Women from Baycrest Terraces share treasured family recipes and memories in fundraising cookbook
November 25, 2015
Book is a cultural and kosher culinary legacy of the last true generation
of stay-at-home moms
Toronto, ON – More than 70 women from the Terraces of Baycrest have contributed their favourite family recipes and the memories that go with them in a newly-published kosher cookbook, A Ta’am to Remember.
The word ta’am is a Yiddish and Hebrew word meaning taste. The title of the book is a pun intertwining the two themes of food and memories. Almost eight years in the making, A Ta’am to Remember is a compilation of 192 contemporary and traditional kosher recipes from residents of the Terraces, a supportive housing community for seniors. Many of the women lived through the Great Depression, the Holocaust, and/or experienced life as new immigrants to Canada, raising families in the post-war period.
The book is more than a collection of recipes. It’s a heartfelt conversation with women who lived through decades of upheaval and uncertainty in the 20th century and know the symbolic and sentimental meaning behind food, eating and gathering family around the table. Their voices bring the recipes to life.
Most of the recipes are accompanied by personal vignettes from the contributors, offering snapshots of Jewish life from the turn of the 20th century to the present. Many of the women reflect on the culinary influences of their mothers and grandmothers. Some recount the challenges of being newlyweds or working mothers and having to feed their husbands and children without the advantages of the modern kitchen.
“These women were proud cooks and their identities were often defined by their cooking. They were the last true generation of stay-at-home moms,” says Elaine Kaplan, project director.
The recipes are a culinary and nostalgic legacy of Jewish culture
that spans many generations.
Some recipes were popular decades ago, while others are favourites of more recent times. The traditional staples are well represented – from Cheese Blintzes and Mandelbroit (almond cookies) to Borscht (beet soup) and Kasha and Varnishkas (buckwheat groats and bow-tie noodles.) Green Bean Casserole, Old-Fashioned Meatloaf and Better-than-Sex Cake fall into the category of mid-century recipes.
Sushi, Almond Soup and Beggars Purses are just a small sample of the contemporary recipes also found in the book. A glossary of Yiddish terms at the back of the book is a fascinating read in itself.
Recipe contributor Ena Segall, 88, a Terraces resident since 2006, grew up in Montreal and raised her five children there. In 1948, she graduated from McGill University with a Bachelors of Commerce degree, but she never worked outside of the home.
“I think the cookbook is marvellous. The best part is sharing the stories,” says Segall, who shared memories of learning to make knaidlach (matzah balls) from her aunt. “It’s a family tradition. When we eat kneidelach, we remember Aunt Bessie.”
Norene Gilletz, a leading kosher cookbook author in Canada and advocate of grassroots community cookbooks, was the book’s editor and advisor. Her skills as a “recipe detective” came in handy as many of the women were intuitive cooks who did not use written recipes. “I often had to quantify and clarify the directions, but I always maintained the integrity of these recipes,” says Gilletz. “I also made suggestions in the Terrace Tips (section), often with a dash of humour.”
Rachel Orlan, the Terraces resident who came up with the idea for the cookbook as a fundraiser many years ago, sadly passed away in 2011 at age 91. For her family, the cookbook is a cherished legacy.
“If food is love, this cookbook is a loving culmination of the talents, skills and determination of the residents of the Terraces and all the people who made this cookbook a reality,” her daughters Marsha Nicols and Suzie Chojnacki said. “It’s rich with the memories, flavours and scents of full lives, well lived and fully realized.”
David (Sonny) Langer, one of Toronto’s most popular caterers, and his wife Lorraine, made a generous donation to kick-start the cookbook project. Langer’s connection to the Terraces goes back more than four decades. He was part of a team that drew up the blueprint for the Terraces back in the mid-1970s, and he became the home’s first administrator in 1976 when it opened.
Former Terraces director Sheila Smyth and her staff worked with Kaplan and a committee of hardworking volunteers to move the project along. A large contingent of recipe testers shopped, cooked, baked, tested and even retested the recipes. Some people typed, proofread, edited, while others interviewed and photographed the residents. There were volunteers who helped with the art and design of the book and still others who worked on marketing and sales.
A book launch will be held at the Terraces on Sunday, Nov. 29 at 2 p.m., an early celebration to mark the 40th anniversary (in 2016) of this innovative housing facility for seniors. Sadly, most contributors to the cookbook have passed away. For their families, friends and the Terraces staff, the book’s publication is a bittersweet moment.
The cookbook sells for $25 (includes tax) and can be purchased at the Terraces’ reception desk, 55 Ameer Ave., or by calling 416-785-2500, ext. 2267. Proceeds from sales will support programs and projects by the Terraces Residents’ Council. For a taste of the recipes from A Ta’am to Remember, visit www.baycrestterracescookbook.com
For more information on this press release, contact:
Kelly Connelly, Senior Media Officer
Baycrest Health Sciences