What is Jewish cooking in France? In a journey that was a labor of love, Joan Nathan traveled the country to discover the answer and, along the way, unearthed a treasure trove of recipes and the often moving stories behind them.
Nathan takes us into kitchens in Paris, Alsace, and the Loire Valley; she visits the bustling Belleville market in Little Tunis in Paris; she breaks bread with Jewish families around the observation of the Sabbath and the celebration of special holidays. All across France, she finds that Jewish cooking is more alive than ever: traditional dishes are honored, yet have acquired a certain French finesse. And completing the circle of influences: following Algerian independence, there has been a huge wave of Jewish immigrants from North Africa, whose stuffed brik and couscous, eggplant dishes and tagines—as well as their hot flavors and Sephardic elegance—have infiltrated contemporary French cooking.
All that Joan Nathan has tasted and absorbed is here in this extraordinary book, rich in a history that dates back 2,000 years and alive with the personal stories of Jewish people in France today.
This well-researched, fascinating cookbook encapsulates 2,000 years of Jewish history in France. Nathan, the James Beard Award winning doyenne of Jewish cooking (Jewish Cooking in America), applies her culinary detective skills to sniffing out the Jewish influence on French cuisine, and vice versa. Her rich subject matter yields both vast diversity and unexpected commonalities. Friday night Sabbath dinners alone can range from the Alsatian pot-au-feu to Moroccan adafina (meat stew with chickpeas and rice). The Germanic Alsatian specialties like potato kugel will be familiar to many Jewish Americans, while the North African dishes like brik with tuna and cilantro and m'soki (a Passover spring vegetable ragout originating in Tunisia) reflect Sephardic customs. Nathan also explores cross-cultural concoctions such as Proven al brassados (a precursor to the bagel), brandade potato latkes, and a Bordeaux haroset by way of Portugal, all of which embody both the complicated migratory paths and acculturation of the Jewish people. This being France, though, there are lovely renditions of native dishes, too chestnut cream g teau, braised endive, cassoulet. Nathan's multi layered, narrative approach makes this treasury of tempting flavors an entertaining and compelling read. Photos.