About Spice and Spirit

Anticipation Heats Up As “Spice And Spirit” Returns To Store Shelves
By Michele Justic

No kosher kitchen is complete without “Spice and Spirit.” With over 800 easy to follow recipes, the beautifully laid out friendly purple cookbook has been the go to choice for generations of cooks all over the world. Young 8-10 yr olds helping their mothers on shlichus preparing for Shabbos guests as well as mothers, grandmothers, and great grandmothers nurturing their families turn to this book to decide “what's for dinner.” It has sold over 200,000 copies and has an average Amazon customer review of 5 stars. M.K., an Amazon customer reviewer, described it best, '"Spice and Spirit,' never fails to provide an easy, excellent meal.”

The cherished book has held center stage place in the culinary world by homemakers and professionals since it first appeared in 1977. “Spice And Spirit The Complete Kosher-Jewish Cookbook,” a revised edition, came out in 1990. Executive board members Esther Blau, Cyrel Deitsch, and Cherna Light had the foresight to both modernize the original nshei cookbook, and to make it a resource for baalei teshuvah by including practical halachic information. As the Preface to the highly successful 1990 updated version explains, “We present the ‘spice'—a treasurehouse of kosher dishes, against the backdrop of the ‘spirit'—the rich tapestry of Jewish life. These two elements are inseparably intertwined: the delicious ‘spice' of kosher food derives its unforgettable flavor from its ‘spirit'— the occasion for which it was prepared and the people with whom we shared it.”

The recipes, which utilize ingredients from the local grocery store and range from heimishe to new age, health conscious to indulgent, easy to more complex, provide the “spice.” Cyrel and Cherna have been known in the Crown Heights community as masterful hostesses and culinary artists When crafting the revised book, after receiving a tremendous response to their call for recipes in the community, they made sure only the best went in. A team of over 40 volunteers helped with recipe trials and editing. In a world with cookbooks for gourmet and homestyle, 30 minute meals and slow cooker meals, many still rank “Spice and Spirit” as their favorite. As one reviewer noted, “I have a huge library now of kosher cookbooks and I have to say that no other book has a comprehensive collection of all the Shabbat and kosher classics as ‘Spice & Spirit.'” Esther, who was responsible for the editing and production, agrees, “Even if you have 20 other cookbooks, you'll still want ‘Spice and Spirit.'

The “spirit” was crafted by a rabbinical board headed by HaRav Y.K. Marlow, of blessed memory, former head of the Beis Din of Crown Heights. The halachic sections feel more like a chat with your favorite rebbetzin than the crucial informational resource that it is. Countless readers have been advised in the privacy of their own kitchens on kashrus, yom tovim, and more thanks to this book.

Esther attributes the comfortable writing style and professional presentation to the inclusion of many baalei teshuvah on the committee who had careers as writers, chefs, and artists. Tzivia Emmer, Rivka Katzen, and Tziporah Reitman served as key members of the editorial board.

Since the book hasn't been available in print for eight months, there has been a huge demand and a high markup on used copies. The Facebook page (facebook.com/spiceandspirit) grew to 700 fans in one day, with many writing on the wall how they can't wait for this new printing—some remarking how they regret not having bought it in the first place, and some noting how their 36 year old copy has too many food stains on it.

Finally, the wait is over and new copies will be available for purchase in time for Chanukah. Visit www.spiceandspirit.com or pick up a copy at your local Jewish bookstore to get cooking.

I still have my original 1977 copy that my mother gave me when I started to keep kosher. The jacket's long since torn off, but it's as useful as ever. Everything is simple and delicious. I think if I could only keep one cookbook, this would be it!

- Customer, Amazon.com
A must have for every kosher cook. Tons of easy recipes, tips and menu suggestions.

- The Frugal Shopper, Amazon.com
More than a collection of recipes, Spice and Spirit provides detailed instructions for observing…kosher rules…Definitions of what makes food kosher…and explains the spiritual inspiration of each law.

- Florence Fabricant, New York Times