[review + recipe] All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah by Emily Jenkins and Paul O. Zelinsky

When I was nine, there was nothing I wanted more than to belong to the All-of-a-Kind Family.

I loved the idea of having four sisters, all of us wearing our white pinafores as we traipsed to the library Friday afternoons and spent our pennies for treats on Rivington Street. Would I get a warm sweet potato like Ella, hot chick peas like Sarah, or candied fruit on sticks like Charlotte and Gertie? I don’t think I’d opt for a fat, juicy sour pickle like Henny did. 🙂

I’m guessing most of us who loved Sydney Taylor’s classic AOAKF books imagined ourselves as one of these girls, perhaps the one closest to our own age. But since we got to know them all so well, we were probably able to find parts of ourselves in each of them.

Months ago, when I first learned that Emily Jenkins and Paul O. Zelinsky were publishing a new picture book based on Taylor’s series, I reread all five books and fell in love with them all over again. So wonderful to feel the comforting embrace of this close-knit family and immerse myself in their turn-of-the-century world. I was once again charmed and captivated by Taylor’s writing, appreciating anew her ability to speak of and to a child’s heart with such candor and truth.

But I did wonder how Emily and Paul would be able to create the same kind of magic in a 40-page picture book. I needn’t have worried. I love All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah. In fact, it’s my favorite food-related picture book of 2018!

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[tasty review] the knish war on rivington street by joanne oppenheim and jon davis

To knish or not to knish?

Believe it or not, I’ve never eaten a knish. Woe is me and my sheltered life!

(click for Mrs. Stahl’s Potato Knish recipe)

My dear knish, how I long to wrap my lips around your flaky- dough-wrapped mashed potato and fried onion goodness! I was born to love you, as I do all dumplings. I know I’ve dallied with your knishin’ cousins in the past — Cornish pasties, empanadas, samosas, calzone — but you are the only one featured in a brand new picture book, a spirited, savory story that clearly shows why you are worth “fighting” for. How I dream of strolling into a kosher bakery and snatching you up!

The Knish War on Rivington Street by Joanne Oppenheim and Jon Davis (Albert Whitman, 2017) takes us to NYC’s Lower East Side in the early 20th century.

When Benny and his family came to America, his mama baked delicious knishes, round dumplings filled with kasha, cheese, or potatoes, which his papa sold from a pushcart. Soon they were able to open a little store, a knishery, the first of its kind on Rivington Street.

Everyone loved Molly’s knishes, quite a “tasty bargain” at 5 cents each! All was well until the Tisch family opened their knishery right across the street. Mrs. Tisch’s knishes were fried and square, and what’s more, they were advertised as being “Famous” and priced at only 4 cents each.

Well, Papa wasn’t going to let anyone put them out of business. He made a new sign for the shop window, touting Molly’s knishes as “the only real and original” ones, and lowered his price to 4 cents.

When the Tisches lowered their price to only 3 cents each, it was all out war. Benny and Solly Tisch paraded up and down Rivington Street with their placards. Papa began handing out raffle coupons with every purchased knish. Naturally Mr. Tisch did the same.

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friday feast: sondra gash, quite a cookie

#16 in the Poetry Potluck Series, celebrating National Poetry Month 2012.

If you give a poet a cookie, she will eat it, learn to make more, and then grow up to write a poem about it that millions of people will hear on the radio.

I’m talking about Sondra Gash’s, “Rugelah, 5 a.m.,” of course, which Garrison Keillor read on The Writer’s Almanac back in August 2010. Sondra’s poem made me hungry to learn more about this popular Jewish confection, which is enjoyed year round and often called “cream cheese cookies” here in the U.S.

Rugelach dough is commonly rolled into a circle, then sliced into pie wedges which are then rolled up to form crescent shapes (via S. Filson).

Depending upon whom you talk to, the Yiddish term”rugelach,” can be translated as “royal,” “little twists,” or “horns.” The practice of combining cream cheese or sour cream with fruit, nuts, jams, and spices to make cookies, cakes and other pastries is a central European tradition with ancient Middle Eastern roots.

We have to thank Eastern European immigrants for bringing the first rugelach recipes to this country. According to Joan Nathan (Jewish Cooking in America), “There is no other Jewish sweet that has gone more mainstream than rugelach.” Though I have yet to bake any myself, thus far I’ve been unable to resist these rich, flaky little crescents whenever they appear on a holiday cookie tray or in a bakery window: raspberry jam and dark chocolate! marzipan and walnuts! cinnamon, poppy seeds, apricot preserves, raisins! A bite of history that stays with you forever.

Take another bite of this Apricot-Pecan-Raisin Rugelach. Yum! (via S. Filson)

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