They’re billed as "the most important cookbooks you’ll ever own," and it’s hard to disagree.
Joanne Caras and her family collected recipes and remembrances from Holocaust survivors around the world, and then performed a series of small wonders. Caras created two elegant books, first, "The Holocaust Survivor Cookbook" and now a new volume, "Miracles and Meals." Both celebrate how human dignity can - and does - flourish under the most horrific circumstances.
She became inspired to collect the stories and recipes from around the world after she visited a soup kitchen in Israel. That was where she saw first-hand how hunger persists, even in a land of "milk and honey."
The stories compiled in the book are moving and memorable. Leon Levy stole potato peelings from the concentration camp kitchen where he worked, and was whipped for trying to pass them through a fence to a pretty girl named Lilka. But the pair survived and married after the war, and celebrated their 60th anniversary not long ago.
In a television interview, Caras demonstrated how to make traditional braided Challah bread, and shared the story of the Sussman family. Separated by war, their daughter perished. But the parents survived and had two daughters after the war. "They found each other in a DP [displaced persons] camp," Caras said. "They were never bitter. They felt that God had blessed them to find each other and start their family all over, and bring their table to be full again."
The recipes represent an international sampler of traditional favorites, including holiday specialties, such as Passover Brownies, that adhere to the dietary restrictions many Jews observe. Each recipe is classified as meat, dairy or parve (neutral).
But the stories - and what they symbolize - don’t end here. Caras is continuing to reach out. "If you recognize a survivor or their family and would like to get in touch with them, please send your contact information to us," Caras writes in a section titled "How To Use This Cookbook."
"We will pass on your information to the survivor family."
If you want to go:
Sunday, December 2 from 4 to 6 pm
Temple Beth El, 5101 Providence Road, Charlotte, NC 28226
Donation: $18; includes reception featuring recipes from the book
Books will be available for purchase and autographing by the author; proceeds benefit Jewish charities. For more information call Lynda White at 704 541-8317.