I am fond of this week’s Tablet magazine column, a look at Hadassah regional cookbooks from the 1920s to today. (Tom Wolfe fans/haters, I did not come up with the headline. Credit/blame Jesse Oxfeld.)
I spent a delightful day in the Center for Jewish History’s reading room going through the Hadassah cookbook archives. OMG what a space. Gorgeous high ceilings, peaked roof with a skylight, bookshelves going up to the heavens, big comfortable carrels (with electrical outlets!) and chairs. Hushed, nice librarians. It being a JEWISH reading room, you have to go through a metal detector downstairs. Then you must check your coat, and you can only bring a laptop without a case, a notebook and a pen into the reading room itself. After all that work, how could anyone procrastinate? Plus all the smart people doing seeerious research all around you! I don’t think I’ve ever been so productive! And I WANTWANT the new The Hadassah Everyday Cookbook.
Random fun fact that did not make it into the piece — I was very taken with the drawings in Matzo, Matzo and More Matzo, the 1983 cookbook of the Wepawaug (CT) chapter. So I wrote down the illustrator’s name: Al Scaduto. Turns out he was a bigtime cartoonist! He did a newspaper strip called They’ll Do It Every Time, which ran for over eight decades in on comics pages around the country. It was created in 1936 by Jimmy Hatlo; when Hatlo died in 1963, Scaduto took it over, first with a partner and then solo. He did it until his death in 2007, when King Features Syndicate decided to retire the strip. They’ll Do It Every Time won multiple National Cartoonists Society awards, including the (prestigious!) Reuben, named after the Cartoonist Society’s first president, Rube Goldberg. Scaduto died in 2007; he was predeceased by his wife, Joyce. Presumably Joyce (nee Lawrence), who died in 2000, was his connection to Hadassah; I do not think someone named Alvaro Scaduto was himself Jewish. (There are lovely reminiscences of Scaduto on this cartoonists’ forum.)
Random fun fact #2: I copied down the name of a recipe in the Eden (later Oakland) chapter’s 1975 cookbook because it was so strange: “Helen Levine’s hezenblosen.” Hezenblosen? (The recipe was for fried dough squares.) The only Google hit for “hezenblosen” was a mention of that very recipe. So Hadassah’s wonderful archivist, Susan Woodland, checked with a bunch of Yivo Yiddishists and language experts for me. One said “hezenblosen” translated to “hare bubbles.” Hare bubbles? Another said it was probably German, not Yiddish, and had been mangled over the generations. Her guess was that it was a variant of “blow hearts” — herzen blasen. Like blowing kisses? Like Helen Levine’s grandmother from the old country sending her her heart? Who knows! Please share any thoughts you have on this crucial matter.
However, you do not want to click on this link for the Jewish Princess Cookbook. (It’s serious, not a joke. And there appears to be no way to turn off the sound.) IT IS NOT BY HADASSAH.