Mahlzeit! German-Jewish Cuisine in LBI Collections

A plate from, Morgenstern, Lina. Illustriertes Universal-Kochbuch für Gesunde und Kranke. Berlin. 1907.

A plate from, Morgenstern, Lina. Illustriertes Universal-Kochbuch für Gesunde und Kranke. Berlin. 1907.

As anyone who has traveled abroad knows, food is one of the most important aspects of culture. Many a journey, and a good bit of global trade, was launched in search of new flavors. For the displaced, uprooted, or simply homesick, familiar foods provide a comfort and connection to home that is second perhaps only to language.

Major segments of LBI’s archival and library collections consist of those materials that Jewish refugees managed to spirit out of Europe in the 1930s. Many of them managed to find room in their overstuffed bags and trunks for cherished cookbooks—from published classics to handwritten recipe books to binders full of clippings and index cards.

As they prepared to digitize a number of important German-Jewish published cookbooks from the late 19th and early 20th century, some LBI librarians and archivists recently decided to try their hand at cooking some of the antiquarian delicacies contained within. As the following journal of their efforts shows, the results were varied, but they often led to interesting conclusions or questions about the culture from which these recipes arose.

Heim des Jüdischen Frauenbundes Neu-Isenburg. Feiertags-Küchenkalender für die jüdische Hausfrau. c. 1910.

Feiertagsküchenkalender für die Jüdische Hausfrau

As described in this Holiday Cookbook for Jewish Women, the Home of the Jewish Women’s League in Neu-Isenburg was a safe haven for pregnant women and mothers, children (legitimate and illegitimate), and displaced young women; it offered these women education and training in a traditional Jewish environment and family-like setting.

Elias, Julie. Das Neue Kochbuch. 1925

Elias, Julie. Das neue kochbuch Ein führer durch die feine küche. Berlin: Ullstein, 1925.

Julie Elias was a fashion journalist living in Berlin with her art historian husband, Julias Elias. She published reviews and commentary on current fashions of the Weimar period in both mainstream and Jewish publications. In 1925 she branched out to create Das Neue Kochbuch or “The New Cookbook.” This book was aimed at Jewish housewives.

Wolf, Rebekka (Heinemann). Kochbuch für Israelitische Frauen. 1851

Kochbuch für israelitische Frauen : enthaltend die verschiedensten Koch- und Backarten mit einer vollständigen Speisekarte und einer Hausapotheke sowie einer genauen Anweisung zur Einrichtung und Führung einer religiös-jüdischen Haushaltung.

Although Wolf’s cookbook offered housewives the opportunity to surprise guests and family with “einem fremdartigen Gerichte” (an exotic dish), what was really special about this “Cookbook for Jewish Women” may have been its emphasis on Jewish customs. Over at least 10 editions, this juggernaut cookbook was expanded into a compendium of housekeeping tips, notes on Jewish practice in the home, and even first aid remedies.

Kauders, Marie. Vollständiges israelitisches Kochbuch […]. 1896.

A picture of Marie Kauders in her "Complete Practical Cookbook"

What sets Kauders’ cookbooks apart from many others was her emphasis on cooking as an artform. In the introduction to her Vollständiges Kochbuch she compares cooks to sculptors who create monuments out of raw materials.

Morgenstern, Lina. Illustriertes Universal-Kochbuch für Gesunde und Kranke. Berlin. 1907.

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Lina Morgenstern developed her “illustrated, universal cookbook for healthy and sick persons” using the latest nutritional theories of renowned doctors, thus offering a fascinating glimpse into early 20th-century concepts of food as medicine.

Kahn, Lena. Die Frau auf richtige Fährte : erzieherische Winke und praktische Ratschläge. 1901.

Lena Kahn's handwritten memoir from the LBI Archives

The author of “The Wife on the Right Track”, Lena Kahn, was born in Sulzburg (Baden-Württemburg, Germany) in the 19th century. She offers not only instructions for the efficient management of a Jewish kitchen, but child-rearing advice as well.

Gumprich, Bertha. Vollständiges Praktisches Kochbuch für die jüdische Küche. 1896.

Gumprich, Bertha (geb. Meyer). Vollständiges praktisches Kochbuch für die jüdische Küche.

Gumprich’s “Complete, Practical Cookbook” was a resource for inexperienced housewives trying to prepare affordable meals that were both tasty and kosher. As Gumprich writes in her introduction, many cookbooks in the 19th century did not provide guidelines for kosher cooking methods and ingredients; or they weren’t practical for “die einfach bürgerliche Küche” (the simple middle class kitchen).

The Sisterhood of Congregation Habonim, New York. “Recipes Remembered : German-Jewish Specialties”

Recipes Remembered

Published by New York City’s Congregation Habonim in 1976, Recipes Remembered offers a look at how a community with roots in the German-Jewish refugee experience was evolving and adapting to life in America after about three decades.

A German Breakfast from 1896

Flipped apple egg pancake

From “Kochbuch fuer israelitische Frauen” by Rebekka Wolf geb. Heinemann, we created the delicious Apfel-Eierkuchen, or Apple Egg pancakes, and the hearty Arme Ritter, known in English as Poor Knights. Both were easy and provided a tasty glimpse back into a German brunch from 1896.


Finished product!

Kaiserschmarrn, a type of sweet scrambled pancake traditionally topped with raisins and rum sauce, has uncertain origins full of folklore. While attributed to Austrian Emperor Francis Joseph I, no one is quite sure exactly how or why it was created. Regardless, pancakes were clearly as popular in the 19th century as they are today. The finished product was delicious and definitely something I would make again.

Ruth Heimann’s “Angel Pie”

Ruth Heimann's Angel Pie from "Recipes Remembered"

This pie from a cookbook published by the largely German-Jewish Congregation Habonim in New York in 1976, is made of beaten egg whites and mixed with crushed Ritz crackers and pecans. It was contributed by the late Ruth Heimann, a long-time LBI volunteer.

Trout with Mushroom Sauce

Fish simmering with lemon, ginger, bay leaf, parsley and other spices.

This whole fish simmered with lemons, parsley and other spices comes from Bertha Gumprich’s aptly titled “Complete Practical Cookbook for the Jewish Kitchen,” a compendium of culinary knowledge first published in 1896.

Weißbiersuppe mit Grieß | Wheat Beer Soup with Semolina

Ingredients for Wheat Beer Soup include Semolina and Beer.

This recipe for “Weißbiersuppe mit Gries” (wheat or white beer soup with semolina) is from from the ninth edition of Rebekka Wolf’s Kochbuch für israelitische Frauen is a good way to get rid of unfinished beer, but there are no instructions for how to get rid of left-over beer soup.

Stuffed Chicken

The chicken emerged from the oven with the beginnings of a delicious gravy forming in the pan.

Gumprich’s stuffed chicken recipe is probably my favorite of all the dishes I have prepared using cookbooks from the LBI collections. I liked it; my guests liked it; my cat went nuts when I took the chicken out of the oven and lunged for a piece. The best part about this dish was that it was very easy to prepare. It required only a few ingredients and little preparation.

Three Matzo Kugels

Lecker! Mazzenkuchel auf noch andere Art.

If you find yourself with a surfeit of matzos after Passover, or anytime really, Matzo Kugel is a great way to transform a food that is frankly richer in ritual significance than flavor into a true treat. While they are all constructed around the modest unleavened cracker, each of these sweet kugels packs a successively bigger caloric wallop thanks to the addition of successively larger amounts of fat, sugar, and, finally, alcohol.

Mushroom Strudel as submitted by Bea Bayer in “Recipes Remembered: German-Jewish Specialties”

The finished strudel did not last long.

This savory variation on a fruit strudel comes from Recipes Remembered, a community cookbook assembled at New York’s Congregation Habonim in 1976. It might have been a kosher alternative to meat filled pastry dough dishes common in Germany.