If you’ve ever thought, “Oh God, how am I going to do this?” about entertaining for the holidays — any holiday at all — there’s a new cookbook you might be interested in: Jewish Cooking Boot Camp: The Modern Girl’s Guide to Cooking Like a Jewish Grandmother.
Before writing the book, co-author Andrea Marks Carneiro thought that very same thing to herself. And then, it turns out, her friends were overwhelmed by the prospect of hosting important functions and thinking the same thing too. Soon they were asking Andrea’s mom (and the book’s other co-author) Roz to put them through “cooking camp.” And then it dawned on Andrea: write a book so others can learn the same things we’re trying to learn.
“[My friends] are bright girls, but this is one of the only things that they had no clue about. There have to be so many people out there who feel the same way. I wanted to make a book that would make them want to pick up the book and try it — not be intimidated by the kitchen,” Andrea told me.
Andrea is a writer by trade, and her mother did all the cooking growing up, and so they paired their talents. Andrea ransacked her mother’s recipe collection and Roz dug out all her old holiday menus, which formed the basis for each chapter, arranged by holiday, from appetizer to dessert. Andrea was also able to call on many of the contacts she’s made in her career to fill in the blanks where they didn’t have the specific expertise — like with the wine pairings, for example.
The book isn’t heavily religious; “we wanted it to be more about the holidays and cooking and traditions,” explained Andrea. Roz cooks for all the holidays anyway, so that part wasn’t hard to pull off; the trouble was getting unwritten recipes written — and written accurately. “I cooked similarly to my mother – without recipes – so it took 5 or 6 tries to get the recipes documented properly,” Roz added.
As a word of caution: if you’re looking for a cookbook to be your go-to for the holidays, AND you consider yourself a foodie (or have even spent more than a small amount of time in the kitchen), this is probably not the right cookbook for you. It’s a little arrogant in some of it’s claims (“Once and For All” sections — let’s be honest: it wouldn’t be Jewish if there wasn’t a debate surrounding it), only represents Eastern-European Jewish Grandmothers’ cooking (Sephardic grandmothers need not apply), and many of the recipes are exceedingly basic — or not even particularly Jewish at all (I’m pretty sure they didn’t have Jell-O in the “old country”).
That said, what does the book do? Exactly what it sets out to do: it is a primer for anyone who has little to no experience in the kitchen or entertaining for a group. It’s light-hearted with some solid, easy menu items. “We wanted to make it low-key, fun, non-judgmental and non-intimidating,” stated Roz. Take note: the book also doesn’t purport to be kosher (in fact, there is a crabmeat appetizer calling for actual crabmeat — as part of the Yom Kippur menu) — potentially a relief for some of you looking for one less obstacle to get between you and a Rosh Hashanah meal for 12. In fact, I just may give it to my future sister-in-law for Hanukkah next month.
These Matzo Mavens from Miami will be making two appearances at the 2009 Twin Cities Jewish Book Fair:
Roz Marks and Andrea Marks Carneiro
Jewish Cooking Boot Camp: The Modern Girl’s Guide to Cooking Like a Jewish Grandmother
Sunday, November 8
11:30am at Sabes JCC, Minneapolis
3:00pm at St. Paul JCC
Tickets: $6 members/$9 non-members
For more info on the events or to order tickets, see the Twin Cities Jewish Book Fair’s web site. All events are open to the public, but a photo ID is required to enter the St. Paul JCC and Sabes JCC.
(FYI: TC Jewfolk now has an Amazon.com Associates account which gives us 4-10% of a sale if you purchase Jewish Cooking Boot Camp by clicking on the links in this article. We appreciate your support.)