Once upon a time, your bubbie would have cooked up her flavorful masterpieces by throwing in a pinch of this, a handful of that, recreating recipes passed down from her own bubbie, which she had learned at her mother’s side.
In my mother’s generation, Jewish women collected cookbooks, which would wear out as they lovingly thumbed through pages, searching for the next family favorite.
My mother didn’t really cook, so looking through cookbooks was as far as she got (she didn’t want to feel left out).
When it came to my turn, I was cast adrift. I wrote Quick & Kosher – Recipes from the Bride Who Knew Nothing because, seriously, I knew nothing. And I had married a man who came from a family of inspired cooks. These were people who expected to eat delicious home-cooked meals and they expected me to cook some of them.
Despite being a “champion eater” and the first to suggest a restaurant as the prime evening activity, I was clueless how to produce in my own kitchen.Then I had my infomercial moment there’s got to be a better way: Exquisite kosher meals prepared in 15 minutes!
The cookbook came out in 2007. Now, just two years later, publishing has been radically transformed and cooking is online. We’re not only hitting the Internet for shopping, social networking and entertainment, but also for food, cooking advice and recipes. And the kosher culinary world is no different.
Not that bubbie’s recipes aren’t still a treasured yerusha, but the Internet has added new vistas to our kosher heritage. There’s no question that the American kosher palate has become more international, refined and diverse over the past few decades. And the Web has enhanced this trend; we can now explore the world through our fingertips, even ordering ingredients from around the world that may not be available in our local kosher supermarkets.
But the appetite (actually, for some people it’s more of an addiction!) for food and cooking information is infinite, so websites have had to do much more to meet demand. The Web lets people explore culinary avenues not available to them in the past. The availability of new and different products makes it possible to cook in ways that our bubbies would find dizzying (though my bubbies could definitely hold their own).
Take fish for example. In many kosher communities, sushi has even taken the place of gefilte fish as a fish course for some people. When we were first married, we lived in Far Rockaway and shared a two-family house with the most wonderful young couple. We were all in our mid-twenties and were great friends. They were chassidish – granted baalei teshuvah chassidish – and used to splurge on sushi as the Shabbos fish course. We loved being invited to their house.
Now almost every kosher food establishment serves sushi, whether it is a Chinese restaurant, dairy eatery or steak house. It seems you can’t shop in a kosher supermarket worth its weight in salt if it doesn’t have a sushi counter. My grandmothers passed away 14 years ago and I can’t say for certain, but there’s a 99.9% chance they did so without a piece of sushi ever passing their lips. I imagine it was not regular fare in the cities, towns and shtetlach where they grew up in Transylvania.
Food sites are also transitioning from being online stores to being lifestyle destinations. Nowadays consumers want a “place” where they feel comfortable – a destination they can trust to deliver sound cooking advice and the latest cooking trends alongside their groceries. That’s why I sometimes think of the Internet as my very own personal “Cyber Bubbie.”