Since the first edition of this book was published in 1987, I have watched my children grow. My eldest daughter, Daniela, is off to college next year, while Merissa just celebrated her Bat Mitzvah. Their brother, David, an infant in 1987, is now an aspiring young actor. Amidst the ever-changing kaleidoscope of their lives at home and at school, the table has been a constant in binding us together as a family.
We continue to try to make time each evening for a meal together, a refreshing pause when we can catch up with each of our children, and they with us! And how relaxing it is to talk while snipping beans or shelling peas. This book is a testimony to that time together. It includes twenty new recipes which we as a family use and have developed. Also over the years, as we have traveled, we have learned many things and acquired new tastes. Many of these are shared in this new edition, like snacking on pomegranates and using prepared puff pastry to make knishes.
As our children have grown they have become less interested in meat, and more in vegetarian meals with low fat content. And they have definite ideas of what they like. As David told me when I was preparing this new edition of the book, "Mom, kids like plain lasagna, no lumps in their food. They like smooth tomato sauce!" I could have added for him that they also like every dessert with chocolate chips.
Through the years as I travel the country speaking about Jewish food, I have been gratified to discover how many children have learned to cook from these recipes. Now my daughters and their friends can use this book on their own. Luckily for me, David still needs my help!
Shabbat and the Jewish holidays have always remained special times for us. My husband, Allan, and I, my children, family, and friends have created so many wonderful memories, not just of the holiday observances themselves, but of the preparations as well. Because of the symbolic dishes associated with Judaism, food is a perfect vehicle to introduce children to the many aspects of their religion. They will feel good about helping to prepare the holiday and Sabbath meals. Just remember: a meal doesn't have to be heavy to be Jewish!
The aims of this book are the same as they were when it was first published: simply, to have fun making Jewish holiday recipes that the whole family can enjoy; to teach children some of the basics of cooking and baking; and, in the process, to explore and explain the meaning and history behind Jewish food. The premise is that cooking will be a cooperative effort between adults and children.
The Children's Jewish Holiday Kitchen is divided into ten holidays, with menus and recipes for each. As I have discovered from going through these celebrations with my children, meaning and memories are greatly enhanced when we all participate together in the preparations.
All of the recipes specify the ingredients, equipment, and steps suitable for children to do by themselves or with adults or older children. The adult will assign tasks to match the skill of the cooks. Starred (*) menu items are dishes for which recipes are given. Cooking skills such as separating eggs, using knives, rolling out piecrust, blanching almonds, and proofing yeast are explained in the course of the recipes. Learning these basic skills will serve your children well throughout all their days in the kitchen.
The foods are those that children and adults alike will enjoy, and use only wholesome ingredients. We have used real Jewish holiday recipes, some of which have been simplified for children but still satisfy adult taste buds. We have shared the culinary traditions we especially like in our family, omitting those that are not child-centered.
The recipes represent a sampling from Israel and many of the countries in the Jewish Diaspora. Many include stories, some about the way grandparents and other ancestors, going back through Europe and the Orient to ancient Palestine, may have served the food on their own tables. Still others, like the cupcake menorah for Hanukkah or the matzah pizza, are American.
In addition to the recipes themselves, The Children's Jewish Holiday Kitchen shows how a family can celebrate the holidays and enjoy craft activities such as making hallah covers and candlesticks, and includes hints for introducing children to the Torah portion of the week. Tips for making hallahs for large or small families are also given.
One last word to the wise parent or older child should be sufficient: before you begin cooking, fill your sink with warm, sudsy water and bright-colored sponges. Let your children know early on that cleaning up as they go along is part of the activity. Above all, as we worked on this expanded book and the recipes that are part of our weekly ritual, we enjoyed learning even more about the blessings and traditions, cooking with our friends and eating our creations during and after the cooking process was finished. When I first wrote this book my children treated cookie dough like Play-Doh. Now, I am happy to say, they are great start-from-scratch cooks. For me, personally, one of the benefits of cooking with my own children is that it gives us a chance to talk and to relax together. I hope you will have as much pleasure cooking from this book with your family as I have with my own.
How do we know what is kosher?
For three thousand years Jews have adhered to dietary laws. These laws were written in the Bible.
"Whatsoever parteth the hoof, and is wholly cloven-footed, and cheweth the cud . . . that may ye eat" (Leviticus 11:3). With the help of illustrated books or magazines, let the children discover which meats are permissible for Jews to eat, and why. Beef, veal, lamb, and mutton are a few; any part of a pig is forbidden. But what about a lion? A gerbil? A unicorn? A dinosaur? This exercise can be fun, as well as instructive.
As specific as the Bible is about red-meat animals, it is equally vague about fowl. Twenty-four kinds of birds are specifically prohibited in Leviticus 11:13-19; these are mainly birds of prey, such as the eagle, vulture, raven, owl, and hawk. Some permissible poultry that we eat in this country are turkey, goose, duck, and that Friday-night wonder, chicken.
"These may ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them may ye eat" (Leviticus 11:9). A clean fish must have both fins and scales, and the scales must be detachable from the skin. Bluefish, salmon, cod, scrod, flounder, whitefish, carp, pike, and sole are all allowed. Shellfish, such as shrimp, lobster, clams, and oysters, lack fins and scales and are scavengers. They are not kosher (fit to eat). But seahorses? Creatures in Jules Verne's books? Take a look!
Many cities have a Kashrut Board with a telephone service you can call with any questions that come up.
Before any meat is eaten, the animal must be slaughtered in a kosher manner. A limb torn or cut from a living animal is forbidden. An animal that is not slaughtered, but that dies of itself, is also prohibited. Only select animals, thoroughly tested, are used. What is particularly important to Jews is the fact that for thousands of years so many of them have adhered to this prohibition.
Another Jewish distinction is the way in which animals are slaughtered. The rules for slaughtering spring from ethical principles and are also designed to reject the sacrificial practices of paganism. "Thou shalt kill thy herd and thy flock, which the Lord hath given thee, as I have commanded thee, and thou shalt eat within thy gates, after all the desire of the soul" (Deuteronomy 12:21). All meat animals and birds require shehitah, the ritual slaughtering with a very clean, sharp knife. The shohet (slaughterer) follows a tradition dating back three thousand years to the meat sacrificed at the Temple in Jerusalem when he says, "Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who hast commanded us in the ritual of slaughtering."
The Bible says that one must not eat blood. "Therefore I said unto the children of Israel: No soul of you shall eat blood. . . . Ye shall eat the blood of no manner of flesh. . . . whosoever eateth it shall be cut off" (Leviticus 17:12, 14). After all the blood is removed by soaking in cold water for half an hour, the meat is salted for one hour with coarse kosher rather than fine-grained salt (which would dissolve instead of drawing out the blood). Then the salt is shaken off and the meat washed three times so that no blood remains.
Another dietary law prohibits cooking or eating meat and milk together: "Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother's milk" (Deuteronomy 14:20). The purpose of this law was to prevent the ancient Hebrews from following pagan customs of animal sacrifice. It was also a way of helping digestion. Two separate sets of utensils must be provided for the preparation, serving, and storing of milk and meat dishes. The utensils must be washed separately. Traditional Jews may have two sinks and two sets of sponges, mixing bowls, and dishes, or two sets of blades and bowls for mixers and food processors. Between a milk and a meat meal, one must merely rinse out the mouth or eat a morsel of bread. For this, there is no waiting requirement. Between a meat and a milk meal, however, where digestion is more difficult, Jews wait anywhere from one to six hours.
Neutral or pareve foods, such as fish, eggs, and vegetables, may be used with either milk or meat. Some Jews will not eat pareve foods outside the home for fear that they may have been cooked in a forbidden fat (lard, or butter during a meat meal).
Many packaged foods are marked with symbols such as U or K to indicate that a Jewish organization has approved them as kosher. There are a number of different symbols in various parts of the country.
Even if you are not kosher, your children should be made aware of the dietary laws. Visit a kosher butcher and watch the koshering of meat. Go to buy the hallah at a Jewish bakery and have someone explain the difference between pareve and milchig (milk) bakery products. Take a field trip to your local grocery store and have a scavenger hunt, letting the children identify products to see which soups, cereals, etc., are marked with the U or K and/or the word pareve on the packages. They (and you) will be surprised at how universal the markings have become.