'Save the Bubbes' Projects Preserve Jewish Grandmothers’ Recipes Online

Keeping Old Country Culinary Traditions Alive in Cyberspace

Ruth Levy holding her chrimslech recipe card
Courtesy of Roots and Recipes
Ruth Levy holding her chrimslech recipe card

By Anne Cohen

Published March 27, 2013, issue of March 22, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

If ready-made and microwavable meals were the novelty foods of the ’90s, “back to basics” is the motto of the 2010s.

Twenty-somethings across the country are rolling up their sleeves and joining their grandparents in their kitchens, learning to make the dishes their bubbes and zeydes were raised on — in some cases, recipes they carried with them from “the old country” to America. In the process, they are learning the stories of the dishes that sustained their families.

Of course, looking to grandparents for recipe advice is nothing new, and individual recipes can be found hidden in the pages of countless cookbooks. But several new recipe projects in the Jewish community are offering something different, says Jewish librarian and cookbook collector Roberta Saltzman: They’re teaming up groups of like-minded recipe documenters and putting the stories of Jewish family recipes online.

Beyond Bubbie, the largest of these projects, bills itself as “an interactive community cookbook and a place to share the stories and memories connected to these recipes.” Anyone can send in a recipe with a story, and since its launch in 2012, 90 or so people have. Contributors range from once-in a-blue-moon cooks to Jewish food icon Joan Nathan, who shared her mother-in-law’s recipe for Zamosc gefilte fish.

The project’s definition of bubbe is all encompassing. “A ‘Bubbie’ could just as easily be a favorite uncle, beloved family friend, or next door neighbor,” the website states. “What makes them a Bubbie in our books is the love they’ve poured into these dishes and the memories you’ve created over them.”

In addition to the website, the project also has a social component. Reboot, the Jewish organization that funds the project, organizes workshops and events to bring people together through food and stories, and provides a DIY toolkit to other organizations who want to do the same.

Food writer David Sax, who is one of the minds behind the project, explained that the recipes aren’t the real focus of these projects. “What makes a recipe interesting is the story,” he said. “Every bubbe has a kugel, but if your bubbe grew up in Shanghai and mine grew up in Berlin before the Holocaust, they will have drastically different experiences.”

Like the recipes themselves, these projects reach across borders. Rebecca Lessard, Claudia Itzkowich, Myrite Rotstein and Sarah Cohen-Fournier connected in 2011 over a short video that Lessard had made of her Syrian grandmother teaching her to make mehshi kusa (stuffed zucchini). That video ultimately inspired Roots and Recipes, a project similar to Beyond Bubbie that focuses on the diverse Jewish community of Montreal.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • Russia's playing the "Jew card"...again.
  • "Israel should deal with this discrimination against Americans on its own merits... not simply as a bargaining chip for easy entry to the U.S." Do you agree?
  • For Moroccan Jews, the end of Passover means Mimouna. Terbhou ou Tse'dou! (good luck) How do you celebrate?
  • Calling all Marx Brothers fans!
  • What's it like to run the Palestine International Marathon as a Jew?
  • Does Israel have a racism problem?
  • This 007 hates guns, drives a Prius, and oh yeah — goes to shul with Scarlett Johansson's dad.
  • Meet Alvin Wong. He's the happiest man in America — and an observant Jew. The key to happiness? "Humility."
  • "My first bra was a training bra, a sports bra that gave the illusion of a flat chest."
  • "If the people of Rwanda can heal their broken hearts and accept the Other as human, so can we."
  • Aribert Heim, the "Butcher of Mauthausen," died a free man. How did he escape justice?
  • This guy skipped out on seder at his mom's and won a $1 million in a poker tournament. Worth it?
  • Sigal Samuel's family amulet isn't just rumored to have magical powers. It's also a symbol of how Jewish and Indian rituals became intertwined over the centuries. http://jd.fo/a3BvD Only three days left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • British Jews are having their 'Open Hillel' moment. Do you think Israel advocacy on campus runs the risk of excluding some Jewish students?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.