There was a time when Jewish families celebrated their religious traditions across Europe. These traditions were integral parts of the culture in many great European cities. All that changed with World War II as Jewish families in Eastern Europe were forced to flee or were rounded up and put in camps; most of them perished.
As we mark 70 years since the destruction of Hungarian Jewry, a new book chronicles the story of one Hungarian-Czech Jewish family that survived the Holocaust, then emigrated from Eastern Europe to the U.S., weaving new family traditions and stories and celebrating the spirit of Eastern European Jewish traditions.
Food, Family, and Tradition: Hungarian Kosher Family Recipes and Remembrances (The Cherry Press, $35) by Lynn Kirsche Shapiro, a daughter of Holocaust survivors, contains more than 150 original, never-before-published recipes with full-color photographs and preparation methods updated for the modern kitchen. Through telling the story of her father and mother, Sandor and Margit Kirsche—founders of Hungarian Kosher Foods, the largest all-kosher supermarket in the Midwest—and presenting their family recipes, the voice of one family becomes the voice of many who lived in that time and place. And their survival becomes a testament to the resilience of all survivors who had the courage and strength to rebuild their lives.
“After I started putting this book together, I understood that my family’s recipes and history were part of a larger world: the traditional Jewish life in Czechoslovakia and Hungary before the Holocaust,” Lynn explains. “Many books have been written to educate others, to bear witness to the events and atrocities of the Holocaust. My book also attempts to give a picture of the richness of Jewish life in Eastern Europe prior to the Holocaust. Strong family traditions were the bedrock on which our parents, and so many of the Holocaust survivors, were raised.”
The book has two parts. Part one is the family memoir, with period photographs, biographies, a family tree (of victims and survivors), and original vignettes about Jewish culture, kosher wine, holidays, and traditions. Part two is a cookbook of 150 family recipes with preparation methods updated for the contemporary kitchen. The ten recipe chapters range from savory to sweet, from appetizers and soups to entrées and desserts.
Each recipe, labeled dairy, meat, or pareve, has headnotes that inform today’s cook about ingredient substitutions, preparation tips, serving suggestions, and timing along with priceless remembrances—sweet, bitter, and bittersweet—that put these recipes in the context of rich, vibrant Jewish life and culture in Eastern Europe before the Holocaust. Some of the recipes in the book include gefilte fish, traditional potato kugel (kaizle), chopped herring, chocolate yeast roll (kakaos), mandel bread, potato-egg casserole (rakott krumpli), Lynn’s mother’s blintzes, whitefish with carrots and onions, boiled tongue, brisket, veal schnitzel, chicken paprikás with dumplings (nakidlach), duck roasted with fruit, Hungarian goulash, kasha, tzimmes, plum preserves (lekvar), and honey cake (lekech).
“My hope is that through my family’s stories you will see a picture of the community that was suddenly and brutally extinguished, the dedication to Jewish law that was solid and resilient, and the warmth of the Jewish community. I hope that through these centuries-old recipes you will get a taste of the culinary tradition of the Jews in Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Finally, I hope that you will feel the dedication of the Holocaust survivors—those who remained in Europe, those who went to Israel, and those who came to the States,” Lynn says.
Food, Family, and Tradition is a testament to both the strength and faith of the survivors during the war and the courage it took to rebuild their lives. Above all, the book brings the food of yesterday to today’s table, preserving family traditions. The book is available for purchase at Hungarian Kosher Foods store and at www.hungariankosher.com and www.jewishsource.com. ϖ
Traditionally served on Rosh Hashanah, this has been a family favorite for generations. It can be a side dish for meat or poultry and also a dessert. My mother says her mother cooked it on Rosh Hashanah and also for dessert on Friday nights.
Her father, Samuel Weisz, explained his soft spot for the dish by saying “carrots are very healthy.” Just as my mother remembers it as one of her father’s favorites, I remember it as one of my father’s favorites. Candied Carrots appealed to my father in so many ways: he loved to snack on vegetables and fruits and he loved sweets.
Pareve. Serves 4 to 6.
1 Tbsp. oil
1 lb. carrots, peeled and thinly sliced horizontally
½ cup sugar
2 tsp. flour
1 cup water
pinch of salt
Place oil in a 2-quart saucepan. Add the carrots and the sugar. Cover and cook on
very low heat, stirring frequently, until the liquid reduces, approximately 1 hour.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir flour into ¼ cup of the water, mixing until smooth. Add the remaining water, stirring to mix.
Add flour-water mixture slowly to cooked carrots, stirring; add salt. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Decrease heat to low, stirring gently so as not to break carrots, and cook until sauce thickens. Remove from heat.
Serve warm or at room temperature.
Honey Cake, Lekech
Honey is traditionally eaten on Rosh Hashanah, for its sweet taste. As we pray to G‑d for a “sweet New Year,” we set our table with sweet foods. Either challah or apples dipped in honey begin the festive meal. Honey cake, or lekech, is a special recipe from my Aunt Goldie for the Kiddush or dessert on Rosh Hashanah.
Pareve. Fills two 9”×5”×3” loaf pans.
1¼ cups vegetable oil
1¼ cups honey
1¼ cups sugar
1 cup strong brewed coffee
1 tsp. baking soda
6 eggs, separated
3 cups flour
½ tsp. baking powder
3–4 drops lemon juice
Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray and line sides and bottom with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, place oil, honey, sugar, coffee, baking soda, and egg yolks. Mix until smooth. Reserve.
In a medium bowl, mix flour with baking powder. Slowly add the flour mixture into the cake mixture, beating on a low speed.
In a large bowl, beat the egg whites on high, adding 3 to 4 drops of lemon juice, until whites are stiff. Carefully fold the whites into the cake mixture.
Divide batter equally among the prepared baking pans. Bake in the center of the
oven, until the top browns, about 10–15 minutes. When the top is brown, reduce the temperature to 325°F. Continue to bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean or the cake springs back when pressed lightly, about 1 hour.
Cool to room temperature and slice into ½-inch slices.