1: Recipe, Lady Judith Cohen Montefiore's "Matso Soup," 1846.
The first Jewish cookbook written in English is The Jewish Manual; or, Practical Information in Jewish and Modern Cookery with a Collection of Valuable Recipes & Hints Relating to the Toilett. Though the only authorial information given is "Edited by a Lady," the book is believed to have been written by Judith, Lady Moses Montefiore, wife of the world-renowned British Jewish financier and philanthropist Sir Moses Montefiore (see Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, “The Kosher Gourmet in the Nineteenth-Century Kitchen: Three Jewish Cookbooks in Historical Perspective”). The two were among the wealthiest and most prominent Jews of their day, and were passionately devoted to Jewish communal causes. Lady Montefiore helped to establish cooking schools for poor Jewish girls, who could then work as cooks in Jewish households, and this cookbook might have been used in such schools.
Published in London, The Jewish Manual includes recipes from Sephardic, Ashkenazic, and other Jewish regional traditions. The author assumes that the reader has been frustrated by non-kosher cookbooks, and takes on the task of transcribing and simplifying “all the best receipts, hitherto bequeathed only by memory or manuscript, from one generation to another of the Jewish nation.” She aims to bring Jewish cooking up to the quality acceptable for “the cuisine of a woman of refinement,” with “a pervading air of graceful originality.”
This recipe includes suet, the hard white fat found on beef kidneys and loins. Suet (khelev) is today considered a forbidden fat in Jewish law, because it was offered as a sacrifice at the ancient Temple in Jerusalem (Leviticus 3:3–4). Despite this, it played a prominent role in nineteenth-century British Jewish cooking, in which it was used as a kosher alternative to lard.
Suggested Activity: Ask your students to discuss what we can learn about people from a recipe. What do the ingredients tell us? What do the instructions about the time and effort of preparation tell us? Compare this recipe to a contemporary recipe for matzo ball soup, or to your own memories of eating it, preparing it, or seeing it prepared. What has changed and what has stayed the same? What does the use of suet — which today is not considered kosher — tell us about how Jewish food practices have changed over time?
Source: Lady Judith Cohen Montefiore (presumed), "Matso Soup" in The Jewish Manual; or, Practical Information in Jewish and Modern Cookery with a Collection of Valuable Recipes & Hints Relating to the Toilett (London: T. and W. Boone, 1846), 9-10, digitized by the Internet Archive at <https://ia600205.us.archive.org/0/items/jewishmanualorp00manugoog/jewishmanualorp00manugoog.pdf>, accessed March 1, 2018.