Jew and the Carrot: Gil Marks Talks about his new Encyclopedia of Jewish Food

Here's Gil Marks talking about his exciting new book on the wonderful Jew and the Carrot blog.
Gil Marks Discusses His New "Encyclopedia of Jewish Food"
By Sarah Breger

It’s hard not to be awed by the new “Encyclopedia of Jewish Food” by Gil Marks. With over 650 entries about almost every Jewish food imaginable and 300 recipes, the elaborate book spans the mundane (almonds, spinach) to the foreign (manti, a Bukharan Purim dumpling). Marks fills his reference guide with history, stories and interesting asides from Jewish communities around the world.

“To know a community is to know its food,” Marks writes in his introduction and by including a “Timeline of Jewish History” from 1230 BCE to 2010 CE, it is clear that he is attempting to create not just a history of Jews’ culinary preferences but a history of the Jewish people.

The book is a culmination of twenty-plus years of knowledge and is the first attempt within the American Jewish culinary community to compile a comprehensive reference guide for Jewish food like the indispensable bible of French food, the “Larousse Gastronomique,” or the English “Oxford Companion to Food.”

In a two-part interview with The Jew and the Carrot, Marks shares the origins of the encyclopedia, reveals the food that some Talmudic rabbis hated and finally settles the age-old kasha-kishka debate. Check back later this week for more.

Sarah Breger: How did the “Encyclopedia of Jewish Food” come about?

Gil Marks: I have been collecting recipes and information for over 20 years but three years ago my editor said to me ‘You’re a walking encyclopedia of food, so why don’t you do an encyclopedia?” It took three years to put everything together and go through all the misconceptions and mistakes out there about Jewish food but it resulted in over 600 entries and 300 recipes.

SB: What constitutes a Jewish food?

GM: More Jews today eat sushi and salsa than eat salt schmaltz [the traditional rendered chicken or goose fat]. But sushi and salsa are not Jewish foods whereas schmaltz is. A Jewish food is one that is almost sanctified, either by its repeated use or use within the holidays or rituals. So food that may have not been Jewish at one point can become Jewish within the cultural context...more...

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