Babka, borsch… and pumpkin spices? Two writers discuss Jewish identity through contemporary cookbooks.

Druckman: I wanted him to have a bit more…gravitas isn’t the right word, but something that grounded him. On the other hand, I’m the last person who thinks a cookbook should be everything for everyone. And if it has the effect it’s supposed to have, even just on you, then it’s nailed what it meant to do.

FlintMarx: As my English teacher said in first year of college, we all have a baggage that we bring to any text we interact with, right? I look at this book and I’m like, “This sounds familiar,” even though I didn’t grow up taking trips to Palm Beach or anywhere else. There’s still that element of suburban Jewish life in the 80s and 90s that feels so familiar to me. And that makes me wish some of my loved ones were still around, frankly.

Druckman: Next is Jewish by Jake Cohen. We should probably say that earlier this year Jake Cohen was named as a defendant in a case involving alleged discrimination at FeedFeed, the company where he worked. We didn’t know that when this story was first offered. None of us looked at the book through this lens. So when we criticize this book—because we’re both very critical of this book—it’s not related to issues outside of the book. This only comes from watching the material.

This book really pissed me off.

FlintMarx: Yeah me too. So the book, to be clear, is written as a Jewish hyphen. This title Jewishnon-Jewish, is presented as reinvented recipes of a “modern mensch”.

What pissed me off was this idea in the introduction, I’m paraphrasing, that if you’re not the kind of Jew who goes to synagogue, you’re not entirely Jewish, you’re Jewish-I am. So already I’m kind of like, well, wait a minute because I’m not really going to the temple. Does that mean I’m just some kind of Jew? Am I just a cultural Jew, a “less than”? This whole concept of varying degrees of what makes a Jew a Jew, told in this incredibly flippant way, was truly infuriating.

Druckman: And what annoyed me even more was like he was saying, “We’re not all-Jews, but you don’t have to do too much to be like us and be like us, that’s it.” is really cool, so join our party. , right?” Incredibly reductive in many ways. I felt like he was trying to portray himself as the Alison Roman of Jewish cooking. It was a book about entertainment, where he said you don’t know nothing about Shabbat, but if you have dinner parties every Friday night, you can be Jewish like me.

It also seemed normative, like he was saying that’s the best way to be Jewish, that we should aspire to not necessarily feel connected in any way, in addition to having dinner parties on Friday nights. . Anyway, if that’s what makes you feel Jewish, I’m not going to judge it. But I don’t think you should tell people it’s how to do it or how to be Jewish. My mind was a bit blown away.

About Wesley V. Finley

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