From the Jewish Heartland: Two Centuries of Midwest Jewish Foodways

November 6, 2011

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Cover of Dr. Ellen Steinberg's book "From the Jewish Heartland" (detail)

Throughout the Midwest, one finds numerous ethnicities and creeds, each of which has contributed much to the amalgam that has become “the Heartland.” Jewish immigrants from all over Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America who settled here added their unique heritage foods and recipes to this mix. However, many of these dishes did not necessarily remain the same as they had been when prepared elsewhere in the world. In fact, they often developed a distinctive Midwestern flavor. Settling in the cities, towns, and farm communities of the Midwest, Jewish immigrants incorporated local fruits, vegetables, and other comestibles into traditional recipes. Dr. Ellen Steinberg and Jack H. Prost examined these recipes from numerous Midwestern sources, including Jewish homemakers' handwritten manuscripts and notebooks, published journals, newspaper columns, and interviews with Jewish cooks, bakers, and delicatessan owners. Listen in as Steinberg, coauthor of From the Jewish Heartland: Two Centuries of Midwest Foodways, explores the fascinating evolution of Midwestern Jewish cuisine.

Dr. Steinberg was born and raised in Chicago and currently lives in River Forest. She has a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago and has published a number of scholarly articles related to her anthropological work. Some of her research was featured in the video “Mystery of the Skulls,” which aired on the Discovery Channel. Dr. Steinberg is also the author of several other books, including Teach Me: An Ethnography of Adolescent Learning, Irma: A Chicago Woman’s Story 1871-1966, and Learning to Cook in 1898: A Chicago Culinary Memoir.

Recorded Sunday, November 6, 2011 at the West Suburban Temple Har Zion.