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Miriam's Kitchen: A Memoir

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  759 Ratings  ·  112 Reviews
Like many Jewish Americans, Elizabeth Ehrlich was ambivalent about her background. She identified with Jewish cultural attitudes, but not with the institutions; she had fond memories of her Jewish grandmothers, but she found their religious practices irrelevant to her life. It wasn't until she entered the kitchen--and world--of her mother-in-law, Miriam, a Holocaust surviv ...more
ebook, 384 pages
Published September 1st 1998 by Penguin Books (first published 1997)
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Jul 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Suanne Laqueur
Sep 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-five-stars
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.
Jul 07, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 18, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club-books
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
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
Oct 30, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have finally finished this book. It is filled with Jewish recipes and culture and stories and family and tradition. It is not a fast read, or it could be if I had made it a priority, instead of just picked it up to read on Sunday's.
Having only found out this year that my grandmother and all her family were Jewish, this book interested me, as I want to know about the traditions. It was interesting, the chapter on shiva--the mourning period. It forces the survivors to mourn together, even if the
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
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
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.
Sep 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 !
J.E. Raley
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lots of explanation regarding the Jewish faith, practice, and the food! Some delicious recipes along with these wonderful pockets of family history and a breakdown of what it means to be Jewish, even within the same family.
Miriam's Kitchen (Paperback)
by Elizabeth Ehrlich
Joanne Timm
Mar 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Was an interesting memoir of the author's mother in law. and about Jewish culture and the foods they prepare and how they prepare.
Feb 07, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  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
Jun 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 14, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Ellyn Lem
Dec 10, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a re-read for me as I was teaching it for an ethnic food literature course, but I think that my feelings on the book remain the same. On one hand, the memoir is an excellent introduction to so much Jewish cultural history, particularly culinary traditions, especially for those who have little background knowledge about Judaism-a.k.a., my students in this western suburb of Milwaukee. The information that Ehrlich brings to the forefront about how to keep kosher and why people keep kosher ...more
Oct 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Mar 07, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Margot Jennifer
Oct 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Jan 05, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spiritual, cooking
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
Kathleen S
Oct 28, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
In Miriam's Kitchen, the author explores the stories of her and her husband's Jewish relatives as they leave Poland during and after the Holocaust. At the same time she tells the story of her reconnection with the past and with her own journey as a Jewish mother and daughter-in-law. Many lessons about life and cooking are learned from spending time with her mother-in-law, Miriam. This book was recommended to my Christian book group as a way to learn more about Jewish life in America. And it did ...more
Dec 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I started reading this book, I had expectations greater than Mr.Dickens himself. A few pages into it, though, I adopted a negative attitude. The essence seem to me to vanish beneath the unluckily chosen words, the text seemed unreadable to me at times, uninterestingly written always. I thought Ehrlich a sincere woman of loads of memories and effort, but no art of writing.
Something changed in approximately the middle of the book, I started to not focus on the style of writing that much, but
May 07, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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,
Jan 10, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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“In 1942, somebody came back to our village from Treblinka. His name was Spivak, he escaped by hiding in a wagon full of clothing. He described what was going on there, and said he got crazy from what he had seen. We didn’t believe him, we didn’t believe in the crematoria. We thought he was a madman telling an unbelievable tale. How could such a thing be happening in our world, our modern world?” 1 likes
“Being oppressed doesn’t make people hate oppression.” This was my father’s tart take on things. “It only makes them know they don’t want to be the ones to be oppressed.” The sad part was, that Jews and blacks were lumped together in everyone else’s worst jokes. There was a black-Jewish link through time in Detroit. Every generation of Jews had its signature high school. Within their echoing halls and funky locker rooms, every half generation had what passed for integration, but was in fact transition from white to black. Still it was contact, sometimes powerful. All my life in Detroit I knew black aficionados of Jewish culture and vice versa—Pentecostal grandmothers who would only buy kosher meat, black teenagers who knew the right Yiddish word, countless Jews aspiring to soul music, and later, to nonwhite righteousness. Our neighborhood, a cauldron of instability, produced many a crossover confection.” 0 likes
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