Master storyteller Jane Yolen and her daughter, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, a cook and children’s writer, have served up a collection of richly detailed retellings of Jewish folk tales from around the world paired with kid-friendly recipes for Jewish foods.
“Jewish Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook” presents a range of tales, from the entertaining and humorous to lesser-known sophisticated tales for older readers that pose life’s challenges.
Stemple offers up tempting recipes adapted for today’s families, from the traditional, familiar Eastern European fare to some lesser-known African and Sephardic cuisine.
The brightly colored collages and recipe illustrations by Sima Elizabeth Shefrin make the 200-page book a pleasure to browse for all ages, although it is best for ages 5 and older.
Among the 18 stories and recipes are two entries for Rosh Hashanah, which begins at sundown on Sept. 4 this year. “Two Jars of Honey,” set in the days of King Solomon, where a wise beyond his years Solomon resolves a feud between neighbors. All ends well on a note of compassion and forgiveness. A recipe for honey cake includes a surprising ingredient — a can of cola.
In “The Pomegranate Seed,” a tale that originated in Morocco, a poor man caught stealing uses his wit and a moral challenge to save himself. An appealing recipe for pomegranate couscous is packed with flavor, texture and color from pomegranate seeds, dried apricots, cinnamon, cilantro and fresh mint. An added note explains that pomegranates are associated with Rosh Hashanah because the red, globe-shaped fruit is said to have 613 seeds that correspond with the Torah’s 613 mitzvot, or commandments.
It would have been easy to fill a cookbook with Jewish tales about challah and chicken, common Jewish foods, Yolen said, adding that it took plenty of research to find stories that matched the book’s breadth of recipes.
“When I found the honey cake story, I was thrilled,” Yolen recalled.
Budding storytellers, folklorists and teachers will appreciate Yolen’s outstanding end notes that credit other storytellers for their earlier versions and provide the origins and cultural history of the stories.
In the introduction, Yolen and Stemple write that storytelling and cooking change over time and location.
“Be playful,” they encourage, and “let’s eat!”
“Jewish Fairy Tale Feasts: A Literary Cookbook” Tales retold by Jane Yolen, recipes by Heidi E.Y. Stemple, illustrations by Sima Elizabeth Shef-rin (200 pages, Crocodile Books/Interlink, $25)