GIFTING: Who is Leah Koenig giving her book to this Christmas and Hanukkah?
The author of The Jewish Cookbook runs us through her year, and who’s on her gift list this holiday season
Leah Koenig has had quite a year. Not only has she welcomed her daughter into the world, and toured the country, she also authored The Jewish Cookbook, a collection of recipes praised by everyone from Nigella Lawson to Gwyneth Paltrow. In this end-of-year interview, she picks out her personal highs (California produce) and lows (a distinct lack of sleep), and tells us who’ll be getting a copy of her beautiful new book very soon!
What inspired you most this year? I drew so much inspiration seeing photos of the dishes readers were making from The Jewish Cookbook on social media. As a writer and recipe developer it is such a joy to know that the recipes you painstakingly developed (often in solitude or accompanied only by a good podcast) are taking on new lives in other people's kitchens. If you are ever on the fence about whether or not to post a photo of something you made from a cookbook, do it! And tag the book's author! It will make their day.
What annoyed you most? I have two wonderful kids - a five-year-old son and an eight-month-old daughter. They light up my life every day, really and truly. But at some point this fall it dawned on me that with the big kid, the new baby, and my other "new baby" (The Jewish Cookbook), I have become comically sleep-deprived. Like, "there aren't even enough cups of coffee in the world" sleep-deprived. I guess annoyed isn't the quite the right word because the tradeoff is so worthwhile. But whew, I could use a nap.
What was your personal highlight? My family (husband, the two kiddos, and I) lived in Berkeley, California for the entire summer. My husband is a musician and had an artist's residency that included a gorgeous house with a yard (a novelty for us small apartment Brooklynites), a stipend for childcare, and another for living expenses. It was an absolute dream to get to experience an entirely new place for 3 months and spend so much relaxed (though also quite productive!) time together. And that California produce is as magical as everyone says it is. There were heirloom tomatoes for days!
Professionally speaking, my highlights included Nigella Lawson favorably comparing The Jewish Cookbook to Claudia Roden's iconic The Book of Jewish Food on Twitter. And also finding out via Instagram that Gwyneth Paltrow made (and loved) my brisket recipe for her wedding anniversary dinner.
What can we expect from you in 2020? More travel dates! When you have young children - especially one who is still nursing - 'touring' with a new book is pretty tricky. So instead of a few intense weeks of all-in touring when The Jewish Cookbook first came out this September, I'm doing a slow burn tour with a couple of events every month throughout the year. There will also be lots of freelancing, recipe developing, and deep reflection as I sort out my next big thing.
Who will you give your Phaidon book to for Christmas? Possibly no one! I'm far more likely to give it as a Hanukkah gift - though it would certainly make a nice Christmas gift too. I actually just gave a copy to my sister in law and her partner as thanks for watching my daughter while I led a challah baking master class. They have a very beautiful book collection (the books are grouped by color). The Jewish Cookbook's deep periwinkle cover fits in perfectly. And my sister in law is excited to try the pan de calabaza (Sephardi pumpkin bread) and Eastern European prune lekvar (jam).
Got a periwinkle gap on your bookshelf too? If so buy a copy of The Jewish Cookbook here. This new book is rich trove of contemporary global Jewish cuisine, featuring more than 400 home-cooking recipes for everyday and holiday foods from the Middle East to the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa - as well as contemporary interpretations by renowned chefs including Yotam Ottolenghi, Michael Solomonov, and Alex Raij. The Jewish Cookbook is the definitive compendium of Jewish cuisine, introducing readers to recipes and culinary traditions from Jewish communities the world over, and is perfect for anyone looking to add international tastes to their table.