Survivors stories add depth to old-world standbys

“The most important cookbook you will ever own”— that’s the claim on the book jacket above the title “Holocaust Survivor Cookbook.” Published by Caras & Associates, the book reveals unforgettable and imperative stories of our past.

Opening this hefty, spiral-bound book, I wasn’t quite prepared for what I discovered inside. The first of two tables of contents contained an alphabetical list of Holocaust survivors who contributed family recipes. The second was a conventional recipe index arranged by courses. Haunting photos of contributors’ families appear on nearly every page, accompanied by their compelling stories. This is what makes the cookbook an important addition to your library, even if you never step foot into a kitchen.

A guide at the beginning called “How to Use This Cookbook” suggests that “whenever you serve a recipe from this cookbook to your family, please be sure to read them the story of the survivor that goes with the recipe. By doing this you will keep the recipe and the stories alive for generations to come.”

For the most part, the recipes are beloved Eastern European favorites with some less familiar dishes scattered throughout, since the survivors hail from everywhere. Another reason to put this book on your Chanukah gift list, besides the recipes and stories, is that all profits go to Carmel Ha’ir Soup Kitchen, which serves poor and hungry Israelis.

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Apricot Torte

By Erwin Diwald, from Vienna, now living in Milwaukee, Wis.

Serves 8

1 15-ounce can unpeeled apricot halves, drained

1/2 pound unsalted butter

1 scant cup sugar

3 large eggs

2 cups sifted flour

1/2 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream butter and sugar. Mix in eggs, flour and baking powder. Pour into greased, 8-inch Springform pan. Place apricot halves on top. Bake 1 hour. Let cool. Remove from pan.

Grammy’s Paprikash Potatoes

By Regina Weisz Wolovits, from Hungary, sent to Bergen-Belsen, now living in Fair Lawn, N.J.

6-8 potatoes cut into cubes

2 diced onions

3 Tbs. oil

salt and pepper


In a medium saucepan place potatoes topped with onions. Add oil and toss. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika. Add enough water to cover. Cover and cook about 30 minutes or until potatoes break down. Mix gently and serve.

Rena Carasso’s Kourabiedes (Greek Butter Cookies)

By Rena Gani, from Greece, sent to Birkenau-Auschwitz, now living in Randallstown, Md.

1 lb. sweet butter

1 lb. chopped almonds

2 egg yolks

2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

3-5 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat the butter for 15 minutes. Slowly add the yolks, confectioners sugar and a little flour. Continue to beat, adding the almonds and flour until a soft dough is formed. Use your hands to roll the dough and form them either in crescent of round shapes. Bake in ungreased pan for 15 to 25 minutes. After removing them from the oven, let cool and dredge in remaining confectioners sugar.

Louise Fiszer is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking.” Her columns alternate with those of Rebecca Ets-Hokin. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected].