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Mapping Jewish Culture Through 200 Years of Cookbooks

(Photo: Wikipedia)

A new Jewish cookbook exhibit showing at New York’s Center for Jewish History, reveals how recipes shaped the Jewish identity throughout history and built family traditions.

“People look at these and say, ‘That looks like something my grandmother bought at the synagogue bake sale. Why would you put it in an exhibit? It’s not important.’” Melanie Meyers looks down at a spiral bound cookbook from the ‘70s, pointing out a recipe for almond cookies. “I think they’re fantastic.”

Meyers is the curator of “Nourishing Tradition: Jewish Cookbooks and the Stories they Tell,” an exhibition running this summer at New York’s Center for Jewish History. Highlighting almost 200 years of Jewish cookbooks from five partner organizations’ vast archival collections, the exhibit explores the role of food in religion, diaspora, culture, and memory.

For the curators, cookbooks are more than just a grandmother’s scribbled recipes: they’re rich historical documents, providing a novel way to teach social history. Their pages represent the experience of common people. And the history of cooking and eating is particularly poignant among communities of the Jewish diaspora.

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