“Food, Family, and Tradition” is part memoir, part cookbook, all love. It traces Lynn Kirsche Shapiro’s family roots in Czechoslovakia and Hungary and the tragedy of the Holocaust, as well as family dishes that were preserved and handed down for future generations. The book began as Shapiro’s way to complete two unfinished legacies: her mother’s recipes and her father’s autobiography, but along the way became so much more, chronicling the richness of Jewish life in Eastern Europe prior to the Holocaust and the role of faith and strong family traditions that allowed Holocaust survivors to rebuild their lives after the war. The preparations and meals carried an essential ingredient of remembrance that connected them to lost loved ones.
The first half of the book traces the author’s family roots in Czechoslovakia (her father Sandor Kirsche) and Hungary (her mother Margit) through period photographs, biographies, a family tree of victims and survivors, and original vignettes about Jewish culture, kosher wine, holidays and traditions. Sandor opened Hungarian Kosher Foods (the largest kosher supermarket in the Midwest) in Chicago in 1973 and it still thrives today. More than just an all-kosher supermarket, it has also become a place for the Jewish community to gather and connect.
Part two features 150 family recipes from Czechoslovakia and Hungary divided into ten chapters ranging from appetizers and soups to entrees and desserts. All recipes are kosher and marked as parve, meat, or dairy, and Yiddish / Hungarian names are given when applicable. Each recipe is introduced by a family story or the dish’s origins, and many contain helpful hints (identified by red dotted boxes). You’ll find staples like matjes herring, borscht, and blintzes, but one thing that stood out from my many other Jewish and kosher cookbooks was the inclusion of Hungarian dishes like rakott krumpli, goulash, cabbage with noodles, and fruit soups. I found many new recipes like the sweet bread kugel and golden dumplings that I look forward to making on a regular basis.
I own many Jewish cookbooks and have read much on the Holocaust, but “Food, Family and Tradition” really resonated with me for several reasons. Many of the recipes evoked those of my Polish grandmother (stuffed cabbage, borscht, kasha, chrain), and my Polish great-grandparents were grocers in 1920s Chicago. This is a beautiful cookbook that captures the spirit of prewar Czechoslovakia and Hungary’s once-vibrant Jewish communities; their legacy lives on through these recipes that have been lovingly preserved and updated for modern kitchens.
(Review copy courtesy of Trina Kaye PR)