Sunday, August 18, 2019 -
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Colorado’s Jewish cookbook roots

Did you know that the first known Jewish charity cookbook was published by Temple Emanuel, back in 1888? We discovered this through the most unlikely of sources: Family First, a charedi publication oriented primarily for women.

We must say we were rather surprised to see the name of Denver’s oldest Reform congregation in a magazine not exactly known for celebrating Jewish pluralism. But it was a wonderful surprise, because we learned something new about the history of Denver’s Jewish community and rediscovered just how old Temple Emanuel’s roots are and the integral role it played in local and national Jewish society. (In that vein, is it coincidence that the front page of this week’s IJN features one of early Emanuel’s most famous congregants, Frances Wisebart Jacobs?)

The Fair Cook Book, published by the Ladies of Congregation Emanuel, was part of a recent exhibition at the University of Michigan on the Jewish contribution to American cuisine. Tragically the only known existing copy was stolen several years ago from a different exhibition, so a facsimile cover is all we’ll ever get to see of this pioneering (no pun intended!) effort.

Our curiosity about the cookbooks contents will have to be satisfied by our imagination, but if we had to hazard a guess, we’d probably include chicken soup, brisket and challah. Or with Purim on the brain, we’re wondering if the ladies also included holiday recipes, such as one for hamantaschen? Of course with Emanuel’s earliest congregants being predominantly German Jews, the cookbook may have also included recipes for quintessential German fare like dumplings and braised red cabbage.

What recipes do you think The Fair Cook Book may have included? Or better yet, and we know we’re reaching for the stars here, is there any chance you have a copy — or know of someone who does?

And on the subject of Jewish cookbooks, Temple Emanuel is currently holding a 4-week series on Tuesdays entitled Jewish Cookbooks, Jewish Stories. Coincidence, eh?

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