From the Jewish Heartland
Two Centuries of Midwest Foodways
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: University of Illinois Press
Series: Heartland Foodways
Title Page, Copyright
When we began this project, we never expected to meet so many people who were so willing to help us gather the data we needed. They invited us into their homes, businesses, and archives; they freely shared stories and treasured recipes. Our lives, and this book, have certainly been greatly enriched because of them...
There was no “Midwest” until the 1900s. Until then that large, open stretch between the continent’s coasts, the “inter-ocean,” if you will, was simply “out West” on the “fringes of the prairies.” It was “the Heartland”—except nobody called it that yet, much less the folk who wandered through en route to somewhere...
1. The Early Jewish Presence in the Middle West
A simple marker, erected by the Jewish Historical Society of Michigan, in Michilimackinac State Park, Mackinaw City, commemorates the first Jewish settler in that state: a German-Jew from Berlin named Ezekiel Solomon who landed at the northern tip of the Lower Peninsula in 1761. The plaque tells little about...
2. Midwest City Life: The Sephardim and the German-Jews
Sephardic Jews were never numerous in the United States, although they were the first to relocate to North America during the seventeenth century. Even after a larger second wave in the 1900s brought Sephardim to American shores as refugees from savage pogroms and bloody revolutions, their numbers remained few...
3. Eastern European Jews in the Cities
We buy cookbooks to read. We confess—our collection numbers in the hundreds. They range from reprints of American classics to original nineteenth-century editions. We also haunt flea markets, used bookstores, and the Internet for handwritten recipes and for books where recipes have been scribbled in the...
4. Jews in Small Towns, on the Farms, and In-Between
As we leafed through one of our antique manuscript cookbooks, a faded magazine reproduction of a Victorian-era print fluttered out. The soft-focus picture shows a peasant family from somewhere, trudging through deep snow, heading somewhere else. In the background we note a small cottage. No smoke curls from...
5. How to Cook . . .
When thousands upon thousands of impoverished Eastern European Jews descended on Chicago, Rabbis Emil G. Hirsh and Liebman Adler of the two largest Reform synagogues in the city urged their congregants, mostly of German extraction, “to engage in a large scale philanthropic effort to find employment, to raise...
6. When to Cook . . .
The children remember. Although they were small, a trip to their Bubbe’s house meant love and food—always. The two were inextricably connected. Hugs and kisses, quickly followed by hustling them to the table with, “Ess, mein kinderlekh” (Eat, my little children). Sunday breakfasts were an unchanging...
7. . . . And When Not to Bother
Be it Ashkenazic challah or Sephardic panderica (“bread of the rich”), bread has always held a central place in Jewish life. Breads of every shape and variety are made and served for the Sabbath, holidays, and daily consumption: rye breads in Eastern Europe and Russia; rice-flour breads where some of the...
8. Trends in the Heartland
Authentic, and healthy. Traditional, plus tasty. We heard those phrases over and over when we asked about today’s Jewish foods. Etheldoris Grais and Joseph Israel gave us examples of dishes, both Ashkenazic-based and Sephardic- inspired, meeting those criteria. The recipes they shared use Midwestern ingredients...
Appendix: Tastes of Home