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A Taste of the Past
The Daily Life and Cooking of a Nineteenth-Century Hungarian-Jewish Homemaker
András Koerner

2003 • 444 pp. 130 illus. 6 x 9"
Kosher Cooking / Jewish Studies / Regional/Ethic Cooking

$29.95 Paperback, 978-1-58465-595-4

A Taste of the Past serves as both historical record and cookbook . . . Koerner has reconstructed a culinary tradition, updating the recipes to make them reproducible in a modern kitchen. Recalling... [continued in Reviews below]”—Booklist

A beautifully illustrated re-creation of Jewish Hungarian cuisine and life in the nineteenth century.

A Taste of the Past is an entertaining reconstruction of the daily life and household of Therese (Riza) Baruch (1851–1938), the great-grandmother of the author, András Koerner. Based on an unusually complete cache of letters, recipes, personal artifacts, and eyewitness testimony, Koerner describes in loving detail the domestic life of a nineteenth-century Hungarian Jewish woman, with special emphasis on the meals she served her family.

Based on Riza’s letters, part one offers an imaginative sketch of growing up in a religious middle-class family in the 1860s and 70s in an industrial town in western Hungary. Part one also describes Riza’s reactions to the dilemmas posed by the early signs of Jewish assimilation. In part two, the heart of the book, Riza has married, moved to a smaller town near the Austrian border, and become the central figure of a large household. Koerner recreates a typical day in the life of Riza and her family, peppering his narrative with recipes of the food she served for breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, afternoon coffee-and-cake, and the much more modest evening meal.

Riza’s family was religious, and Koerner also describes the special foods (pike in sour aspic, cholent, apple-matzo kugel, and much more) she served to celebrate the Sabbath and the six major Jewish holidays. Short introductions to the recipes describe the evolution of the dishes through the centuries, their role in Jewish culture, and how cultural influences and religious traditions shaped Riza's cooking.

More than 125 evocative pen-and-ink illustrations bring Riza’s story and her food to life. A Taste of the Past offers an enchanting look at Jewish daily life in western Hungary in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, a time when middle-class Jews were increasingly assimilated into mainstream Hungarian life and culture. Such small-town Jewish life had completely disappeared due to the Holocaust. Koerner’s book revives this lost world and invites the reader to be a guest in Riza’s house to watch her caring for her family, shopping, cooking, and preparing for the holidays. By offering easy-to-follow updated versions of her recipes, the book also allows readers to savor Riza's dishes and desserts in their own kitchens, thus completing this experience of a visit to the past.

Reviews / Endorsements

A Taste of the Past serves as both historical record and cookbook . . . Koerner has reconstructed a culinary tradition, updating the recipes to make them reproducible in a modern kitchen. Recalling (but not replicating) traditional Ashkenazic cuisine, these recipes exhibit distinctive spicing and Hungarian influences. Those looking for new desserts would do well to prepare Koerner’s unique recipe crossing noodle kugel with bread pudding. Line drawings bring the text to life, and these recipes bring fulfillment to the curious cook seeking a challenge.”Booklist

“More than a cookbook, the book is a portrait of a life and a world that no longer exists.”The Jewish Week

“What is left of Jewish Moson is memories: family stories, photographs, letters, recipes and now, for the rest of us, Koerner’s A Taste of the Past. It is a careful and loving re-creation of a world that met an unhappy death, and for a cookbook; or any other type of book; there is not much finer purpose than that.”The Forward

“The evocative drawings, the decorative initials, and a typeface designed in 1650 by a Hungarian, together make up an aesthetically exclusive book which is a pleasure to open, read, and perhaps, taste from.”The Budapest Sun

“András Koerner has woven history, culture, storytelling, and food together in such an amazing and insightful way. This book will reconnect even the most disconnected with their heritage. By intermingling stories of food with the trials and triumphs of the everyday life of a woman who lived about a hundred years ago in a small town in Hungary, Koerner has reconstructed a lifestyle and a time that can only exist in our collective memories and imaginations.”Joan Nathan, author of Jewish Cooking in America and The Jewish Holiday Kitchen

A Taste of the Past offers us fascinatingly vivid descriptions of the life of Jews in a small Hungarian town—a world that has disappeared with the Holocaust. Mr. Koerner also offers us accurate recipes of its kitchen, as delicious and satisfying as the wildly popular French or Italian regional cuisine. This rich volume is a fusion of history, anthropology, and anecdotes. . . . You don’t have to be a Hungarian-Jewish refuge like me in order to savor A Taste of the Past.”George Lang, author of The Cuisine of Hungary and owner of the New York City restaurant Café des Artistes

Author Photo

ANDRÁS KOERNER was born in Budapest, Hungary where he initially studied art. He then received his degree in architecture, worked as an architect, and won numerous awards in Hungarian architectural competition. In 1968 András moved to the United States, where he has continued to work as an architect. Several national magazines featured his design for the remodeling of a Victorian townhouse in New York City. András is a passionate amateur cook and likes nothing more than preparing his great-grandmother’s recipes for his daughters and their families.

Tue, 15 May 2018 12:58:50 -0500