It’s no surprise France has a 2,000-year history of Jewish culture and tradition, given the fact that many countries in Europe and North Africa themselves have a long history of Jewish settlement.
There is an assortment of French–Jewish recipes based on historical Jewish European and Northern African cookery. The quiche of mainstream France finds its Jewish interpretation without ham and bacon. Kugel, which actually means “round” in German and comes from the Alsace region, can be traced to the 10th or 11th century when it was used as the second dish for the Sabbath meal. A Friday night tradition, couscous represents the North African Jews.
For her book “Quiches, Kugels and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France,” Joan Nathan spent four years researching the recipes and tracing the history of French Jewish cooking. She presented a talk on her book, which is a featured webcast from the Library.
Based on her rich personal experiences in France and augmented with material from the resources of the Library, "Quiches, Kugels and Couscous" presents a variety of culinary experiences that embody the migratory paths of the Jewish people and their acculturation over time. Nathan applies her culinary detective skills to sniffing out the Jewish influence on French cuisine, and vice versa, and takes readers on a journey that ranges from Alsatian pot-au-feu to Moroccan adafina (French and Moroccan meat stews).
Nathan isn’t a stranger to the Library. She’s been to the institution on a number of occasions, including the 2007 National Book Festival and for another presentation, this time on her book “The New American Cooking.”
Speaking of culinary mavens, the late, great Julia Child was also well versed in the Library’s culinary resources. In a special documentary produced by the Library, “Memory and Imagination: New Pathways to the Library of Congress,” that aired on the History Channel in 1998, Child is featured discussing the world’s first cookbook and other culinary treasures found in the institution’s collections. Although not available for webcast on the Library’s website, the vignette can be found on YouTube.