More feasts for fressers

The women from Syd­ney’s Mon­day Morn­ing Cook­ing Club are back with more kosher recipes from the Aus­tralian di­as­pora

The Jewish Chronicle - - LIFE - BY VIC­TO­RIA PREVER

NOT MANY peo­ple can make gefilte fish look good. Lisa Gold­berg, Mere­lyn Chalmers and the other mem­bers of the Mon­day Morn­ing Cook­ing Club (MMCC) — Natanya Eskin, Lau­ren Fink, Paula Hor­witz and Jac­qui Is­rael — have man­aged it in their sec­ond char­ity cook­book — Mon­day Morn­ing Cook­ing Club: the feast goes on. Gold­berg and Chalmers — talk­ing from Gold­berg’s Syd­ney home — are burst­ing with child­ish ex­cite­ment over the suc­cess of the project. This and their first book, Mon­day Morn­ing Cook­ing Club: the food, the sto­ries, the sis­ter­hood, has taken up much of their time for the past eight years.

“We love to share this project as it’s from our heart and soul,” says Gold­berg, the founder of the group.

Both vol­umes are crammed with mouth-wa­ter­ingly pho­tographed kosher recipes, do­nated by the Aus­tralian di­as­pora. The MMCC — which meets each Mon­day morn­ing — have tasted, tested and se­lected each dish.

The Feast Goes On fea­tures 115 recipes from 70 new con­trib­u­tors. There is a smat­ter­ing of tra­di­tional favourites plus a vast range of in­ter­na­tional in­flu­ences — from Turk­ish baked beans, Malaysian Bar­ra­mundi and Lu­biya-Sephardi soup to beet­root jam, Rus­sian blintzes and matzah kugel. Each recipe in­cludes a note from the con­trib­u­tor about their back­ground and the recipe’s prove­nance. Find­ing new cooks was not dif­fi­cult. “When we toured do­ing cook­ing de­mon­stra­tions from the first book, we had peo­ple run­ning up to us to of­fer recipes for a sec­ond,” laughs Gold­berg. “By the end of the tour we had a list of names and ad­dresses across the coun­try.”

Aus­tralia’s Jewish com­mu­nity is con­cen­trated in Syd­ney and Mel­bourne, but the out­ly­ing com­mu­ni­ties proved plen­ti­ful sources of recipes.

“Peo­ple in Aus­tralia’s smaller Jewish com­mu­ni­ties like Ade­laide and Perth were very en­thu­si­as­tic to be part of the project,” says Chalmers.

Recipes flooded in on­line and from friends and ac­quain­tances.Sub­mis­sion­swereno­tal­wayswrit­ten.

“We got a few post packs of baked goods. We would open a packet and out would waft the smell of freshly baked bis­cuits,” smiles Chalmers.

Work­ing out how to cook sub­mit­ted recipes cor­rectly was not always ob­vi­ous.

“For the honey bis­cuits, for ex­am­ple, we weren’t sure how to get the recipe right. Ev­ery batch was dif­fer­ent. So we asked the con­trib­u­tor, Ruth Breck­ler, to send her ver­sion. When we tasted them we thought ‘Ah, that’s how they’re meant to be’ and we then knew how to write the recipe.”

Al­though they had a rule no one from the first book could con­trib­ute to the sec­ond, the MMCC ladies did con­trib­ute two or three recipes each.

“We each thought of a per­son dear to us, some who had died. We all brought those spe­cial peo­ple to the book and shared their recipes,” says Gold­berg.

In the book’s in­tro­duc­tion, they each share the story of women close to their hearts who, they write, “stands be­side us in the kitchen, ei­ther lit­er­ally or spir­i­tu­ally”.

This and the per­sonal sto­ries with each recipe give the book an in­ti­mate feel. Chalmers and Gold­berg con­fess they all felt re­spon­si­ble for pub­lish­ing each recipe in a way that would make each con­trib­u­tor proud.

“We sent ev­ery recipe back for ap­proval, as we wanted all of our cooks to be happy. Part of what we’re do­ing is pre­serv­ing our recipes and those from the older gen­er­a­tion for the future, and at the same time, re­spect­ing their prove­nance,” says Gold­berg. Choos­ing recipes was some­times con­tentious. “There was lots of de­bate when we chose the fi­nal ones,” says Chalmers.

The MMCC mem­bers set down four rules: each recipe had to be achiev­able by any­one — whether novice or ex­pe­ri­enced cook; the book needed a bal­ance of savoury and sweet dishes; the group had to unan­i­mously agree on ev­ery recipe — al­though if one mem­ber felt par­tic­u­larly strongly about a recipe she could fight for it; and fi­nally, a beau­ti­ful story could el­e­vate a recipe to in­clu­sion.

To­wards the end of the se­lec­tion process, they went away to­gether to cook and work on the book. On this re­treat, they fi­nally de­cided how they would or­gan­ise the book, re­duc­ing it from 10 to to six cat­e­gories: ev­ery­day, lunchtime, com­fort, feast­ing, fress­ing and tra­di­tion. Af­ter­wards they re­alised each chap­ter was a re­flec­tion of one of them.

Gold­berg laugh­ingly ad­mits to be­ing the fresser, while for Chalmers, the idea of pass­ing on food tra­di­tions to her fam­ily rang most true for her.

They are now work­ing on “how to” videos of some of the recipes which will be on­line in Septem­ber. With 40,000 copies having been sold in­ter­na­tion­ally, the ladies are de­lighted with what the book has achieved.

“We still pinch our­selves,” con­fesses Chalmers.

www.mon­day­morn­ing­cook­ing­club.com.au

PHOTO: ALAN BEN­SON

Ladies of the Mon­day Morn­ing Cook­ing Club, from left: Natanya Eskin, Paula Hor­witz, Jac­qui Is­rael, Lisa Gold­berg, Lau­ren Fink and Mere­lyn Chalmers

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