New cookbook shares wisdom, humor
From the Farm
Michigan City reader Judy Jacobi recalled a From the Farm column I wrote several years ago about a favorite Jewish cookbook based on the CBS radio and television show “The Goldbergs,” which had a remarkable broadcast history spanning from 1929-1956.
The cookbook and this vintage television show I refer to has nothing to do with the current ABC series of the same name. The featured recipe for prune coffeecake, which Jacobi recalls from that 2011 column, was courtesy of the late Gertrude Berg, who played Molly Goldberg on the original series “The Goldbergs.” In 1955, Berg published “Molly Goldberg’s Jewish Cookbook” for Doubleday Press, which included this recipe.
“The Goldbergs” was one of the radio shows that my Grandma and Grandpa Potempa and my dad Chester and his siblings enjoyed and listened to, along with George Burns and Gracie Allen, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, and Bud Abbott and
Lou Costello. Even though my dad grew up the youngest of nine children in a rural farm household that primarily only spoke Polish, comedy and humor always translated easier than other shows, partly because of the prompted moments of laughter.
Berg, who died at age 66 in 1966, was more than a cookbook author. In fact, unlike her character who cooked and ran the family household in their Bronx neighborhood apartment, Berg didn’t devote much time to cooking in real life at her elegant Park Avenue apartment. Rather, Berg is often described as “the Oprah of her time,” since she invented the show characters and solely wrote the scripts and produced the shows.
As Jacobi recalls, Berg was also a keen commercial pitchwoman selling her listeners the sponsors’ products, which ranged from Singer sewing machines to Sanka instant coffee. When her show premiered Jan. 10, 1949, on CBS TV, it helping the network’s founder, William Paley, make lots of advertising money to build the foundation of his television empire.
Berg was also known as the original “first lady of television” and even earned the very first Best Actress Emmy in 1950. But after the show dipped in ratings, her CBS time slot was given to Lucille Ball for the premiere of “I Love Lucy” and Berg became a broadcast footnote, with only her cookbook left behind, since few “live” shows were captured for rebroadcast.
Jacobi, who is a member of the Friends of the Sinai Temple Sisterhood in Michigan City, is helping to spread the word about her organization’s new cookbook “What Foods These Morsels Be: Edition IV” now available for $14. The hardcover 125-page spiral bound cookbook features more than 180 family recipes submitted from the members, family and friends of the Sinai Temple Sisterhood.
“Khalil Power, a historian based in Massachusetts, researched the earliest published cookbooks and wrote about how ‘Jewish cookbooks in the United States provide lessons for Jewish households and do more than provide recipes, since they forge connections and help affirm identities,’ all of which is so true,” Jacobi said.
She said Power traced the first publicly available Jewish cookbook was published in 1871, written by Mrs. Esther Levy and sported a very long title, which Jacobi finds humorous: “Jewish Cookery Book on Principles of Economy Adapted for Jewish Housekeepers with Medicinal Recipes and other Valuable Information Relative to Housekeeping and Domestic Management.”
This year 2018 marks the 105th anniversary of Sinai Temple, and this latest cookbook, complete with index, is filled with many wonderful recipes to mark the celebration, including designated recipe chapters such as: “Appetizers and Beverages,” “Soups and Salads,” “Vegetables and Side Dishes,” “Main Dishes,” “Bread and Rolls,” “Desserts,” “Cookies and Candy” and “Passover.”
To order a copy of the new cookbook, mail a check or money order for $14 plus $3.50 for shipping and handling to: Sinai Temple Sisterhood, 2800 Franklin St., Michigan City, Ind. 46360 or call 219-874-4477.
Jacobi provided me with one of the temple’s most requested and prized recipes, which has been included in this new cookbook volume. “Jeanabelle’s Noodle Kugel” originated from Jeanabelle Pokorny and was featured in the temple’s second cookbook, as published in 1974, submitted by Frenchy Kohn. Decades ago, both Pokorny and Kohn were active members of the Sinai Temple Sisterhood.
A “noodle kugel” is a traditional baked pudding or casserole with an egg noodle base and can be created as either “sweet” or “savory” depending on the ingredients used. “Kugel,” which comes from the German word for “sphere,” is usually served on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays.
Philip Potempa has published three cookbooks and is the director of marketing at Theatre at the Center. Mail questions to From the Farm, P.O. Box 68, San Pierre, IN 46374.
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Gertrude Berg, as her character Molly Goldberg from radio and TV, beams over a large loaf of holiday challah bread, a popular recipe featured in her 1955 cookbook.Serves 8 to 10ounces of egg noodles, boiled and drained stick of butter, softened package (8 ounces) of cream cheese, softened and mashed eggs cup plus 1 heaping tablespoon sugar, divided use cup milk cup crushed cornflake crumbs teaspoon cinnamonHeat oven to 350 degrees.Grease a 1½ quart casserole.In a large bowl, combine butter and cream cheese. Mix in eggs, milk and ½ cup sugar and beat will until smooth.Cook noodles, drain and add to creamed butter, milk and sugar mixture and pour into prepared greased pan.In a small bowl, combine cornflake crumbs with cinnamon and 1 heaping tablespoon of sugar and mix using a fork.Scatter crumb topping across the top of noodle mixture.Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until kugel is firm and test done when a knife is inserted and comes out clean. Recipe be made ahead and frozen.