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Two stories about Atlantic City and the Catskills, and 2 cookbooks among recommendations

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Florence Adler Swims Forever, set in 1934 Atlantic City, follows the Adler family as they struggle with the sudden loss of their teenage daughter Florence, and the decision to keep Florence's drowning a secret from their other daughter. (Photo: @SimonSchusterCA)

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Florence Adler Swims Forever by Rachel Beanland, Simon & Schuster, ($25.99 hardcover), $16.99 paperback.

The character, about whom this first novel is based, was the author’s great-great aunt who grew up in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Rachel Beanland lives with her husband and children in Richmond, Virginia

The novel begins in June 1934 and lasts through the summer, with a cast of Jewish family members plus a few others. 

In the 1930s, Atlantic City was the “Jewish Riviera” of the East Coast.  Joseph and Esther Adler own a bakery, where they raised daughter Fannie, 27, now married, with a daughter and pregnant; and Florence. Florence was a Wellesley college student who has been training to swim the English Channel. The family has taken in Anna, daughter of a friend of Joseph’s who has emigrated from Nazi Germany.; there is also the non-Jewish son of a hotel owner who works as a lifeguard. Each summer, the parents have rented out their house to vacationers and moved to the apartment above the bakery.

The focus of the novel revolves around the drowning of Florence. Rotating perspectives from character to character allows the author to show how much she is missed so they would come to love her and reveal their own rewards and challenges. In particular, we see the effect of Florence’s drowning which is played out as Mother Esther hides it from the sister Fannie because of  Fannie’s risky pregnancy. 

Rachel Beanland grew up hearing this family story. She says in an interview, “whenever my mother retold the story, the moral was obvious. If you loved someone…it was your prerogative and even your responsibility to shield them from information that might cause them pain.” As to the style, Beanland says, “my gut was that Florence’s story would be enhanced by looking at it through the prism of other people’s stories.”  It also gives the reader some of the lesser known aspects of American Jewish culture.

Anyone who remembers the Jewish connections to Atlantic City from their family or who enjoys reading family saga stories based on real life incidents will enjoy this special novel. The question one asks is how far will people go to protect their loved ones in the face of a tragedy?

Last Summer at the Golden Hotel by Elyssa Friedland, Berkley, paperback, 385 pp.

If you were ever in the Catskills in the summer, this is a book to read! First, look at the family trees and make a copy because the multitude of characters will overwhelm you, 14 people to track of.

Ms. Friedland says the Canadian sitcom, Schitt’s Creek, and the movie Dirty Dancing, provided “ a eureka moment” to write this book. She sets this book in contemporary times. Patriarchs of two Jewish families co-owned and opened The Golden Hotel in 1960 because, for many years, Jews were unwelcome in upstate New York resorts. 

It is now 1981 and the families gather to decide its future because a company wants to buy it and convert it into a casino. Each chapter is written from the point of view of a member of the family ‘today’ in 1981. 

To tell you more would spoil what is a humorous and yet pathetic story. Family members have had this hotel as a part of their lives for many years, and now they are placed in the unenviable position of deciding its future while their relationships continue.

If memories of the Catskills are part of your past, read this book. If they are not, read it anyway for a delightful look at a real part of American Jewish history.

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Jew-ish, A Cookbook: Reinvented Recipes from a Modern Mensch by Jake Cohen, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30 hard cover, 272 pp. 

Jake is called a “new star” in the food world and is now editorial and test kitchen director of a social media publication.

In the introduction, Jake talks about his being Jewish while growing up, meeting his husband and deciding to write this cookbook by reinventing his Ashkenazic background and being inspired by his husband’s Persian-Iraq background. his is not a kosher cookbook per se. Five recipes are definitely not adaptable but others are.

If you keep kosher, why would this cookbook interest you? Mainly because the 89 recipes are innovative creations as he reconciles traditional recipes with modern times.

Some of his reinventions are: sabich bagel sandwich, potato-leek bourekas, salted honey chopped liver, challah panzanella, saffron chicken noodle soup, French onion brisket, matza tiramisu, and salt and pepper sufganiyot.

Comments on recipes and numbered instructions are a definite plus for this cookbook, as well as the 120 color photographs.

For anyone looking for lots of Persian dishes plus some new, creative Jewish foods, this would be a good choice.

Paula Shoyer “the kosher baker” is the author of three cookbooks, including the first Instant Pot® cookbook to feature kosher food. (Photo: Amazon.ca)

The Instant Pot Kosher Cookbook by Paula Shoyer, Sterling Publishing, $22.95 paperback, 224pp.

Paula Shoyer is a very talented, creative Chevy Chase, Md.-based cookbook author (The New Passover Menu, The Holiday Kosher Baker, The Kosher Baker and The Healthy Jewish Kitchen).

On a trip to Israel, a few years ago, I had the pleasure of accompanying her through Jerusalem’s produce market, Machaneh Yehudah.

She has a French pastry degree from the Ritz Escoffier pastry program in Paris and teaches French and Jewish baking classes in the Washington, D.C. area.

The Instant Pot allows for short cooking time in a modern appliance, similar to the pressure cooker, and is “the official Instant Pot cookbook.”  

“Instant Pot Cooking is the New Fast Food for Kosher People,” she writes in her introduction. “Jewish food and the IP are a natural fit….With the IP, recipes that used to take hours are now ready in a fraction of the time.”

Six reasons why “Everyone Would Love to Have an Instant Pot”:  it’s fast, easier cleanup, less cooking effort, more nutritious, kitchen stays cooler and smells stay inside, use less energy and less water. Since the food only touches the inner pot and the lid, can you use this appliance for both dairy and meat? By the time you buy a second inner pot and lid, the cost is the same as buying an entirely separate IP. Paula recommends having two. The inner pot and lid may be submerged in water to be toiveled.

There are a total of100 recipes accompanied by 63 color photographs. Is your interest Jewish? matza brei brulee, gefilte loaf, stuffed cabbage and kasha varnishkes are there. Israeli? Try the familiar Moroccan carrot salad, hummus, orange shakshuka, Persian lamb and herb stew. International ideas for experimenting include Thai red curry fish, French onion soup puree with shredded short ribs, Swedish meatballs, Peruvian spiced chicken.

Every recipe has introductory remarks, my favorite characteristic. Although instructions are not numbered (another favorite), ingredients are boldly listed. This is a book of expertly developed recipes, high in flavor and with great textures for the kosher cook today.

Sybil Kaplan is a journalist, lecturer, food writer and author (Witness to History: Ten Years as a Woman Journalist in Israel), nine cookbooks (including What’s Cooking at Hadassah College.) She lived in Israel from 1970-1980; she and her late husband, Barry, came to live in Jerusalem in 2008, where she works as a foreign correspondent for North American Jewish publications, lectures to senior citizen residences, walks in English in Machaneh Yehudah, the Jewish produce market. She has been book reviewing for 40 years. 

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Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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