'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.
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Montreal is the perfect incubator for a project designed to honor the multiculturalism of Jewish life. Roots and Recipes represents Anglophones and Francophones, Ashkenazim and Sephardim, recent immigrants and those who have been in Canada for generations

The project, which is funded by Gen J, has produced two episodes of “Dishing up the Past,” a web series in which grandparents share and teach their recipes to their grandchildren. Three more videos are currently in the works. Like Beyond Bubbie, Roots and Recipe also has an interactive component. This year, Lessard and her colleagues organized two cooking workshops: one for students of oral history at Concordia University in Montreal, and another as part of the 2012 Le Mood Festival of Unexpected Jewish Learning, Arts & Culture.

Celebrating Montreal’s large Sephardic population, the first episode of “Dishing Up The Past” focused on Gilberte Cohen-Scali, a family friend of Cohen-Fournier’s grandmother, who taught the Roots and Recipes audience to make traditional Moroccan salade cuite (cooked salad) and vegetable couscous.

There is something about food that is a “kind of a communication between grandchildren and grandparents, said Alexa Karolinski, director of the Berlin-based documentary “Oma and Bella”. The film tells the story of Karolinski’s grandmother and her best friend Bella, who taught themselves traditional recipes as young adults after being orphaned by the Holocaust. “You go to your grandmother’s for lunch or for dinner and she feeds you. And that’s the thing you do together.”

According to Gail Reimer, Founding Director of the Jewish Women’s Archive, Jewish culture is intimately linked with food and as such, these projects tap into something powerful. “It’s another way of saying ‘I belong to a tradition… [and] I can make it my own.’ Food is a wonderful way to do that,” she said.

“Every generation grapples with Jewish identity,” said Amelia Klein, associate director of Reboot. “It’s clear that in our generation there’s a desire to reconnect with the past but also to connect it with the future” — tradition, but with style. The motto is practically the hallmark of the current trends in Jewish cuisine.


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