From the Jewish Heartland: Two Centuries of Midwest Foodways reveals the distinctive flavor of Jewish foods in the Midwest and tracks regional culinary changes through time. Exploring Jewish culinary innovation in America's heartland from the 1800s to today, Ellen F. Steinberg and Jack H. Prost examine recipes from numerous midwestern sources, both kosher and nonkosher, including Jewish homemakers' handwritten manuscripts and notebooks, published journals and newspaper columns, and interviews with Jewish cooks, bakers, and delicatessen owners.
With the influx of hundreds of thousands of Jews during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries came new recipes and foodways that transformed the culture of the region. Settling into the cities, towns, and farm communities of Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, and Minnesota, Jewish immigrants incorporated local fruits, vegetables, and other comestibles into traditional recipes. Such incomparable gustatory delights include Tzizel bagels and rye breads coated in midwestern cornmeal, baklava studded with locally grown cranberries, dark pumpernickel bread sprinkled with almonds and crunchy Iowa sunflower seeds, tangy ketchup concocted from wild sour grapes, Sephardic borekas (turnovers) made with sweet cherries from Michigan, rich Chicago cheesecakes, native huckleberry pie from St. Paul, and savory gefilte fish from Minnesota northern pike.
Steinberg and Prost also consider the effect of improved preservation and transportation on rural and urban Jewish foodways, as reported in contemporary newspapers, magazines, and published accounts. They give special attention to the impact on these foodways of large-scale immigration, relocation, and Americanization processes during the nineteenth century and the efforts of social and culinary reformers to modify traditional Jewish food preparation and ingredients.
Including dozens of sample recipes, From the Jewish Heartland: Two Centuries of Midwest Foodways takes readers on a memorable and unique tour of midwestern Jewish cooking and culture.