"The foods we eat and the ways in which we prepare them are among the strongest and most enduring expressions of our culture. They bind child to mother, mother to family, and families to the traditions that define nations." From a review by Peter Kaminsky of Miriam's Kitchen from the New York Times, 10/19/97.
This is a memoir rich in Yiddish phrases, traditions, religious practice and recipes. In this memoir Elizabeth Ehrlich explores her ties to the Jewish religion, recounting her childhood in Detroit and examining the life she is currently living. She would like her life as well as her family life to be more religiously observant.
The memoir details one year in Ehrlich’s life, starting in September when it is time to prepare for the Jewish New Year. Each chapter represents a month and within each chapter Ehrlich talks about her own evolving religious practice and what she learns as she observes her mother-in-law’s labors of love in the kitchen. Interspersed with the cooking instructions from her mother-in-law Ehrlich includes passages about what Miriam tells her about her life in Poland during World War II. The food preparation in the present throws into relief the Holocaust, ostensibly in the past, but very much a part of the daily life of this family. The food is a connection to that lost past.
Although most of the focus of this memoir is on Miriam’s cooking, Ehrlich also includes the traditions in her own family and remembers well her father’s mother – her Brooklyn grandmother - and the traditional foods she prepared for Jewish holidays they spent with her.
Note to genealogists: The author seems to have taken some care to guard the privacy of those mentioned in this memoir. For example, she rarely fills in a last name, though there are some clues given in her acknowledgments: Ehrlich is her maiden name, Stocker is her mother's maiden name. Potok is her husband's family's name.
If you'd like to read an interesting article about how important the Settlement Cook Book was to Jewish immigrants in the first half of the twentieth century, that was originally broadcast on National Public Radio, click here.
Rivke – Miriam’s mother
Sesha– Rivke’s sister
Pola – Rivke’s sister
Miriam – Rivke's daughter; author’s mother-in-law
Jacob Ehrlich– Miriams' husband; author’s father-in-law
Author’s mother’s family
Libe Beyle – author’s mother’s grandmother
Zalman – author’s mother’s grandfather
Malke Feltsman- author’s mother’s mother
Lazar – their son; author’s grandfather
Sol – Zalman’s nephew; author’s great uncle
Mary Brown Glassman- author’s great grandmother
Zalman Glassman – author’s great grandfather – married Mary Brown
Yankele Brown – Mary’s brother
Isadore – author’s brother
Cheryl – author’s sister
Author’s father’s family
Rivka Blume – his father’s grandmother
Moses – father’s grandfather
Isaac – his father’s father
Chaya Kusher ( Irene) – his father’s mother
Edward – her son; author’s father
Selina – her daughter; married Charles MacIntyre
Millie – her daughter
Dora; sister to Irene
Sylvia – Dora’s daughter
Chestochowa – concentration camp