages include family photos, or pictures of precious family heirlooms. Even though it’s a newly printed book, there is a feeling of ‘oldness’…like the wine stains printed on a page, or pieces of handmade lace imprinted as if they were left in the book to hold a place. The recipes include photos of the food, but also short stories that illuminate the context of the recipe in the family’s history.
The nice thing about this book is that the sections are short enough to read when you have a few moments to spare…and because it’s a cookbook too, it’s probably going to be sitting in a handy place in the kitchen, ready to pick up. With the holidays coming up soon, I am already thinking about people I know who would enjoy this as much as I am. I’m thinking that families whose children are ready to read The Diary of Anne Frank could find many hours of quality time together, exploring the stories and trying out the recipes. There’s even a section devoted to the family business, an all-Kosher grocery store near Chicago; I’d love to visit the store the next time I’m in the area.
This book is a treasure…for Jewish families as well as for those of us who are not Jewish. Most of all, this book is a documentary of how human beings keep going, no matter what terrible and undeserved things happen. I’m so grateful to the author and her family for collecting and organising the stories and recipes, knowing how difficult it must have been to accomplish such a feat.
“Our family tree was broken and burned by the Holocaust, its many branches cut off and with them all their future fruit. But its roots were strong, and today the branches that were left have blossomed in the new generations.”
Lynn Kirsche Shapiro has done a wonderful service by writing this book…not only for her own family, but for all of us.
Disclaimer: I gratefully received a review copy of this book. All opinions and experiences are my own. I was not required to write this post, nor was I paid.
This book is available for purchase at Hungarian Kosher Foods store and on their website, www.hungariankosher.com .