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From the Jewish Heartland

From the Jewish Heartland: Two Centuries of Midwest Foodways

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 224
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    From the Jewish Heartland
    Book Description:

    From the Jewish Heartland: Two Centuries of Midwest Foodways reveals the distinctive flavor of Jewish foods in the Midwest and tracks regional culinary changes through time. Exploring Jewish culinary innovation in America's heartland from the 1800s to today, Ellen F. Steinberg and Jack H. Prost examine recipes from numerous midwestern sources, both kosher and nonkosher, including Jewish homemakers' handwritten manuscripts and notebooks, published journals and newspaper columns, and interviews with Jewish cooks, bakers, and delicatessen owners._x000B__x000B_With the influx of hundreds of thousands of Jews during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries came new recipes and foodways that transformed the culture of the region. Settling into the cities, towns, and farm communities of Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, and Minnesota, Jewish immigrants incorporated local fruits, vegetables, and other comestibles into traditional recipes. Such incomparable gustatory delights include Tzizel bagels and rye breads coated in midwestern cornmeal, baklava studded with locally grown cranberries, dark pumpernickel bread sprinkled with almonds and crunchy Iowa sunflower seeds, tangy ketchup concocted from wild sour grapes, Sephardic borekas (turnovers) made with sweet cherries from Michigan, rich Chicago cheesecakes, native huckleberry pie from St. Paul, and savory gefilte fish from Minnesota northern pike._x000B__x000B_Steinberg and Prost also consider the effect of improved preservation and transportation on rural and urban Jewish foodways, as reported in contemporary newspapers, magazines, and published accounts. They give special attention to the impact on these foodways of large-scale immigration, relocation, and Americanization processes during the nineteenth century and the efforts of social and culinary reformers to modify traditional Jewish food preparation and ingredients._x000B__x000B_Including dozens of sample recipes, From the Jewish Heartland: Two Centuries of Midwest Foodways takes readers on a memorable and unique tour of midwestern Jewish cooking and culture.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09315-9
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    There was no “Midwest” until the 1900s. Until then that large, open stretch between the continent’s coasts, the “inter-ocean,” if you will, was simply “out West” on the “fringes of the prairies.” It was “the Heartland”—except nobody called it that yet, much less the folk who wandered through en route to somewhere else. However, those who settled along its plentiful waterways, around its numerous freshwater lakes, amidst the rich, fertile farmlands, in its nascent towns, or in burgeoning urban centers during the nineteenth century mostly called it “home.”

    Ultimately, this region became, and continues to be, the nation’s grain...

  5. 1 The Early Jewish Presence in the Middle West
    (pp. 7-17)

    A simple marker, erected by the Jewish Historical Society of Michigan, in Michilimackinac State Park, Mackinaw City, commemorates the first Jewish settler in that state: a German-Jew from Berlin named Ezekiel Solomon who landed at the northern tip of the Lower Peninsula in 1761.¹ The plaque tells little about Solomon except that he survived an Ojibwa massacre at Fort Michilimackinac in 1763, was a fur trader who ran a general store provisioning the British army, and was one of the founders of Canada’s first (Sephardic rite) synagogue, Montreal’s Shearith Israel.

    Information about Solomon is somewhat scanty. It seems he arrived...

  6. 2 Midwest City Life: The Sephardim and the German-Jews
    (pp. 18-38)

    Sephardic Jews were never numerous in the United States, although they were the first to relocate to North America during the seventeenth century. Even after a larger second wave in the 1900s brought Sephardim to American shores as refugees from savage pogroms and bloody revolutions, their numbers remained few; in fact, fewer than 70,000 emigrated.

    Their history reflects the wide sweep of Sephardic settlement—from Spain and Portugal, to Egypt, Turkey, Greece, Tunisia, Yemen, Yugoslavia, Lebanon, Italy, India, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Syria, South America, the Caribbean, and beyond. Yet, a mere scattering of them found their way to the Midwest,...

  7. 3 Eastern European Jews in the Cities
    (pp. 39-59)

    We buy cookbooks to read. We confess—our collection numbers in the hundreds. They range from reprints of American classics to original nineteenth-century editions. We also haunt flea markets, used bookstores, and the Internet for handwritten recipes and for books where recipes have been scribbled in the back or tucked between pages. Like the unnamed author of a 1909Chicago Tribunecolumn, we feel that “Much more intimate and personal is the cookbook which another woman, who is also a notable housekeeper, has compiled. There, written in her own hand are the recipes which she has tried and proved, perhaps...

  8. 4 Jews in Small Towns, on the Farms, and In-Between
    (pp. 60-80)

    As we leafed through one of our antique manuscript cookbooks, a faded magazine reproduction of a Victorian-era print fluttered out. The soft-focus picture shows a peasant family from somewhere, trudging through deep snow, heading somewhere else. In the background we note a small cottage. No smoke curls from its chimney. It has been abandoned. The father, who already looks weary, somewhat incongruously carries a rake over his shoulder. One son, undoubtedly the elder, lugs a basket of firewood. Perhaps they plan to camp along the road. Far behind, we see the mother, burdened by a huge basket strapped to her...

  9. 5 How to Cook . . .
    (pp. 81-103)

    When thousands upon thousands of impoverished Eastern European Jews descended on Chicago, Rabbis Emil G. Hirsh and Liebman Adler of the two largest Reform synagogues in the city urged their congregants, mostly of German extraction, “to engage in a large scale philanthropic effort to find employment, to raise the living standards, and to ‘Americanize’ [your] less fortunate Jewish brethren.”¹ Their listeners rose to the challenge. They started the Maxwell Street Settlement House. They instituted social clubs, savings clubs, drama clubs, and book clubs. They opened day nurseries and kindergartens. They established the Jewish Training School that taught German “for the...

  10. 6 When to Cook . . .
    (pp. 104-129)

    The children remember. Although they were small, a trip to their Bubbe’s house meant love and food—always. The two were inextricably connected. Hugs and kisses, quickly followed by hustling them to the table with, “Ess, mein kinderlekh” (Eat, my little children). Sunday breakfasts were an unchanging feast: lox, bagels, bialys, cream cheese, sliced tomatoes, smoked sablefish and chubs, fruit in season, freshly squeezed orange juice, and potato chips. Potato chips? After years of silently wondering, they asked. Bubbe answered with a story: “In the Old Country (and we only ever knew that “the Old Country” was six hours from...

  11. 7 . . . And When Not to Bother
    (pp. 130-150)

    Be it Ashkenazicchallahor Sephardicpanderica(“bread of the rich”), bread has always held a central place in Jewish life. Breads of every shape and variety are made and served for the Sabbath, holidays, and daily consumption: rye breads in Eastern Europe and Russia; rice-flour breads where some of the Sephardi lived; wheat breads elsewhere. For the poor, it truly was the staff of life. There is an old Jewish saying that a rich man is one who puts meat on the table once a week. The rest of the time, his family eats bread (or potatoes, depending).


  12. 8 Trends in the Heartland
    (pp. 151-164)

    Authentic, and healthy. Traditional, plus tasty. We heard those phrases over and over when we asked about today’s Jewish foods. Etheldoris Grais and Joseph Israel gave us examples of dishes, both Ashkenazic-based and Sephardic-inspired, meeting those criteria. The recipes they shared use Midwestern ingredients; they are also versatile, and grounded in Jewish food traditions, insofar as “Jewish foods” are often simply foods Jews eat wherever they live.¹

    Etheldoris learned to cook from her mother and an Italian friend in Hibbing, and while she was traversing the world taking cooking classes. She told us that her recipe for “Clear Wild Rice...

  13. Appendix Tastes of Home
    (pp. 165-174)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 175-188)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 189-196)
  16. Index
    (pp. 197-208)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 209-212)