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Miriam's Kitchen

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  588 ratings  ·  94 reviews
As a girl, Elizabeth Ehrlich loved to visit her grandmother's kitchens. These were busy, onion-scented, Yiddish-accented places. Within their steamy plaster walls, the grandmothers -- remarkable women of insight, strength, and grace -- preserved and handed on history, tradition, community connection, humor, and wry lessons of life. As an adult, Ehrlich followed the path of ...more
Hardcover, 370 pages
Published September 1st 1997 by Viking Adult (first published 1997)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,133)
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Allyson
A memoir written about Mrs. Ehrlich's mother-in-law, Miriam, this book is centered around the theme of the Jewish family. As outsiders, we often give little consideration to Jewish families, except around Christmas (when we try our best to ignore them) and Hanukkah (when we miss them from work or school). We roll our eyes at the "kosher" hotdog commercials and think "really?? Is it THAT important that they have their own hotdogs." If you read this book and continue with that line of thinking, th ...more
Laurie
I savored this book. Each word, like recipe ingredients, seemed to be thoughtfully chosen. The author is trying to reach back to her ethnic roots (after mainly appreciating Jewish holidays for their food offerings!)in order to appreciate her heritage on a deeper, more meaningful level. Ehrlich is also struggling with the effort necessary to maintain a kosher kitchen. The relationship she develops with Miriam, her mother-in-law, is tenderly described. While they were chatting and preparing meals ...more
Chana
This was an excellent book to read leading to the holiday of Shavous, the holiday commemorating the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. On this holiday we read the book of Ruth, a woman who was not born Jewish but married a Jewish man. After her husband's death she chooses to stay with Naomi, her mother in law, and follow in her ways.
In this book a Jewish but secular woman marries a Jewish man and they have children together. Slowly but surely, the author Elizabeth, is influenced by her mother in
...more
Lorri
Miriam’s Kitchen, by Elizabeth Ehrlich, is a unique memoir in its format. Alternating between recipes, the past and the present, Ehrlich presents a strong message for the Jewish kitchen, memories and familial connections.

The recipes in the book are quite detailed, from not only the cooking aspect, but the extensive preparation beforehand, that Miriam infuses into each one. Her kosher kitchen is more than that. It illuminates her life’s story, and without her ability and desire to continue her tr
...more
Kerri
Miriam’s Kitchen is a book ahead of its time. Published in 1997, it tells the story of one woman’s attempt to maintain a kosher kitchen as a way of honoring her family and their traditions. Today, she would blog about the daily episodes of a year of keeping kosher. Instead, we get a tender, honest book filled with many joys and disappointments.

The author, Elizabeth Ehrlich, was raised Jewish but not in an especially devout household. As she grew older, she drifted from her faith. Not until she
...more
Miriam
I'd read this book a few times in the past, and probably would have given this four stars back then, but for some reason this time it got on my nerves a bit. Four stars for all the parts that are about Miriam (the author's mother-in-law), her cooking, and her history. Two stars for all the parts about the author herself and her childhood--the prose is a bit flowery, and the tone is rather self-indulgent. It does, however, provide an interesting portrait of the issues of assimilation in America; ...more
Samantha
Although this book has a fairly specific context (Jewish American reflecting on her family's legacy to her and hers to her children), I think the experience of being a certain age, realizing that the past and your remembrance of it is fleeting, is universal. The need to hold on to things, to preserve what is precious is easily understood. Part of that reflection also revolves around religion and whether she wants to return to its more observant roots, and what that means to a modern woman in a m ...more
Lisa Rose
I wanted to grow up in this house and be in the kitchen and learn to cook like this and enjoy the warmth of this family .... i loved this book !
Ruth
Miriam’s kitchen is wonderful book--I really loved it. To the point where, at the end of the last word of the last page, I turned to the first word of the first page and kept on reading.

It is not quite a memoir and it is certainly not a cook book. But it has both of these structures and this criss cross framework adds a tightness to it, a kind of pace that weaves into my reading of it, almost like a soundtrack.

I think adding recipes into narratives, either fictional or non fictional is a bit o
...more
Jennifer
I loved this book, and I learned so much from it about Jewish food culture and rituals. It is about food history, family, Holocaust survival, and the many ways that families and cultures use food to maintain their connections and traditions. So much of this book is about the roles that women have played in Jewish family life, and it offers beautifully-written personal stories about the author’s mother, grandmothers, and most importantly, her mother-in-law Miriam, from whom she learns so much. Mi ...more
Sylvia
I thought this was an interesting book in that it really took a good hard look at religion in our lives. How in one life time you can move in and out of it. I think that quite often in our lives we may or may not be as active in our religions as we really would like to be. I loved watching her move toward being orthadox / kosher in her adult life, knowing that this is the background she really wanted her children to embrace and carry with them thoughout their lives. I also liked the connection s ...more
Rita
Feb 07, 2008 Rita rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rita by: Women's Review of Books
Miriam's Kitchen,
by Elizabeth Ehrlich

Elizabeth Ehrlich [more or less my age] was raised nonreligiously by Jewish parents in Detroit. All her grandparents, however, were practicing Jews from Poland.

When Elizabeth's children were young, she and her husband [who was raised religiously by Polish Jewish parents in NYC] decided to send their kids to Hebrew primary school, and Elizabeth started experimenting with keeping a kosher kitchen.

She sees that if she does nothing, the traditions of her grandpar
...more
Marguerite
Feb 27, 2009 Marguerite rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Cooks, granddaughters, grandmothers, spiritual seekers
A sweet (sugar is part of almost every recipe) and wistful look at an endangered cuisine -- pre WWII kosher Polish village food. At the same time, it's an account of Elizabeth Ehrlich's growing love affair with Judaism and her family's adoption of a more observant religious lifestyle. If you think the two don't mix, consider this:
"So far, it seems, I am too much of a rationalist to lose myself in prayer. And as a woman, I have always had a problem with public ritual, the religion of the synagogu
...more
Barbara
At first this book made me angry because I kept thinking, "I should have written this." In many ways it spoke to me about my ambivalence toward the strictures of Judaism. Who says, for example, that driving to a state park to take a walk in the woods is holier than spending that same time in shul, or in your house, not lighting fires or opening umbrellas in the rain? She raises these questions while writing a memoir about her immigrant relatives who survived the Holocaust interweaving it with re ...more
Red
You know all of those books with the kind of reality-tv premise of "I'm going to try a weird thing for a year and tell you how it changes my life"? They are all hollow aspirants falling to dust at the feet of this book. This is not a gimmick, this is a thoughtful woman making a big, slow, organic, meaningful change in her life, with all of the ambivalence and profundity that accompanies a big change.
Doris
Really interesting book. She was quite honest about her feelings about her Jewish heritage, even though they were never very solid. Ehrlich's questions and reassessments made me reevaluate my own practice of my religion, particularly regarding Sabbath observance and recognizing the values and blessings that come from faithfully observing the Lord's holy day. I really want to try some of the recipes she includes. The way she ties in life lessons to time spent in the kitchen and with family solidi ...more
Sarah Pimentel
This book made me hungry as it followed the intertwining stories of a modern Jewish woman learning how to keep a kosher kitchen from her mother-in-law. What I loved about the book was the multi-faceted look at the importance of food and culture through generations. The detailed descriptions of the food preparation - and enjoyment of the products! was heightened by the inclusion of the recipes which Miriam used. Not fast paced, but good for a leisurely read over several weeks.
Marianne
I enjoyed this memoir for several reasons. Ehrlich does a wonderful job of capturing her culture, religion and of portraying unique individuals within her family. I came away having learned a lot, it made me think about my own family and traditions. Am I carrying on the legacy of my forebearers? What things are worth passing on?

I also appreciated hearing about the holocaust experiences from survivors and about how they carried on with their lives . . . what a powerful moment to realized that you
...more
Margot Jennifer
This book was wonderful. I find that a good memoir is just as compelling as good fiction any day, if not more so. I loved learning about Jewish tradition and the intricacies of being kosher. It was mesmerizing. I adored the real life character of Miriam. I would love to eat kosher, but only as long as someone else did all the work. It was awesome to have access to several of Miriam's recipes. I might even try some. I would recommend this book to anyone.
Although I really enjoyed it, this book le
...more
Riv
I remember reading this years ago and liking it. The only point that sticks out in my head without picking it up again is the author remembering her mother swiping out the inside of eggshells to get out all the whites, saying you could get an extra egg white for every 4 eggs, or something like that...
John Cofield
I read this book in seminary. It is just one of the most beautiful books I've ever read. Among several books that are just phenomenal, because of the style that the author used, I would include Miriam's Kitchen along with The Golden Notebook and Women in Love for the beauty of the author's prose.
Jane
This may not be a great book, but it was just right for the moment I read it. I was on a retreat and feeling reflective myself. It is an extended personal essay on one woman's attempt to find meaning in her religious life. Just how does one be an "authentic" Jew in modern America? She comes to have more respect for the old kitchen ways of her foremothers as a means of passing on identity and culture. But in going kosher etc she finds it hard to reconcile with modern life and relationships. She d ...more
Suanne Laqueur
I read this book once a year. The cover has fallen off, the pages are dog-eared and shabby. I'll never part with it. Rich with love, lore, memories, cooking tips and recipes. Outstanding. My favorite.
Michelle
This is a lovely, lovely book. The author grew up as a not-very-observant Jew, and came to a desire for a closer connection to her faith through being in the kitchen with her Holocaust-survivor mother-in-law. This book is gentle, evocative, thoughtful--the author wrestles honestly with what she wants, and why. I found myself cheering her steps towards faith, even though I'm not Jewish. I think a lot of what is here can apply outside of Judaism as women today seek to find a spiritual center in to ...more
Cindy
Even though I am not Jewish, I have always been interested in the rich traditions that are observed by the Jewish people. I think all of us would benefit from observing Shabbat now and then. With all that said, I think Ms. Ehrlich's memoir was a beautiful rendering of a women's journey toward embracing her faith not only on special occassions but as a integral part of her daily life with her family right down to the kosher kitchen. Also, in this memoir, we remember through Miriam and her husband ...more
Meredith
I couldn't finish this, but I want to. I really enjoyed the first couple chapters. Warm, sensitive, and seeking - a great start to this family-food-and-faith memoir.
Katharine Holden
Excellent. Wryly funny. The author is a talented observer who is serious about her search for spiritual observance for herself and her children, but is wonderfully aware of her own compromises and influences. Her descriptions of what keeping kosher entails and how difficult it is are much more detailed and practical than anything I've read before. Fascinating.

There's a great bit where she writes about the older woman's cooking keeping the flame alive, and she tells this to the elderly relative,
...more
Heidi
I really enjoyed Erlich's thoughtful reflections and insights. The way she brought to life themes of faith, family, and food (and always the constant, intermingling nature of the three) was captivating, thought-provoking, and comforting. I appreciated both Erlich's honesty and her grace in her reflections on the struggle of putting into practice a deeply rooted faith tradition in the midst of the dizzying, tantalizing rush of modern life. Her stories are treasures.
That said, I needed to read the
...more
Tipper
This is an incredible book, with memory, religion, food, family, and history woven into this too-short year of vignettes. Erhlich has a very gentle, clever way with words, and just one off-hand line could set me crying. It's particularly interesting reading this book, which is partly about the author's journey (back) into keeping kosher when I am considering the implications of keeping kosher in my own home. There are many parallels drawn between Erlich's experience as a born-Jew raised by athei ...more
Jess
I actually had to read this book for one of my classes (Religion & American Foodways), though it's certainly a book I would have picked up on my own before now. I enjoyed reading this book, but I'm not sure I would read it again. Ehrlich has a descriptive, narrative voice that is good, despite the interwoven memoirs of many people from her family and her husband's family. But it also did not have that compelling factor that made it a book I would want to read over and over. I also felt that ...more
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