A taste of home: Claudia Roden’s majestic Book of Jewish Food

It took 16 years to write and is more an ‘encyclopaedia of Jewish life’ than cookbook

In matters of culture my late mother, Claire, took her lead from the great Times columnist Bernard Levin and described herself as a “pantry Jew”. She understood herself not through religious faith because, like me, she had none, but through the crumbly chopped liver she sometimes made. She liked to cook gefilte fish, both boiled and fried, following her grandmother’s recipe. The boiled, I hated. Once cooled, the fishy jelly had the texture of phlegm and the mixture of white fish, matzo meal and a little sugar tasted of carelessness.

But the deep-fried, an idiosyncrasy of the Anglo-Jewish community, was entirely different. I loved the outer crunch and the fluffy interior, and knew that it would be even more delicious if I were allowed to eat it hot, straight from the bubbling oil, but I was not. Claire insisted it had to be eaten cold and could not explain why, other than to say it was “better that way”.

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