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Sep 21, 2009 10:54 PM

Interesting article

Did anyone read the following article? I'm curious about what people think about it. Do you find that for shabbos and yom tov meals you do or do not tend to veer from either the old standards or the new "Susie Fishbein" standards, as the article implies?

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  1. I was definitely part of the Fishbein Generation, living on the UWS from 2001 to 2006. We had shabbos meals where the hosts would just say the page number to refer to the menu for the evening. That's influenced me now, even in the burbs, but so has the general increased foodiness of the broader US culture.

    1. My family has the same basic Shabbat meals, but we do add new items.

      Funny, though, I'm the only one who has the Fishbein cookbooks- they were all wedding gifts. My mother and grandmother don't paticularly like cookbooks- they prefer to cook what they know. I've made recipes from the books, and while most have turned out well, they call for a lot of heavy or fattening ingredients.

      Could be that her Shabbat recipes are Ashkenaz based and we cook mostly Sephardic dishes.

      1. I've never cooked much from Fishbein's cookbooks, although I technically own one that someone passed on to me, but I definitely try for creative, different Shabbos meals. While I don't do the elaborate table settings prescribed in the 'Entertains' book, I definitely feel some of the stress discussed in the article, to the point where my most common bad-dream motif is that it's ten minutes to Shabbos and I realize that I haven't cooked anything/baked challahs. While I make some Jewish standard foods, particularly chicken soup, I mostly want to make things that are different and surprising, which excludes both the classics and the whole Kosher by Design family. I realize that the pressure is internally created (my husband grumbles about the fact that I won't let him just buy Shabbos food so that I'll be calmer on Friday) and that I should probably ramp down my own expectations, but it's hard to walk away from something I know I do well. I don't think that most of my stress is due yet to external expectations; I have no children to be disappointed by my differing from some norm, and I do most of the same cooking even when we don't have company, but I find Mirvis' thesis that the creativity that was once a freedom has now become another burden very interesting.

        1. Thanks for sharing the article. I generally cook the same basic shabbat meal every week (soup, roast chicken, potatoes, vegetable in season, dessert) where I don't need to use a recipe and can just put everything together without thinkning too much. Once every couple of weeks or so I'll add an extra "different" dish - maybe a new side dish, appetizer, soup, or dessert. Nothing too elaborate or time consuming but just enough to add something different to the table. I've used some of the Fishbein cookbooks for an idea here or there but haven't made whole menus. I give Fishbein a lot of credit for creativity and for making interesting food combinations accessible to the Kosher community, though I believe it's possible to introduce novel dishes to the table using non-kosher cookbooks and websites. I get plenty of ideas from the CH Home Cooking board and from perusing some popular food blogs when I have a chance.
          Since there are so many Yom tov meals at a time I find that I really need to add some additional dishes to the mix- I usually pull out a bunch of cookbooks in planning those meals, and will use one or two new recipes.
          Thanks again for introducing such a thought provoking discussion!

          8 Replies
          1. re: serenarobin

            Ms. Mirvis, with whom I have shared a number of shabbat meals, does make interesting points. I take some issue with the byline, which she likely did not write. The Fishbein line can only be seen as sophisticated when viewed in comparison to other contemporary orthodox cookbooks. The early books' heavy reliance on margarine and non-dairy creamer really is all that needs to be said to prove that point. I would agree that the books have improved over the years. However, the recipes do not compare favorably with what is available in food magazines, cookbooks by accomplished chefs (I like Jacques Pepin's books) Mark Bittman's cookbooks, etc. What Fishbein's books do offer are recipes that require no adaptation for kashrut and therefore are more accessible to the kosher cook. As Ms. Mirvis writes, the books were well-timed to benefit from the explosion of interest in food, giving the kosher set a convenient outlet that has retains a certain familiarity. However, as to creativity, I find that these books have actually stunted individuality as kosher cooks limit themselves to the By Design series. Ultimately, this community's desire to conform overrides its willingness to explore different approaches to food. I suppose, though, that the books have managed to broaden kosher palettes somewhat and for that I should be grateful so I shall stop my rant here.

              1. re: Kosher Critic

                Now that I think about it... I have friends who ONLY cook from 'kosher' cookbooks. They claim it's too much work to figure out if a recipe can be made using only kosher ingredients. I agree that the books are kind of like a crutch for some...

                1. re: cheesecake17

                  Wow, that is lazy. I can go through a normal cookbook and even if I ignore every problematic recipe, most of the recipes are usable as is. A roast chicken is a roast chicken.

                  1. re: avitrek

                    Baking cookbooks may be a different story but otherwise I agree. Still, as it is for those of us who eat vegetarian out, it's just easier when you don't have to feel limited when you look at a list.

                    1. re: DeisCane

                      Baking cookbooks are also fairly easy if you're making a dairy meal. But yes, converting a dairy recipe to parve can be challenging depending in the ingredients.

                2. re: Kosher Critic

                  I love Pepin. I serve a 90% traditional Shabbos with a twist of some new recipe from a cooking mag. Occasional Kosher Palette.

                  1. re: cappucino

                    collichio's books are very good too because they are usually very simple with basic ingredients. He is heavy on butter and bacon, but those are easily replaced or ommitted.

              2. Great points KC. I agree. I have 2 of the fishbein books and both were gifts. I have made only a few of the recipes and most were not great. I do not at all consider those books to be gourmet. In my opinion they are the equivalent of Rachel Ray books. For people who really can't cook and suddenly need to prepare elaborate meals every week. I usually make something different every week and I really enjoy perusing cookbooks and magazines for ideas and making recipes kosher. I personally don't think there is pressure to create something different or unusual, but there is pressure to create something tasty, wether traditional or not. But this is always true, its not a kosher thing.