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Personal Heirloom Cookbook Giveaway


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Food, we know, has magical properties. So, too, do the stories behind their recipes. They resurrect those who are gone. They let you travel through time. They become mythology.

As a personal historian, I interview people and write their life stories into heirloom books. Usually it is the children or grandchildren who commission me, seeking to preserve their family legacy. Some of my subjects are world-famous. Some are ordinary folk. No matter, the wisdom and intimacy I encounter are astounding. I hear stories of great work, love affairs, lifetimes that seem to have passed in a blink. Especially, as people chronicle their lives, I am struck by the centrality of food and recipes – and the tales behind them. Too often, even when we manage to scribble down the recipes, we leave the stories behind.

Caramel Pear Lattice Pie

Caramel Pear Lattice Pie

There is the pie recipe – handed down from a mother-in-law who when she shared her recipe, always left out one key ingredient so it could never be replicated in its full glory. Except this one time.

Sweet Kugel with Dried Fruit

There is the kugel – that was perfected over the years by a community, first with this auntie’s change, then with that friend’s addition. In the end, the recipe belongs to no one in particular. It was the collective Stone Soup.

sweet package brisket

Sweet Cabbage Brisket

Then there is the brisket that his father taught his mother to make with an alarming amount of onions. It was long ago when his parents were still married. And though he was too young to have any memory of that flicker in time when they were one whole family together, the recipe itself somehow lets it exist again for just a moment.

What are your beloved recipes with stories behind them?

One of my own favorite recipes is my father’s lasagna, chunky with zucchini and roasted garlic. He learned it from his mother who used to make all kinds of pasta because the neighborhood where they lived in Cleveland was full of Italians. It was a time when homes spilled into each other. Great-Grandma lived on the second floor of the house, and someone named Uncle Porky – who may or may not have actually been an uncle – lived on the third floor. People were always stopping by unexpectedly, sometimes sleeping over, so she made food in spectacular quantities, great pots of spaghetti and sheet pans of this lasagna. I never met Grandma myself, but this lasagna is always the way I imagine her generosity.

WIN – now’s your chance to share your story and enter for a chance to win a personal heirloom cookbook. 

In the comments below share with us your recipe with a paragraph explaining the family story behind it, and you could win a complementary personal history project for you or your favorite Bubbe chronicling the recipes of your family and their stories in a keepsake book.


Contest will run through February 17th at 11:59 PM EST.  Open to anyone over the age 0f 18.  Winner will be selected for the best story.  Winner will be announced on this blog post and emailed through the email they comment with and have 24 hours to respond to claim their prize.

Thank you all for sharing these amazing stories.

Posted in

About Carmit


Personal Historian at www.carmitroslyn.com . Author of Burnt Bread and Chutney: Growing Up Between Cultures, A Memoir of an Indian Jewish Girl (Random House). New York-based wife and mother of three. Fascinated by food and the cultures around it.




37 Responses to Personal Heirloom Cookbook Giveaway

  1. avatar says: sarah

    My mom AlWAYS made cinnamon rolls on christmas because her great grandmom used to do it and we loved her so. She used to put a little cinnamon on her neck so that she’d smell like the rolls all day :)

  2. My grandmother was a world-class cook and baker. Her mother studied cooking in Paris and passed on her knowledge to her daughters growing up in Germany. The daughters brought their skills to America, first cooking to help earn a living, and then for family, friends and synagogue.

  3. Cinnamon Balls:
    Both my grandmothers were amazing cooks, and both spent hours in the kitchen making treats. Although they both came from totally different places (one born and bred in the UK, the other came to the UK from Vienna), they had the same recipe for cinnamon balls from the 1956 Florence Greenberg cookery book, and we use the same recipe on Pesach to date. Here it is:

    Cinnamon Balls:
    Ground almonds 6oz
    Castor sugar ½lb
    Cinnamon 1 tablespoon
    Whites of 3 eggs

    Beat egg whites to a stiff froth, add sugar, cinnamon, and ground almonds, and mix thoroughly. Roll into balls and bake on a greased tin in a slow oven (350 degrees, Regulo No [gas mark] 3) til set 25 – 30 minutes. Remove from the tin and roll in icing sugar.

  4. avatar says: Steph

    Cholent- my grandmother tells me how her grandmother made it. And I make it for my kids…it’s amazing same recipe over so many generations

  5. My husband’s great grandmother made an amazing saurkaut soup. It was simple, but reflected the flavors of sweet and sour: 4 pounds of sauerkraut, 1 large can whole tomatoes, 1 large can tomato sauce, one to two pounds lean beef, one whole onion, 1/4 cup of sugar, salt, pepper. Combine all ingredients and gently boil for 3 hours. Enjoy the aroma. Adjust seasonings to taste.

  6. avatar says: Cherie

    My mother passed away young, and sadly took most of her recipes with her. I am constantly telling friends to write their recipes down for their kids! We found some of mom’s, but the paper was so worn out we couldn’t read it… it was just clear enough to jog her memory when she needed it. One of those recipes was actually my aunt’s “Giblets” – we had them as an appetizer every Passover & Rosh Hashanna. They were the best. They were called “Giblets”, but us kids only ate the meatballs… not the gizards. As an adult I bugged and bugged my aunt many years for the recipe, but she kept telling me the classic “a little of this, a little of that”… she had never written it down. My father’s work took us to Kansas, while most of my extended family was in Boston. We didn’t get to go “home” very often. One visit I finally asked her if we could make her Giblets and I would write it down as she made it. Now I make awesome Giblets just like my Aunt. Not only a memory of fabulous food growing up… but a wonderful memory of us doing it together to write the recipe. I think that experience means more to me than the recipe itself!

  7. My mother was a wonderful cook who rarely, if ever used a recipe, something she learned from like her mother. When she passed away my sister and I tried to re-create some of our favorites and it took a lot of experimenting. Howevever, I was fortunate that I learned how to make her potato latkes and her knaidlach while she was still with us. We’re from England and we like ours on the firm side, no airy matzah balls for us!

  8. My grandmother made her cholent every week and it was always something to look forward to. I still make it the way she did and that was also the way her mother and grandmother made it. Here in England, where the weather is so unpredictable, it makes a lovely warming meal

  9. really like your web site

  10. My bubbies honey cake . She passed away before I had a chance to meet her. My father always says she cooked very simple and plain. I prize myself for being able to duplicate the recipe. Every rosh hashana I wait around while my father takes his first bite of cake and hope I will get a positive note “tasts just like bubbys”.

  11. My mother is a TERRIBLE cook who can barely follow a recipe. She thinks she is a good cook, and adds this or that to any or every recipe to make it “better.” My father has happily eaten her cooking for more than 55 years of marriage, so perhaps the rest of us are too critical. There is no doubt that my mother is a better cook than her mother and grandmother who would boil vegetables until they were tasteless, gelatinous messes.

    My mother’s matzoh balls are just awful. They are lead sinkers that taste like sawdust and sometimes are gooey or even crunchy. They certainly aren’t ever consistently one texture or another. She uses a recipe from a Sisterhood cookbook that was from the 1950’s. When I first started making matzoh ball soup, I thought I would start with “her” recipe and then go from there to make them a bit more to my family’s taste. I followed the recipe, and they came out perfectly. Following the recipe, I have been able to make perfect matzoh balls for 27 years of marriage. A few years ago, my parents were at my seder table, and my mother praised my matzoh balls. She wanted my recipe. I told her it was her recipe. As the entire family erupted in laughter, my mother explained that she never actually followed the directions and wasn’t about to start now! So, my mother’s matzoh ball recipe is my favorite recipe, even if I never want to duplicate her outcome.

  12. I was fortunate to have my mother’s recipes and passed them on to my children. I have made the recipes often especially for holiday dinners. One Rosh Hashanah I begged off and my non-jewish daugter in law was the most upset. Sooo, of course I had everyone for dinner. My mother was a great cook and worked alongside my father in his butcher shop since the day they got married.

  13. avatar says: naomi

    starting my own traditions for my girls :)

  14. avatar says: Kathy L

    My mother-in-law would make houska often. The recipe was her mother’s (husband’s grandmother). It is not as sweet as the recipes I have seen online. She has handed down many recipes-Bohemian descent. Many of them I have had to do with her to write down as they are made without measuring(goulash, chicken paprika, potato dumplings–I could go on and on). It is wonderful to be able to make something and my family remembers when grandma had made it. Now I am able to give these to my children and hopefully will be passed on for generations to come.

  15. avatar says: AILUY

    My grandmother’s gefilte fish. She was orphaned in a pogrom at the age of three. She was taken care of by a few neighbors until she turned nine and then went to work and provided for herself. She eventually married and raised a family. She was taught how to cook a few basic things, the rest, she figured out on her own. Adding this or that or the other, not knowing what the ‘traditional’ ingredients were suppose to be. So, her gefilte fish has golden fried onions, not raw. There is no sugar but plenty of pepper and the mixture is light but not smooth. the broth has onion skins, beet and carrots. my grandma and now my mom and me are the only ones I know that make gefilte fish like this. But to me it is the only way a true gefilte fish must taste.

  16. avatar says: emamwl

    My mother’s cold cherry fruit soup recipe from the New York Times. When cherries and peaches show up in the supermarket and I can make the soup, it means that summer has arrived

  17. avatar says: ev m-w

    My oma was the best cook but rarely used recipes. A Holocaust refugee she could not bring anything with her. Since she never learned English, cookbooks were out of the question. She cooked from her heart and from her soul. My favorite recipe was her obst (fruit soup), and her potato latkes as her kugel, which is nothing like we have. I make a Shabbos torte, which is like my Oma’s merbe teisch. Everyone loves it, and I share it freely. All those who have used the recipe call it a keeper.

  18. avatar says: Sam

    My grandmother was not an ‘inventive’ cook. She rarely if ever baked. BUT there were a few things she made that would knockk your socks off! Each of us had our favorites: mine was chopped herring,my brother could eat her kreplach all day, my mom was s sucker for her borsht and for my Aunt Ruth her stuffed potao knishes hit the spot. Every so often my grandparents would take the drive from Flatbush (Brooklyn, NY) to “the country” our houses on long island. You would think we never went to visit her because to each house she would bring a large carton filled with bowls and packages. Each package had to go the correct house because each held a different delicacy for each of her children and grandchildren. What joy! What ecstasy! Sadly her recipes died with her. I miss them both

  19. My grandmother makes 3 types of cookies that are delicious, homey and she believes can solve all problems. They are given at parties, Shiva houses, family weekend and whenever you pop by for a visit. I love them

  20. avatar says: fbogus

    Aunt Frances wasn’t my real aunt but she was my aunt’s best friend since her youngest days. Frances and her family were as much our family, too, as close as any real relatives could be. Aunt Frances was the famed cook and hostess in the family and she made Pesach each year. The menu never changed and her chremselach were legendary. Dessert was always a pareve frozen chocolate mousse and it wasn’t really Pesach until one of the kids broke a parfait glass.

    But the real high point of the Seder was Aunt Frances’ “Fluffy Knaidlich (Never Fail).” Simple ingredients, 4 room temperature eggs, separated; 1 cup matzah meal; and 3/4 teaspoon salt, but they were perfect every time. Tasty and light, no fancy gimmicks, and always delicious.

    Frances gave me that recipe, along with a few others, on hand typed index cards. The cards are stained and worn, well loved and well used. My daughter was born two years after Aunt Frances died but she knows how special a person Frances was and that she lives on every time we make her matzah balls. You see, there really was a fourth ingredient in Frances’ never-fail knaidlich – her goldene neshama.

  21. My Aussie wife has some wonderful European recipes.

  22. avatar says: rivkaf

    I never knew my grandparents. my parents were holocaust servivors. I would be so grateful, in honor of my mother and grandmothers, to receive a copy of the Personal Heirloom Cookbook.

  23. Ours was a Yiddish-speaking household … so to this day, I cannot figure out why my beloved Bubi made “roller cookies” and not “rugelech.” No matter what they were called, they were exquisite, with the perfect ratio of fruit to nuts to sugar-and-spice — and if I had the recipe, I’d gladly share it.

  24. My mother’s chicken soup is the best. No – I know your mother’s is good, really good, but my mother’s is delicious, golden, warm, a little salty, redolent with the taste of the chicken, the soft vegetables and greens. All of the grandchildren adore this soup. We all have the recipe but there’s something special about it when my mother makes it. It’s the best!

  25. avatar says: Ali

    MMM !!! the wonderful smells from my Grandmothers kitchen . I used to love to watch her making her bread.

  26. avatar says: chossid

    How I got my mother’s recipe

    My mother passed away when I was nine, so I never had a chance to get any recipes from her. I remember her meat with “lump potatoes,” how she made us a koolaid type drink when we were sick, using jello powder and water, and her delicious egged, rolled cookies with bits of cherries and walnuts. When we were little, we were far from rich, and couldn’t afford to buy a danish. So she would spread a stewed prune on a graham cracker, and top it with a little shpritz of whipped cream. Sounds funny, but they were delicious!

    Anyway…. When I was about to get married, and my husband is a Kohein, I was told I had to find out some information about my parents, who had both passed away. I went back to the little town where I was born, and started looking for the people who used to live there. B”H I was able to find out where my mother’s best friend was now living, and I went to visit her. What a wonderful feeling to meet her again after all those years! She answered my questions, and then told me ‘You know, your mother a”h showed me where the kosher butcher is, and I use him till today! And do you know what? I have a recipe here that your mother wrote down for me!’ I’m afraid the slip of paper has disappeared over the years during one of our moves, but I still see it i my mind, in my mother’s beautiful handwriting: Pizza ~ Split an English muffin. Spread with tomato sauce. Top with cheese, and a few drops of oil, to attract the heat. Broil till cheese melts. Extremely simple, but so moving, how 10 years after her passing, my mother seemed to send her recipe to me through her friend!

  27. avatar says: chossid

    Another story… After my mother passed away, we moved to Brooklyn, and lived in a railroad flat, together with my grandmother, my father’s mother. My grandmother was from “Russia” but her father had been a German wine merchant, so I learned what “shnapps” was. When we would sit out on the stoop, she would embarrass us by coming running outside with a pillow, so we shouldn’t get sick. Now that I live in Ukraine, I realize how funny this is, as they say you shouldn’t sit on the floor or “you will get a cold in your tushy!” But what I always remember is her outstanding food! She made the most delicious chuck steak with onions and tomato paste, which I cannot duplicate. And you will not believe what she made us for breakfast! No cereal and milk like the other kids… I might make these treats once a year. I have no idea how she made them for us on a regular basis. She would either make us blintzes with sweetened cottage cheese and raisins, or the most delicious sweet, rice-filled knishes! I searched in vain for years for the knish recipe, till I finally decided to just duplicate it myself. Simply cook rice in a mixture of water and milk or soy milk if you want them to be pareve. Add sugar, vanilla and eggs, and fill your knish dough with the mixture. Egg and bake! What a treat!

  28. avatar says: chossid

    Nu, so how can I leave out my other grandmother? Truth be told, she was probably the best cook. We spent all of the yomim tovim at her house. Pesach was so special! They would roll up the rugs, and spread out green straw-like mats on the floors instead, and take out the beautiful cobalt blue dinnerware, and the entire family sat around the long table covered in white linen. I remember seeing the adults cry during the seder, and asked why they were crying. They explained that the chrain made them cry. My childish solution was so obvious ~ ‘then don’t eat the chrain,’ I told them! My grandfather would sit me at his side and show me where he had “hidden” the afikomen in his white linen napkin. I would pass the time looking at the interesting pictures in the Barton’s Hagaddah. Then we would eat the homemade gefilte fish balls, the chicken soup (“if you finish it, you’ll see a nice picture in the bottom of the bowl!”) and everything else, culminated by the delicious nuent — honey and nut squares! I had been the helper, turning the crank on the wall mounted nut grinder, and I was so proud! The last treat, before sleep, was molded chocolate lollipops.

    When I met my mother’s best friend, before my marriage, she told me something else, as well. During the depression, my mother and grandmother had made handmade chocolates to sell to rich people, to help support the family. So I guess that’s where I get my love of cooking and baking.

  29. avatar says: chossid

    After both parents passed away, my sister and I were adopted, by a very special couple, who could not have children of their own. They felt that Hashem had finally sent them the two little girls of their dreams (ummm… I think sometimes my behavior made it more like nightmares for them…) My new mother was an artist, and before she would start working on a new painting, she would stock up the freezer with plastic containers of soups and other dishes, so we would always have a great home cooked meal, even when she didn’t have the time to cook. Two of her specialties that I remember and miss were veal or beef “birds” wrapped around challah stuffing and baked, and a delicious cholent tzimmes with brisket, potatoes, sweet potatoes, prunes, carrots, and onions, which we would eat on Friday night. She was an excellent baker. Any time there was a special occasion she would make her delicate chocolate roll which used potato starch instead of flour, and was filled with whipped cream or topping. She made the kind of strudel where you roll and pull out the dough till you can read the newspaper through it! Another favorite was angel food cake with 7-minute frosting. She would show us how to cook, but not let us do anything by ourselves. So one day we asked our father to take her for a drive for a few hours, because we wanted to make her a surprise. Instead of something simple, we made that cake. And surprisingly it turned out just right… at least we certainly thought so. Our other culinary caper was really something else. At the tender ages of 9 and 12, with no previous experience other than scrambled eggs, we decided to throw a big surprise party for my parents anniversary! We invited everyone in their address book! Whenever they were out, we figured we’d make something. We were nothing if not very ambitious, and the first thing we attempted was French petit fourres!!!!!! They were probably horrible, but we packed them away in a neighbor’s freezer for the grand day. One day our postman was away, and his standby saw the little return envelopes addressed to us — at our neighbor’s address, so he brought them to my father, thinking it was a mistake. My father took us aside, and asked what it was supposed to mean. Unable to get out of it, we had to own up. He said okay, we can make the party, but our mother would have to be the cook, and we could help. In retrospect, I have to say it must have been for the best. Our poor guests if they had had to eat our pitiful petit fourres! I still have and treasure a Georg Jenson bowl they received at the party. My mother always said you can be a great cook or a great baker, but not both. I of course decided to prove her wrong and become both. But I think she beat me to it!

  30. avatar says: chossid

    I hope I was not out of order for writing 4 “stories.” I just couldn’t leave out one of them….

  31. avatar says: Etka

    When I think of my maternal grandma, I think of fried onions, kasha, and the most sublime chicken soup. cooking was never her hobby, but, as she says, “whoever has kasha and rice, will never starve.” She grew up in the Depression with kasha and veg soup, and our family eats kasha with varnishkas, kasha and milk for breakfast, and kasha pie. (The pizza stores think we’re crazy when we kids ask for kasha knishes – they say we’re the only young people who ask for it!) My little one-year old had a two-week hunger strike because there was no kasha for breakfast…. so I suppose that’s more of a foodway than a recipe…

  32. avatar says: Etka

    My paternal grandmother, on the other hand, passes recipes down the way all the European customs are: with great love and reverence, and the story behind the recipe (or the person who created it). Thus we eat Dear-Friend-Nechama-Who-Is-Related-By-the-War-But-Not-Blood’s Chocolate Cake (the fudgiest, most decadent version I’ve ever seen, the secret to which is unusually high amounts of sugar and flour, plus two boiling cups of water immediately prior to baking); Chanukah Punchkes (Baba taught me how to knead with that dough – Chanukah isn’t Chanukah without them rising on the counter, to plunge into dishes of jelly or powdered sugar at dessert, in the true Polish manner); lacy latkes with breadcrumbs (never seen those elsewhere, either); garlicky cholent, deep-fried wheels of potato kugel, rich Pesach farmer cheese cheesecakes and smooth cream cheese ones… then there are memories of “greeven” (chicken cracklings, stopped when the collective cholesterol of the family protested); the traditional “tzibblech” (literally: onions, but representing a liver pate of chopped onions, liver, boiled potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, shmaltz and greeven or oil, mashed together – a Belzer treat we enjoy each Pesach) – and memories, too, of foods remembered but not replicated for decades, from Czechoslovakia and Hungary and Poland and Sweden, the countries she fled through during the war years: dumplings with whole plums hidden inside, fried in breadcrumbs; rich soups, stews, cakes. Her kokosh is famous, a non-yeast, pineapple-juice-rich cookie-dough-like roll that she carries with her in foil-wrapped plentitude every time she visits grandchildren all over the world (sometimes she slices them into little cookie-danishes we call “midnight snacks”, sometimes leaves them as “shtangen”, rolls, of either cinnamon-raisin-nut or chocolate kokosh). Her gefilte is even more so – a famed crown shared with my grandfather, who excels at it too – they have pots that span two burners at once, and stuff enough whitefish to feed the Russian army with only pure ground fish and carrots (NEVER breadcrumbs), with plenty of pike skins to jelly the “yuch” (an unfortunate appellation for the jelly). Containers of it are whisked to friends and family all over (occasionally spilling in cars where it is NEVER, EVER FORGOTTEN.)

    But queen of all the beloved recipes is BORSCHT. How my husband feared to eat it when we married, imagining slimy beets in saccharine broth! But when BORSCHT made its grand entrance that night in the frigid succah, tendrils of garlicky steam rising from its ruby depths, shoals of tender meat and pearly potatoes resting upon a soft mound of shredded, slawed beets, he was as hooked as we were. I’ve never seen any borscht like it an frankly am embarrassed to associate such a transcendent dish with its cold, manufactured cousin, but there isn’t really a way to describe this sweet, dragon-fiery, garlic and pepper glory. Baba has told me the recipe many times – shred the beets, cook with meats and pepper and salt, sugar and lemon juice, cook for hours and check every hour, season with fresh garlic and pepper immediately before serving… but those are just words. If I tried it I could not put in that elusive perfection, that love and labor and heritage… I suppose I’ll have to hang out at Baba and Zeida’s this year and get trained by the best chefs I know!!

    I love the idea of an heirloom cookbook. My grandparents are so perfect for this… we have such strong foodways in our family because of the cooks they are. This subject fascinates me.

  33. Here is a link for my Grandma’s Pot La Gelle Recipe. I plan to add it to Joy of Kosher as well.

    My Grandma was notorious for her home cooked family favorites. There was never a visit without a hot, homemade pie.
    Another recipe was for this eggplant dip. My Poppy adored this dip!
    She had given me the recipe, but I lost it. Poppy has since passed on and Grandma has dementia, and so for the last couple of years, I tried searching the internet without luck. (I also tried searching for it on Joy of Kosher. I couldn’t find it here either, but that’s how I first discovered this marvelous site and joined anyway!)
    Luck changed a few months ago when Grandma and I were looking at a recipe for ratatouille, when suddenly, it all came back to her!
    The picture shows Grandma’s recipe.


  34. avatar says: Leah H

    My father was the “chef” in our family and I spent many hours cooking with him as a child. Having served in the military as a young man, he had recipes, tips and tricks from many places across the world. He passed when I was just shy of my 13th birthday. Mom had to be moved to an assisted living facility several years ago and we found my paternal Grandmother’s recipes handwritten in a notebook (none of the grandchildren met her, she passed before we were born). One recipe for date-nut bars has a note next to it “these are Elliott’s favorite”. Elliott was my father and I now make these for every family gathering as a way to bring him to the table with us.

  35. avatar says: Dputter

    I would like to break with the preceding posts and remember my paternal grandfather, Saba. Saba was born in Russia, emigrated to Mexico and made Aliya to Mandatory Palestine as a young adult where he met and married my Polish grandmother who also made Aliyah alone (and subsequently lost all her family in the Holocaust). We did not live close by and my grandmother passed when I was six so I have no memories of her cooking. Saba told me that when they got married my grandmother didn’t know how to cook so he taught her the basics. My memories of visiting Saba include him kashering chicken on a draining board in the kitchen. He had two standard dishes that he would make for us for shabbat when we visited; one was what we now call “vegetarian chopped liver” made out of eggplant and the other was and apple and prune compote. To this day, whenever I eat vegetarian chopped liver, I hold it up to my Saba’s and it usually falls short. It predated our obsession with calories and was oily and made a squelchy sound when mashed with a fork. The compote (fruit soup) was simple and refreshing with apples, prunes, raisins and since Saba was diabetic, a touch of saccharin (predating the fear of saccharin…). I make it with sugar instead. Maybe not gourmet chefs but they were true founders of the State of Israel.

  36. avatar says: Sonya

    We have a fudge recipe that’s been used for 3 generations! It’s been passed down, but in this generation no one but me seems to be able to make it (even with the correct recipe)

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