King Solomon’s Table

  • Review
By – April 3, 2017

Joan Nathan’s King Solomon’s Table is a trib­ute to Jew­ish cook­ing from around the world. Not only does Nathan bring us delec­table recipes to try, but also she accom­pa­nies them with their her­itage and his­to­ry. This book is a deli­cious meal and a his­to­ry les­son all in one.

Nathan starts with an exten­sive and eclec­tic pantry list that includes every­thing from Baharat — a blend of sev­en spices to rep­re­sent the mys­ti­cal num­ber sev­en — to apri­cot jam, for which she pro­vides a beau­ti­ful­ly sim­ple recipe. Already the book hints at the vast range of ingre­di­ents and tex­tures that are to come in the fol­low­ing pages. The rest of the book is sep­a­rat­ed into sev­er­al cat­e­gories: Morn­ing, Starters, Sal­ads, Soups and Their Dumplings, Bread, Grains and Such, Veg­eta­bles, Fish, Poul­try, Meat, and Sweets. Each cat­e­go­ry is filled with both tra­di­tion­al Jew­ish recipes and some fusion takes, such as Chi­laquiles, Mex­i­can Mat­zo” Brei and Car­ciofi alla Giu­dia, Fried Arti­chokes Jew­ish-Style. Nathan’s recipes hail from Yemen to Uzbek­istan, Martha’s Vine­yard to Spain, Jerusalem to Tang­i­er, and just about every­where in between. Nathan’s empha­sis on the vast reach and influ­ence of Jew­ish cook­ing is what stands out most about her collection.

Nathan includes a Yemenite chick­en soup recipe that might inspire one to catch a cold just in order to taste it. The recipe is accom­pa­nied by the incred­i­ble his­to­ry of chick­en soup as a cura­tive food. From Greece to Jerusalem, the author traces the var­i­ous uses and addi­tions to what has been lov­ing­ly referred to as Jew­ish peni­cillin” in many fam­i­lies. This recipe, one of the old­est record­ed, reads like a mod­ern recipe except for the spice mix­es indi­cat­ed: Hilbe, zhug, and haway­ij. These blends are like a trip back in time.

It’s clear that this book is the result of a life­time of recipe sto­ry gath­er­ing. Nathan says that she sought to dis­cov­er what makes Jew­ish cook­ing unique,” and she cer­tain­ly has done so. Read­ing King Solomon’s Table is like perus­ing Joan Nathan’s trav­el jour­nal or a his­to­ry les­son — but one that leaves the read­er hun­gry! It will inspire learn­ing, cook­ing, and adventuring.

Alexan­dra Shab­tai is a Los Ange­les native work­ing in Jew­ish phil­an­thropy. When she is not work­ing or trav­el­ing, she spends her free time cook­ing in her favorite room of the house, the kitchen, or tend­ing to her gar­den of veg­eta­bles, fruit trees and flowers.

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