Updating Grandma’s Recipes
Jewish food is a living cuisine: Don’t let it get stuck in time.
By Amy Landsman
It’s probably a good bet that your grandmother never soaked her brisket in beer.
But know what? Turns out it’s a great idea.
“The brisket is phenomenal,” says Maya Brooks of Reisterstown, who says she got the idea from her mother. “My mother is a phenomenal cook. She concocted it somehow. It’s a mixture of catsup, cranberry sauce and a bottle of beer. You pour it over the brisket and bake for three hours.”
Times change and there’s nothing wrong with Jewish cooking adapting and keeping up with changing times as well.
“I feel very strongly that palates change and we taste our food with a different tongue than our grandparents did,” declares Jayne Cohen, the author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking” (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).
That means, Cohen says from her home in New York, it’s perfectly OK to tweak, update and improvise on Grandma’s classic cuisine — as long as you don’t lose the essence of what Jewish cooking is all about.
In other words, go ahead and try a little beer in your brisket (though not for Passover, as beer contains yeast) or other creative riffs on traditional dishes.
“Jewish food has never been carved in stone,” points out Cohen.
In fact, a lot of foods we think of as traditional actually came out of Jewish cookbooks from the 1950’s — think processed pie gunk topping off a kugel.
“If you want it to be something fossilized and in danger of dying out…the surest way to do that is to relegate it to culinary dinosaurdom,” Cohen says.
For her part, Brooks, a dentist and busy mom of three, says she generally likes things quick and easy for Zachary, 9, Jordan, 7, and Sydney, 4 1/2, as well as for her husband Steve.
“I learned from my mom and looking through cookbooks. I enjoy trying new things,” she says.
“It’s wonderful to have that connection to the past, but you also want to create new memories…You can make these wonderful Jewish recipes and update them and they’ll still taste Jewish,” Cohen adds.