Shalom Life | July 01, 2014

Joan Rivers Writes Forward For New Jewish Cookbook

The comedian contributed some Jewish jokes and sentiments for ‘Eating Delancey: A Celebration of Jewish Food’

By: Sara Torvik

Published: September 19th, 2014 in Culture » Books » News

Joan Rivers Writes Forward For New Jewish Cookbook

Legendary comedian Joan Rivers passed away suddenly from throat surgery complications on Sept. 4th, but before she died she still had many projects on the go, including a contribution to a new book about Jewish food. Naturally, she started with a few jokes.

“What does a Jewish woman make for dinner? Reservations.”

“You know how they butcher kosher meat, right? The cows aren’t slaughtered. They’re nagged to death.”

The book, entitled Eating Delancey: A Celebration of Jewish Food is scheduled to be published in December by PowerHouse Books, and includes a foreword written by Rivers. In the book you will find recipes for knishes, bagels, pickles, and a wide variety of other dishes that are well-known staples of the Jewish community in Manhattan’s Lower East Side.

Rivers was one of the go-to names that publishers thought of when they were putting together a list of names that they wanted included in the book, if only for how infamous the comedian had become for her Passover meals, which were just as much about her well-documented smart-alecky comments as they were for the tasty food. Abbie Aronson, a PowerHouse press liason, also made a contribution to the book and spoke about the conversation she had with Rivers back in April. What was initially supposed to be a quick 5 minute phone call, turned in to an hour, and Aronson says they ended up with so much material that they just decided that it would be best to use it as the book’s introduction.

“The more we chatted about Jewish food, the more animated and nostalgic she became,” Aronson says, “telling us stories about the food she enjoyed growing up and what dishes she craved as an adult, the few times she would actually indulge in such rich food. What was absolutely clear as well was the fact that she was enjoying recounting these stories as a way to keep these memories alive, for not only herself but for her family.”

One of the stories that Rivers tells in the book is that it wasn’t actually her mother, described as being “a very chic woman, very well read, a great hostess, and a horrible cook,” who introduced her to all of her favourite Jewish foods, but rather her father. Rivers explains that he was a doctor who had a “huge, ethical practice” in Brooklyn and some of his underprivileged patients would bring him food in exchange for his services.

“Obviously, most patients paid him but some could not afford to, and so they’d bring food in exchange for medical services,” she explained. “We got soups, blintzes … you name it. Stuffed derma was a big one for fixing a burst appendix. Oh my God, the food … it was just terrific and this is how I grew up — eating such food cooked with love and delivered by infirm and dying patients.”

In the book, Rivers also writes about what she may have as hypothetical last meal, stating that she would start with “a good piece of gefilte fish with some fantastic freshly grated horseradish on it.” The only thing she wouldn’t stand for is Chinese.

“I’m not happy at a Chinese restaurant. I want kreplach! Jewish food makes Italian food seem like Lean Cuisine,” she said. “The amazing thing is, believe it or not, I only had so-so Jewish food in Israel. Maybe it’s because my hostess’ daughter was a vegan.”

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