Saturday, August 20, 2011

Persian Food from the Non-Persian Bride, by Reyna Simnegar

My ancestors' old country is Eastern-Europe -- Poland and Ukraine. Nevertheless, the synagogue I belong to is Sephardic, representing Jews from Spain, Portugal, Greece, Arabic and African countries. The ladies at my shul are no shrinking violets; they're a force to be reckoned with. I'm pretty sure that if they had been around to help during the first days of creation, G-d wouldn't have needed to rest that seventh day.
I ponder this now, getting ready for the shul's big fundraiser: The Annual Bake Sale. Trying to get the ladies a little publicity for their herculean baking efforts, I've written a few pieces advertising the sale. A researcher by nature, I ordered seven Sephardic cookbooks from the library -- just to get in the mood. Let me be clear, though. I'm not a cookbook afficionado. Following recipes is too much trouble and fuss. Despite my family's complaints I've stuck with a few tried and true dishes. Perusing cookbooks, I see pages of impractical, complicated recipes, chock full of ingredients my family, whose tastes run to the pedestrian, wouldn't touch. Still, once in a great while a cookbook reaches out and grabs, not my stomach, but my heart. "Persian Food" is one of those. Like "The Gefilte Variations," the only other cookbook I've reviewed, this one is a work of art -- heavy paper bordered with Indian-style designs, gorgeous photos of the recipes and nicely voiced stories. Simnegar, herself a Sephardic Jew from Venezuela who grew up loving shmaltzy, Ashkenazic cuisine, tells of moving with her Persian-Jewish husband to Irangeles. (Los Angeles is home to a large and prosperous community of Iranian Jews.) Persian Jews are proud of their culture, and Reyna found that cooking non-Persian food was no longer an option in her new household. Throughout the cookbook, with an honest and engaging voice, Simnegar sprinkles fun anecdotes and lots of great cooking tips. As a testament to her undying love for the Ashkenazi dishes she grew up with, she slips in a few classics, like Hamantashen, noting with irony, that all the events that led to our celebration of Purim, the holiday of Hamantashen eating, took place in Persia.
"Persian Food from the Non-Persian Bride" would be a great birthday gift for your favorite foodie, and a lovely addition to any Jewish household, whether Sephardic or Ashkenzi.
P.S. For those jonesing for a taste, the bake sale is Sunday, September 18th, from 11am-1pm at the Jewish Community Center's Laikin Auditorium. Bring your checkbook and get there early. Bourekas sell out fast.

No comments:

Post a Comment