Theres no denying that enthusiasm for Jewish cookery has experienced a veritable explosion over the past decade or so.
This mirrors an increased interest in food among the general public, whether due to the advent of television cooking shows, progressively slick and attractive cookbooks, the popularity of food blogs or a general concern about health and well-being.
Ironically, the proliferation of celebrity chefs and cookbooks has not led to a parallel rise in people cooking at home. Its unlikely that this applies to Jewish cooks, for whom food is lifeblood, the stuff of Jewish history and continuity.
Of course we love the shows, the blogs, the beautiful photos, but our interest in cooking isnt just for fun. Its religious; its cultural. Gil Marks, who passed away this week after a three-year battle with lung cancer, exemplified this.
He was a foodie who cooked voraciously for family and friends. Whoexplored and employed techniques and flavors from across the globe. Who was an historian and researcher, whose work culminated in the Encyclopedia of Jewish Food.
He created an historical record of Jewish food culture for Jews worldwide. He documented the source for so many of the food traditions we carry on without any knowledge of why. Why are herring and schnapps a staple at kiddush on Shabbat morning? Why is brisket the quintessential meat served at Jewish holiday meals? Why do we make cheesecake with cream cheese? Macaroons on Pesach . . . the list goes on.
His name peppered so many articles on Jewish food traditions that he was the undisputed expert on Jewish food, regardless of what corner of the world it emanated from. He was equally fluent discussing the influence of Ashkenazi and Iraqi immigrants on American Jewish food.
The beauty of the written word, of a book, is that although its author passes on, the words remain alive. And through that, so does the writer. Were grateful that Marks acted on his passion and left us all the richer in our knowledge of our food past.
Copyright © 2014 by the Intermountain Jewish News