For a food writer that didn’t start out writing about food, it’s pretty incredible to realize all that writer Leah Koenig has accomplished. Already in her brief career she has published an incredible cookbook on everyday Jewish cooking for Hadassah, is a regular contributor to Savuer Magazine (one of the most respected and well-thought-out food magazines on the market) and has appeared on the Today show to display recipes.
Coming from a background in Environmental Studies and Religion, writing about food and creating recipes for publication was not always her primary focus, but food has always played a strong role in her life. “I’ve always loved making dinner and hosting friends in my home, either for Shabbat or a weeknight meal,” says Koenig. “To me food just doesn’t make sense outside the context of friends and family eating together. It’s what I love about it.”
A job with Hazon would lead Leah from a strong interest in food and the culture surrounding it, to a career immersed in writing and thinking about it everyday. “I came to Hazon because I was passionate about the mission of the organization,” says Koenig, “once there I found myself leading their food programs, working on their food conference and getting to know the farmers that created the food Hazon was championing. I realized, from these experiences, that I wanted to help tell the story of this food.”
The rest, as they say, is history. Koenig founded Hazon’s food blog, The Jew and the Carrot, serving as editor, and then left in 2008 to pursue writing about food full-time. In her writing about food and in her creation of recipes, Koenig strives to focus on seasonal cooking with some understanding of cooking local, though she also admits it’s not always easy or realistic to cook completely local for every meal. “One of the beautiful things about being a global society is I can buy and use incredible soy sauce from Japan or olive oil from Italy in my cooking, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that,” said Koenig.
Above all, Koenig strives in her recipes to take the iconic dishes of Jewish cuisine and make them relevant to today. “If everyday we ate some of the most iconic Jewish dishes, we wouldn’t be very healthy,” says Koenig. “When writing recipes based on Jewish culture, especially for my Hadassah cook book, I acknowledged the traditional flavors we associated with these dishes, but placed them in the context of the healthier way we eat today.”
With writers like Leah Koenig, Jewish food and cooking is in good hands.