Taste lingers on from kitchen legends

The Jewish Chronicle's first two cookery writers have become so embedded in our lives they’re still household names


The Jewish Chronicle has offered a safe pair of hands in the kitchen for just over a century. Its first two cookery writers have become so embedded in our lives they’re still household names. For many, their recipes remain the first port of call for those looking for haimish help in the kitchen.

Florence Greenberg and Evelyn Rose each wore the JC cookery writer apron for more than 40 years, their importance underlined by the number of clipped recipes in kitchens everywhere. My own grandmother’s cookbooks — which now sit on my shelves — contain several faded, yellowing newspaper cuttings.

When the paper was first published, there was no cookery column, nor did Jewish cookbooks even exist in Britain. The first — A Jewish Manual, by Lady Judith Montefiore — was published in 1846. In the home country, recipes would have been shared via word of mouth and measured in pinches, bissels and even shitteryne (a little of this or that) — until editor Leopold Greenberg asked his wife Florence to write about food in 1920.

Florence was a nurse who had previously cared for soldiers in the Middle East. and also an accomplished cook, having trained at her mother’s side to cook for their household of 12,. She wasn’t taken with the idea at first, writing in her diary: “I told him not to be funny – I had no literary ability. He said: ‘What do you want literary ability for? You are a marvellous cook.’ Of course, I couldn’t refuse; so I contributed recipes regularly every week for 42 years.”

Each week, she produced several recipes. On 1 October 1920, for example, she offered a range of breakfast dishes: “eggs en surprise’ — a sort of fishy Scotch egg made by coating a hard-boiled egg with chopped fish and deep frying it; egg cutlets — a combination of chopped hard-boiled eggs and dried egg with a white sauce, crumb coated and shallow fried; and tomato cakes — like a fishcake but made from tinned tomatoes and rice. The surprising eggs would not be out of place in a trendy Hoxton diner.

A November column in 1925 included a selection of simply but expertly handled soups, recipes I would happily cook today, apart, perhaps from the slightly unappetising “milk soup”, made from an onion, white rice, parley, vegetable stock, cornflour and milk, with a sprinkle of cheese. Comfort food? Or stomach turner?

Florence’s husband died in 1931, but she remained in the role for another 31 years until 1962, writing the Jewish Chronicle cookbook, which was first published by the JC in 1934 and was later rebranded as Florence Greenberg’s Cookery Book, so great was her reputation by then.

There were eight editions (the most recent being published in 1980) and 13 reprint. The book was a kosher English cookbook, providing not just recipes but also tips on household management to the interwar woman. The Jewish classics were there, but also a full range of recipes for the aspiring, assimilated Jew. Her sound advice was like having your mother (and grandmother) in your kitchen and established her (and the JC) as the go-to for British Jewish cooks.

Greenberg was still writing her column during the late 1950s when youngster Evelyn Rose started to submit her article ideas to the paper. Rose had views on how to make Jewish food healthier.

By then a regular on the BBC, in January 1959, she launched a new column entitled “A Slimming Diet on Jewish Food”. The first sentence would send the 21st-century reader’s eyebrows into orbit, stating, “Readers of this page — and their husbands — are concerned about their figures. Yet,” it continues, “we all like our chopped liver!”

Rose’s first column of that series was called “The Plump, the ‘Nosher’ and the Gourmet”. In it she explained that it’s not Jewish food to blame for overweight, it’s our food habits: “The nosh on Friday night, the laden Sabbath tea table and the kuchen and cake at the coffee morning are the real culprits.”

She aimed to help readers lose their extra pounds before Pesach and then assist them to keep them off while still enjoying fried fish and smaller portions of lokshen. Some of her advice remains sound today.

On 28 December 1962, Greenberg hung up her apron after 42 years behind the stove. New columnist Rose was officially launched after a discreet month’s break. Her modern take on the menu and more cosmopolitan outlook were fuelled by world travels from which she brought back new ingredients and influences.

Unlike Greenberg, Rose started the role with experience — four years as cookery editor of Family Doctor magazine. She had studied cooking in the US and France and was the resident cook at Granada Television. She was quoted ahead of her official launch as saying,

“If we want our traditional Jewish cooking to survive, we must adapt it to modern ways of living and eating.” She introduced Sephardi flavours and featured ingredients like avocados and aubergines that would have been unfamiliar to many of her readers but hugely inspirational. She was a prolific author of recipe books, which became a must for new brides and several generations of home cooks. Who hasn’t got a copy of The New

Complete International Jewish Cookbook or at least one of her tomes on their shelves? Her precisely tested recipes are the gold standard. Daughter Judi says her mother tested recipes several times before handing the written copy to her husband, Meyer Rose, to check for literal errors.

On her watch, during the 1990s, pencil-drawn images were added to the recipes, which had remained as simple print until then. It was not until after she had passed away, at 77, that recipe images appeared. Like Greenberg, she contributed weekly recipes for her entire tenure — helped towards the end by daughter Judi, who took up the mantle for a couple of years after her mother’s death.

When I took my seat at the table in 2011, my contribution to progress was all about the imagery: colour recipe photos and shots of featured food that aimed to make readers’ mouths water. There’s now a hungry online world to be fed — my “Fresser” food blog on the JC website; Facebook’s endless appetite for recipes; and snappy videos showing how dishes are made.

What struck me in looking back at my predecessors’ pages was that the JC’s annual cycle of festival food and other rituals — January’s calorie-controlled dishes for example — has remained the same.

For 100 years, Florence, Evelyn and now I have offered solutions on how to start and break the fast; what to feed the family for Pesach; ideas for show-stopping Rosh Hashanah dishes; and many more kosher conundrums. I hope I’m a worthy wearer of the mantle passed on by those great ladies.

Victoria Prever is Food Editor of the JC

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive