New Children’s Book Combines Love of Jewish Food With Counting

When Micah Siva’s sister was pregnant with her child during the height of the COVID pandemic, she was looking for a baby gift that would be cute and give some Jewish education, but not be holiday-specific. Not finding exactly what she was looking for, the content creator she is, decided to take matters into her own hands.

Siva, the host of Jewfolk’s food podcast Not Your Bubbe’s Nosh, her husband Joshua, and illustrator Sviatoslav Franko, created 1, 2, 3, Nosh With Me, a Jewish-food-themed counting book for children. The book is out on Sept. 5, with pre-orders happening now.

“It had to have something to do with food, obviously,” said Sivam a trained chef, registered dietitian, recipe writer, and food photographer, specializing in modern Jewish cuisine. “Josh and I decided, why couldn’t we just write something on our own and go a different route and see if there was something we could make on our own?”

The book follows the Sivas Shepadoodle, Buckwheat, as he counts matzah balls, hamantaschen, latkes, and other traditional Jewish foods. The book accomplishes Siva’s goal of helping young children learn about basic numbers while introducing them to the foods found in Jewish culture. There’s also a simple challah recipe included to make your own loaf.

The book was originally self-published, and an early copy got into the hands of Minneapolis native Angela Engel, the founder of the Oakland, Calif.-based Collective Book Studio

“They asked if they could publish it and take it on,” Siva said. “It was amazing because there was only so much that we could do on our own, and having the expertise and connections that a publisher has, you can’t replicate that. [Especially] not as a couple in our apartment.”

When the book was self-published, the Sivas had been selling it at in-person events, like cooking classes, or direct-to-consumer through her website. Working with s professional book publisher gave the Sivas a lot of feedback, including tweaking the illustrations to improve the quality.

“There were just things that weren’t an option when you self-published: like page thickness and coloring,” she said. “And the cover is embossed, so there’s a texture on it.”

They also got a lot of feedback from a focus group.

“Because a lot of the people at the Collective are women with children, and they showed it to their children, they [told us] ‘this is what our kids said,’” Siva said. “They gave us such amazing direct feedback to involve the dog more or to change the illustrations. We essentially reformatted re-illustrated a lot of it and packaged it into a more beautiful book that is also at a lower price point.”

Accessibility of price – and content – was a big factor. Siva’s sister is part of an interfaith couple and the idea of the book was to create something accessible for people no matter their level of Jewish observance. 

“We want it to be more accessible and be more widely available for people like us who are who are almost parents, or new parents or grandparents,” she said. “For anyone out there who wants to learn about Jewish food or Jewish things in a very introductory way where it’s more of the cultural.”

The book is very much an extension of Siva’s day-to-day work.

“The whole thing with my work is that I want to bring Jewish joy through food,” she said. “And this was a fun way to be able to do that for kids up to grandparents, so they can share that cultural and fun, joyful aspect of Judaism together.”

In addition to this book and her and Joshua’s first child (due in December), Siva has a cookbook that she writing, which is due to come out in March.

“Every three months, I’m birthing either a child or a book in the next nine months of my life,” she quipped. 

The star of the book, Buckwheat doesn’t come to the events, but the Sivas had a Cuddle Clone made of their dog that does come with for the kids to see. Some bookstores request the real Buckwheat comes with the Sivas, and he is always well-behaved. And for the Sivas friends who had early copies of the book and then met the real dog, it’s like meeting a celebrity.

Siva said that Franko nailed the illustrated likeness of Buckwheat, thanks to the many pictures they sent him. Franko had done the work from his home in Ukraine, and started working with the Sivas shortly before Russia invaded the country in 2022. Siva said he and his family were able to leave for the west.

The real Buckwheat, it turns out, is also a lover of Jewish food.

“He’s been known to steal a challah off the counter, and when we were doing a photo shoot for the cookbook he ate all of the latkes,” she said. “I’d say he’s had all of the foods whether he’s supposed to or not.”