American Foodways: The Jewish Contribution

The True Pioneers

Cookbooks in this section represent the first forty years of Jewish charity cookbooks in America. Like other parts of this exhibit, this is not an exhaustive representation; rather, a selection of our items that tell the story of these pioneering books and communities. 

The Fair Cook Book

The earliest known Jewish charity cookbook was published in Denver, Colorado, in 1888 by the ladies of Congregation Emanuel. This book was produced to complement the fair that the community put up to raise money for their new building.

This item is a facsimile of the original item, whose whereabouts are no longer known. Several years ago, the only known copy was stolen from a museum exhibit. Fortunately, a copy was made. This facsimile was donated to the JBLCA by the Penrose Library at the University of Denver.

We may never know when or where the first Jewish charity cookbook was published, but as the earliest known item, this book emphasizes the recognition of Jewish food as a means of effective fundraising very early on.

The Way to a Man's Heart, "The Settlement" Cookbook

The Settlement Cookbook is quite possibly the most well-known and effective (Jewish) charity cookbook. Having sold over 2 million copies through more than forty editions, this book has made its mark on American foodways. Originally produced by Lizzie Black Kander and of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for the benefit of the Settlement House, this book has continued to raise funds for all Milwaukee charities. Never explicitly Jewish, and until most recently, always recognizably so, this Jewish cookbook translated traditional, Ashkenazi culinary culture to the American people.

As a Wisconsin charity, this cookbook was most well-known in the Midwest, but has been found in as faraway places as Hawaii and Maine, not to mention countless communities outside of the United States.

The Temple Cook Book

This is the first Jewish charity printed in Michigan, and the second oldest surviving original American charity cookbook. Produced by the forerunner to Temple Beth El’s Sisterhood, this book was printed to raise money for the congregation’s new building on Woodward Ave, designed by a congregant, the young Albert Kahn. This building is now Wayne State’s Bonstelle Theatre.

One Thousand Favorite Recipes

This is the first Jewish cookbook published in Washington.  It is clearly non-kosher, with many shellfish recipes.  See the 1916 enlarged printing of this book for more images and representations of this rapidly developing community.

Council Cook Book

This is the first Jewish cookbook published in California.