Thursday, October 30, 2014

Eating the Bible!

From Rosh Hashanah through Simchat Torah, followed appropriately by last weeks unifying Project Shabbat, this past month has provided us with many opportunities for change, growth and inspiration. With the countless meals and planning that went into the Chaggim behind us, it's time to take our enthusiasm and infuse it into the fresh new year before us!

Change doesn't have to mean a large, overwhelming leap. Oftentimes it's the smaller steps, the little additions or alterations here and there, that make the biggest difference. When looking where to start, what better place than right at home?

Personally, with a nine month old and the chaos of keeping up with him and schedules and everything else going on, finding the time and energy to implement any more change to this new version of life, is difficult. Then this cookbook arrived...


Receiving a cookbook is always exciting and I'm always appreciative of the opportunity given to really work my way through something that others have devoted so much time and energy to. Having said that, when this particular cookbook arrived in the mail, I knew it was exactly what I needed and could use, to start implementing baby steps of change!

Rena Rossner's Eating the Bible, was absolutely made for this time of year. It's been sitting on my shelf for a little while and I've been holding out until now to dive in! Not only is it a wonderful collection of recipes, this cookbook goes above and beyond and is truly a companion, from the moment you take out your pots to start cooking, all the way to when you sit down at your Shabbos table. It's full of everything this season is already infused with - inspiration, spirituality, and fun!

The layout of the cookbook is very clean, organized and clear, making it user friendly. Each recipe begins with a thought on the week's Torah reading. This is followed with a recipe that is closely related to the parsha, with accompanying questions and conversation starters, to share with your family, while sitting at the table partaking in the dish! It doesn't end there though! How many times during cooking, do recipes call for breaks? While the water boils or while the vegetables are sauteing, I frequently take a moment to check Instagram or emails. Rena recognizes the lapses in time during recipes and has provided food for thought during these moments - questions, commentary and perspectives, to keep you immersed in the spirituality behind the dish and Shabbos preparations! There is even a "Biblical Ingredients" section as well as a glossary of terms/ food used throughout the cookbook!

While recipes are usually the highlight of any cookbook, here they are almost secondary. They serve as a way to materialize what you are learning and provide a tangible, tactile connection and conversation starter. The concept of "Parsha Desserts" is familiar to many (for instance, a rainbow cake in honor of Parshas Noach). Rena goes above and beyond this concept. The parsha is infused in not only dessert, but in main courses, appetizers, soups and more! At times the connection is apparent (i.e. lentil soup) at other times it's more discrete, really encouraging conversation and connections. Each recipe includes questions and alternatives concerning presentation and preparation, and even at times no bake options that still help you incorporate the parsha on your table if you're short on time.

The recipes themselves are straightforward, concise and appetizing. They fit in seamlessly with a Shabbos menu and provide a fair balance of healthy options with salads and seasonings as well as delicious desserts. I also love that for the slightly more complicated recipes, there are step by step pictures, spanning two pages at times, to really help with preparation. For the most part, the recipes are classic and simple - it really is about the message behind the dish. Finally, something super important, the recipes feel achievable! You feel like you can make them and have them look just like the book, which encourages you to try it and immerse yourself in the experience! You're not struggling or adding in extra effort to your Shabbos preparations. It's right there for you, accessible and encouraging, which helps motivate you even more to incorporate dishes and conversations into your meals.

I would have appreciated the inclusion of sources, although I appreciate Rena's distinction in saying that this was done in order to keep this a cookbook and not a scholarly work. Clearer titles/ labeling of which parsha is which (rather than the verse at the top of each page), would have also been helpful. Having said that, it is undeniably a source that I will return to time and again to help with Shabbos preparation, both in terms of menu and conversation. This week I'll actually be incorporating the Eternal Dust "Earthy Seasoning" into our menu, in honor of Lech Lecha!


All in all, this cookbook provides it's readers with a comprehensive experience. It brings the parsha into the kitchen and subsequently onto the table! Not only are you literally getting a taste of the parsha, but you're also being encouraged to participate in conversation about it! A great cookbook to start off the year and carry through inspiration and excitement week after week!

Special thanks to Skyhorse Publishing for generously providing a review copy of Eating the Bible. The review and opinions expressed within are completely my own.

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