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EST. 2011 BY LIZ RUEVEN
Cherry Rice Soufflé & A Culinary History
German Jewish Cookbook- Baked Rice Souffle with Cherries; Photo; Liz Rueven

Cherry Rice Soufflé & A Culinary History

When I whipped up Gabrielle Rossmer Gropman’s favorite and “quintessential German-Jewish meatless meal” I became teary as the sweet fragrance of simmering whole milk and stewed fruit wafted through my kitchen. This simple baked rice souffle studded with cherries brought this treasure of a cookbook alive for me, with all of the loss and memories bubbling in one seemingly innocuous saucepan.

The header notes (see recipe below) explain that for Gaby, who co-authored The German-Jewish Cookbook: Recipes and History of a Cuisine, with her daughter, Sonya Gropman, this milky rice pudding was the ultimate comfort food for the kids in her family. It is old fashioned in its simplicity and would surely qualify as comfort food to kids and adults alike. Sure… who wouldn’t love dessert in the guise of a main dish?

Gabrielle and Sonya, mother-daughter co-authors, tell one story in two voices. Gabrielle, the mother, was born in Germany and came to the USA as a baby with her parents in 1939, after Kristallnacht and following her father’s six week imprisonment in Dachau concentration camp.

For a long time, she took German-Jewish food for granted, having grown up in Washington Heights, NYC. This area of northern Manhattan was “home to the largest surviving community of German Jews anywhere in the world.”

The German Jewish Cookbook
Photo: courtesy of Rossmer family

While Gaby brought the stories and recipes from a multigenerational perspective, her daughter Sonya brought her own vivid memories of her grandparents’ food, gatherings around the dining table and an unstoppable drive to research recipes and interview survivors. This riveting book is both personal memoir and documentation of a food culture that existed in all of its vibrancy for hundreds of years until the Nazi era sought to destroy the Jewish people and their rich history.

Interestingly, this mother-daugher team have an ongoing relationship with Germany. Through their travels, ranging from Gaby’s first visit to Bamberg in the 1960’s where they met former employees of their family’s business, to mounting art exhibits of her work, and more recently as Sonya participated in a magazine based photo project in Berlin, Germany is no longer just a memory.

They’ve made friends and have gained a familiarity with the people, culinary and cultural landscape there. In 2015, they revived traditional recipes as they co-taught cooking classes in Berlin about German-Jewish food.

As you read this today, they are in Berlin to participate in Holocaust Remembrance Day events.

The German-Jewish Cookbook
Photo: Sonya Gropman

This memoir/cookbook is organized into easy to use chapters beginning with weekday meals that include an unexpected treatment of fruit at the center of main dishes (even more so than vegetables). Familiar fruits like apples, rhubarb and berries, with an emphasis on stone fruits (plums, peaches, apricots and cherries) are often baked into meatless bread puddings and dumplings, cakes or compotes.

A chapter with 19 recipes for vegetables exemplifies the common practice of storing root veggies over the long winters. Beet and Celery Root Salad brings together wintered over ingredients brightened by early spring watercress.

The German- Jewish Cookbook salads
Photo: Sonya Gropman

The authors mention this Cucumber Salad as “ubiquitous at German-Jewish meals”. Note that sour cream can be switched out for oil for kosher keepers who would like to enjoy this with a meat meal.

The Shabbos and Holiday Meals (German translation follows English names for each dish) chapter includes a full range of courses starting with Berches, the braided challah-like bread of the German Jews. The eggless dough usually includes mashed potatoes, yielding a tender dough.

Berches German Jewish challah
Photo: Sonya Gropman

Almost four pages are devoted to describing the history, technique and Gaby and Sonya’s outing to a formerly Jewish neighborhood in Oberlauringen, where they met a resident who recalls her Jewish neighbors.

Friedel Korten has lived in the house her grandfather purchased from a Jewish family in 1907. She is in her late 70’s and recalls the ceremonial bread her Jewish neighbors baked each week.

This kind of storytelling and culinary history is why I read The German-Jewish Cookbook hungrily from cover to cover:

Over many years of baking this bread, Friedel has become a seasoned and expert Berches baker. In fact, a few years ago, during the thousand-year anniversary of this town, Friedel baked many loaves for the celebration. The Berches and how it represented the former Jewish community, became an important element of the festivities.” (page 92)

While savory dishes are plentiful in this volume, among my favorites being Sweet-Sour Red Cabbage seasoned with juniper berries and currant jelly, I’ll encourage you to purchase this volume for anyone who enjoys a deep dive into social and culinary history, or who simply wants to pay homage to German Jews and the rich culture being kept alive by surviving generations.

Holocaust Remembrance Day is an annual commemoration. This year it is observed beginning on the eve of April 11 and throughout April 12, 2018.

The German- Jewish Cookbook
Photo: courtesy of Rossmer family

Watch for our give-away of The German-Jewish Cookbook, Recipes & History of a Cuisine by Gabrielle Rossmer Gropman and Sonya Gropman next week. Can’t wait to play in the give-away? Click here to buy it today.

All photos used with permission from the authors @Brandeis University Press 2017.

Disclosure: There are links on this site that can be defined as “affiliate links”. This means that I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you) if you purchase something through the links provided.

Baked Rice Souffle kosher recipe
Photo: Liz Rueven; Baked Rice Souffle with Cherries

 

 

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