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In the Beginning There Was…Diet Coke and Power Bars?

Andrea Carneiro is the author of Jewish Cooking Boot Camp: The Modern Girl’s Guide to Cooking Like a Jewish Grandmother. She is guest-blogging this week on Jewcy, and this is her first post. It was about eight years ago that … Read More

By / September 28, 2009

Andrea Carneiro is the author of Jewish Cooking Boot Camp: The Modern Girl’s Guide to Cooking Like a Jewish Grandmother. She is guest-blogging this week on Jewcy, and this is her first post.

It was about eight years ago that I came to a shocking realization. I didn’t know how to cook. Not boiling-some-pasta-cooking… I mean real cooking.

I was living in a tiny apartment in New York City and spending every spare moment either working or flying home to get a dose of sunshine. Being that my hometown happens to be Miami, those trips were rarely solo. They soon became group vacations, the highlight of which was my parents’ annual Chanukah party, always attended by my two best friends (both New Yorkers) and a slew of revolving guests. One night, as Ellen, Jill and I sat watching my mom fry up her famous flourless latkes, Ellen spoke up. "Roz," she said to my mom. "We all have absolutely no idea how to cook Jewish holiday food and someday we’re going to have to do it on our own."

We were silent.

"We need a Jewish cooking boot camp," she continued. And an idea was born. We figured it would be 3 days, would cover all major holidays and dishes and come complete with syllabus. From cabbage soup to nut cake we would learn it all. We laughed… and then we moved on.

But as the years went on I realized that there were many, many other young people who went through years of Jewish holidays inhaling brisket, kugel, latkes, honey cake and rugelach…without ever knowing how to make any of it themselves. Wedding seasons and bridal showers and housewarmings came and went and the Jewish cookbooks I found were too religious, too advanced, or too boring. They didn’t speak to my generation or my lifestyle. I wanted something that was fun, stylish, informative and interesting. So I created it. I added Cliffs Notes to avoid the humiliation of Googling "Rosh Hashana," a hip-hop Chanukah playlist (thanks Rosenberg brothers!), wine pairings, and even a Purim-inspired Caipirinha.

The end result ended up being more than just a cookbook. Jewish Cooking Boot Camp is about taking traditional foods and fitting them into our own (maybe non-traditional) lives. It’s not about keeping kosher or serving Manischewitz or saying the right blessings, it’s about celebrating and recognizing holidays by gathering friends and family and feeding them copious amounts of delicious comfort food. It’s about sometimes having to buy challah from the bakery, doing (rabbi-endorsed) vodka shots at your seder and embracing the family quirks that make meals special. It’s also about not being intimidated by the kitchen.

So in the spirit of the New Year I want to take this guest blogging opportunity to try to inspire all you novice hosts out there to grab your spatula and your fancy china, crank up your oven, and channel your inner chef, because if I can do it-trust me-you can too.

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