Prepping for Fairy Tale Feasts

Stories often serve up scenes rich with food, and the relationship is reciprocal. Who better than Jane Yolen to serve up a spicy stew of both stories and recipes? Yolen and her daughter, Heidi E.Y. Stemple, have concocted an appealing collection of 18 recipes, including latkes, kugel and blintzes, complemented by an equal number of folktales. Jewish Fairy Tales Feasts by Jane Yolen

A long-awaited follow-up to their charming Fairy Tale Feasts (2006), this collection puts the spotlight on some of the many enchanting and thought-provoking Jewish folktales that have been passed down over the centuries. It gives young and old families an extra incentive to spend time together, creating meals, as well as telling stories. That’s not just nourishing, it’s entertaining!

One of my favorite tales in this collection is “And the Matzo Was Still Warm,” which Yolen adapted from a version by Asher Barash. Long ago in Mainz, a father leaves his son Jacob with a strange dying wish: “Never cross the River Danube.” Years after his father’s death, Jacob has married and has a family, but he yearns to go study the Torah with the revered Rabbi Judah. But, to do that, he must …. . Well, you guessed it.

He crosses the river and winds up spending three years studying with the pious rabbi. But on Passover Eve, Jacob’s heart is heavy as he longs to return home to his wife and son. Rabbi Judah reads his mind. Alas, it’s impossible for Jacob to reach Mainz in time to be with his family for the seder.

Unexpectedly, the rabbi proposes that Jacob help bake the matzo. “After that, we will see what I can arrange to get you home.”

And what a short, strange trip back home, thanks to the rabbi’s miraculous gift.

Paired with the story is Heidi’s recipe for matzo brei. As with all the book’s recipes, she offers simple instructions, preceded by a list of ingredients and of necessary equipment.

Folks of all ages and faiths can find something to savor in this playful collection. As the authors note, “Recipes and stories are made more beautiful, more filling, more memorable by what you put into them.”

See also …

Fairy Tale FeastsNot One Damsel in Distress World Folktales for Strong GirlsSerpent Slayer and Other Stories of Strong Women by Katrin Tchana

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