Braids: Recipes from My Pacif­ic North­west Jew­ish Kitchen

  • Review
By – February 19, 2024

The cov­er image of Sonya Sanford’s debut cook­book, Braids, depicts a braid­ed crown of chal­lah, gold­en brown and shiny. But the word braids” also refers to the strands that make up the author’s life and expe­ri­ences (and, sweet­ly, to her pre­ferred child­hood hair­style of two long braids).

One major strand of the book weaves in the Seat­tle area, where San­ford grew up, and the Port­land area, where she lives now. She braids togeth­er the East­ern Euro­pean Jew­ish com­fort foods her Ukrain­ian grand­moth­ers taught her how to make with the pro­duce-heavy dish­es one would find in the Pacif­ic North­west and across the Jew­ish dias­po­ra. Divid­ed into six sec­tions — Morn­ing,” Deli Sal­ads & Spreads,” Soups,” Veg­eta­bles & Sides,” Mains,” and Baked & Sweets” — the book con­tains recipes for stuffed cab­bage, pel­meni, rugelach, and pota­to kugel, as well as veg­an car­rot lox, sum­mer squash-and-quinoa sal­ad, and spring aspara­gus and peas. Braids has a friend­ly, relaxed tone that is com­ple­ment­ed by lush, bright pho­tog­ra­phy and approach­able recipes. San­ford, who is both a food writer and a culi­nary edu­ca­tor and pod­cast­er, writes that these recipes were designed to be used as guides and jump­ing-off points for read­ers’ own exper­i­ments. And this idea of serv­ing as a meet­ing point seems to have been at the heart of Sanford’s Port­land restau­rant, Beet­root Mar­ket & Deli.

San­ford began search­ing for a space in which to house her Jew­ish deli in 2018. She writes that Beetroot’s inten­tion was to cel­e­brate Jew­ish food in all its forms” and give veg­eta­bles and sal­ads pride of place along­side meati­er favorites. Beet­root shut its doors in 2020 amid the pan­dem­ic; and while San­ford describes the clo­sure with great sad­ness, she also likens the year that fol­lowed to a Shmi­ta year, a time of release and rest in the Jew­ish tra­di­tion. As a result, she was able to cre­ate space for new seeds to be plant­ed.” The restau­rant had been a place for the com­mu­ni­ty to find nour­ish­ment and com­fort. Could that dream con­tin­ue, San­ford won­dered, with­out a phys­i­cal space”? The answer in Braids seems to be a def­i­nite yes.

Discussion Questions