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In Memory's Kitchen: A Legacy From The Women Of Terezin

 

Edited by Cara De Silva, Translated by Bianca Steiner Brown - Foreword by Michael Berenbaum

In Memory's Kitchen: A Legacy From The Women Of Terezin, first published in hardcover in 1996, introduced an unknown genre of Holocaust literature to the world. A collective memoir in the form of a cookbook, it contains recipes that while destined neither for stove or table, poignantly demonstrate the power of food to sustain not just the body, but the spirit. To keep In Memory's Kitchen and its authors in the public mind and heart, a tenth anniversary paperback edition published by Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. has just been released making this historical treasure even more accessible to readers everywhere.

The steam from the tea kettle was just beginning to cloud the windows when the phone rang that extraordinary afternoon. "Is this Anny Stern?" asked the unfamiliar voice… “Then I have a package for you from your mother." The words were few, but with them a twenty-five year journey from the Czechoslovakian ghetto/concentration camp of Terezín to a Manhattan high rise had come to an end. And another remarkable journey had begun.

Inside the package lay a frail hand-sewn manuscript that, published as In Memory's Kitchen, would ultimately become one of The New York Times most noteworthy books of the year, and a small phenomenon in media across the globe.  Its brittle pages, covered with a variety of faltering scripts, recalled life before Terezín (known, too, as Theresiendstadt) in a most unusual fashion. Set down by malnourished and starving women, this "memoir," a largely unknown genre of Holocaust literature, was a compilation of traditional dishes, of "dream" recipes, a cookbook not for cooking, but for remembering a time when the authors had children and husbands to feed, and reasons to feast and celebrate. This original manuscript is preserved in the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.

That many of these haunting recipes don't work because of the state of starvation, the women were in, and the effect on their faculties, means the mistakes bear witness. That additional examples of the genre have been found, some from within the Holocaust, others written by soldiers, including GIs in a prisoner of war camp, makes the book all the more important. And could anything demonstrate better the power of food as an identity marker, and its use as a potent form of psychological resistance, a way to draw strength, and to reinforce who you are, while your culture is under siege and in danger of being obliterated?

Carrying On The Traditions Of Its Authors As They Themselves Could Not, In Memory's Kitchen preserves their legacy for us all.  The book, which has shown out-of-the-ordinary staying power and might, and is filled with both historical and contemporary relevance, has already left an indelible mark. And yet still today the story continues…

In Memory's Kitchen: A Legacy From The Women Of Terezin includes an introduction by editor, writer, and food historian Cara De Silva; a foreword by noted Holocaust scholar, Michael Berenbaum, and translation by Bianca Steiner Brown, herself a former inmate of Terezín.

About the Editor
Cara De Silva is an award-winning journalist, whose writings have appeared in Newsday, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times Syndicate, The New York Daily News, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Eating Well, Martha Stewart Living, Cuisine, and Diversion. In addition, she has been featured on local, national, and international television and radio shows, including The News Hour with Jim Lehrer (PBS), The Morning Show (CNN), All Things Considered (NPR), and The Voice of America. She lives in New York, NY.

 

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