Joan Nathan's Search for Jewish Cooking in France

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Joan Nathan talks about Jewish cooking in France. Her new cookbook Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France reveals the secrets of this hidden cuisine—it includes kosher recipes, the stories behind them, and the tumultuous history of the Jews in France.


Joan Nathan

Comments [7]


I think you guys have it a bit off here - this book doesn't claim Jews invented French cooking at all. It's simply a fascinating peak into the a niche culture's food history within the larger context of france's culinary history. What makes the book so unique and interesting is the ways in which the diaspora of Jewish cultures have created unique dishes in France - delicious ones at that. I highly recommend this book simply as a good read - the recipes are wonderful too. I say get the book - you'll see there is obviously no claim that the Jews invented French cooking, simply they have been around in France for a very long time and had certain influences here and there. Obviously they didnt invent the cacao bean.

Dec. 17 2010 06:42 PM
thatgirlinnewyork from manhattan

i'm with jake. as someone who lived in france for a number of years, the claims are a real stretch.

much has been written about chocolate being introduced to france by the spanish in the 1600s; spain is known to explore mexico and the americas. their consumption of chocolate in liquid form was a common ritual, which was brought to france by conquistadors. to call it "jewish", yet not explain the origin of the cocao bean makes nathan's explanation rather incomplete.

with france's tradition of pastry (e.g. pate sablee, pate brisee), i'm doubting the quiche explanation, too. quiche always has some amount of cheese in it, and sometimes contains meat. that french jewish cuisine happens recognize dish the dish as "their own" seems purely coincidental.

Dec. 16 2010 01:31 PM
Domi from Manhattan

When explaining why Jewish people in France do not talk much about their Jewishness and do not publicly celebrate their heritage very much, Ms Nathan fails to acknowledge the main reason for that. In France, the separation of church and state in 1905 laid the ground for an aggressively secular state, reaffirming the values of the French revolution and promoting universalist ideology. There is a clear separation between the private and the public sphere, in which concepts such as religion, background, ethnicity are supposed to play no role whatsoever. So, in addition to a history of anti-semitism and persecution which is similar in France and in other European countries, there is a particularity in France which is strong secularism, an emphasis on "being French first" and everything else coming afterwards. It's not just that the French are more "reserved" than Americans, as Ms Nathan said.

Dec. 16 2010 01:29 PM

Meat and Dairy can't be mixed, so you couldn't make meat quiche even without cheese because the custard is made with dairy

Dec. 16 2010 01:22 PM
A. Listener

Tuning in late to this segment...sorry if you've covered this.

Are there any traditionally Jewish foods or dishes in France that became mainstream (and bland) like the bagel did in America?

Dec. 16 2010 01:19 PM
jake from west village

I don't know. Sounds a tad spurious, like wishful thinking of the terminally insecure. So Jews invented French cooking, like the Soviets invented everything in the 20th century? Ok, whatever.

Dec. 16 2010 01:16 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Do Jewish quiches have *any* meat (not just no ham), since quiches are generally made w/cheese? Or do they make meat quiches w/no cheese?

Dec. 16 2010 01:15 PM

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