The Jewish Manual – First English Language Jewish Cook Book

Lady Montefiore wrote “The Jewish Manual” because of the increasing enthusiasm amongst the Jews in their ancient roots, traditions, and cook. It outlined the procedures necessary to adhere to the individual conduct expressed in the Bible, in Leviticus (in Hebrew Vayikra).

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Although many cookbooks published prior to The Jewish Manual were full of information, they were worthless to the Jewish servant. None of them consisted of distinctively Jewish recipes nor considered the scripturally forbidden items and food combinations deemed essential elements of a dish in the Hebrew kitchen.

Lady Montefiore sought to make the art of cooking as effortless as possible by making her recipes straightforward, simple, and succinct. She was attentive to the details concerning the exactness and cost of the portions allotted. Her meals could be depended on, because she’d had them prepared and analyzed in her own kitchen. She deliberately disregarded all laborious and costly methods of cooking as opposite to the aim of her cookbook; which was to instruct the Jewish housemaid in the extravagance and frugality of the table, on which most of the gratification of social interaction hinges.

Preliminary Remarks by the Author

We avail ourselves of the opportunity our editorial capacity affords, to express our hope, that with all its faults and deficiencies “The Jewish Manual” may prove to the homemaker a useful assistant, and be fortunate enough to meet with their lenient, kind, and favorable consideration.

“Our collection will be found to contain all the best recipes, hitherto bequeathed only by memory or manuscript, from one generation to another of the Jewish nation, and those which come under the denomination of plain English dishes; and also, such French ones as are now used at all refined modern tables”.

About the Book

Published in London in 1846, “The Jewish Cookbook” is the first Jewish cookbook on personal hygiene and social deportment written in English, and it reflects the social and economic status of English Jews.

The focus of the book is on the East European and Russian Jews whose descendants represent the majority of the English-speaking’ Jews. Because historical documents were rare, not much was known about the English Jewish community. This book is evidence of Lady Montefiore’s faithfulness to Judaism; and her position of affluence in English society. Through her social status and extensive travels to Jerusalem and other Middle Eastern countries, her recipes show a culinary legacy and awareness of grand gourmet French cuisine new to Russian and Polish Jews. Lady Montefiore’s appreciation of the writings and practice of the fine French chefs and their jargon and cooking styles shows her interest, acumen and culinary skills.

The Jewish Manual was written from the perspective of the lady of the house to instruct her servant in the basic details of refined dining. It assumes that individuals performing the food’s preparation already understand cooking basics. Anyone with a grasp of basic measures and cooking skill can cook from this book, and adjusting the quantities to produce fewer servings is straightforward. You can prepare “The Gateau de Tours” using a purchased poundcake, making it the easiest to make remarkable dessert imaginable. It’s still regarded as the specialty cake of Tours, France, made with the sublime raspberry jam of the country. To this day, the Bola d’Amor remains the most noble dessert of Spain. And the “Muligatawny Soup”, the curried chicken stew from India, is absolutely delicious, yet simple to make.

Judith Montefiore

Judith (Lady) Montefiore was born on February 20, 1784 in London and died on September 24,1862 outside of London, in Ramsgate. Montefiore was a humanitarian, linguist, musician, and journalist. Her privately written memoirs presented her to be sophisticated, devout, and a dedicated adherent of the Jewish religion, yet accepting of those advocating a different faith. Montefiore authored the Jewish Manual, the first Jewish cook book published in English. She lived out the final years of her life in London and Ramsgate. A few months before her death, Judith and Sir Moses celebrated their golden wedding anniversary, and at her death, Sir Moses established the Judith Lady Montefiore College at Ramsgate in her remembrance.  

Lady Judith Cohen Montefiore

Judith married Sir Moses Montefiore on June 10, 1812. The Portuguese Synagogue disapproved of matrimonies between Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews; but Sir Moses felt this caste discrimination was harmful to Judaism and sought to end it. After their wedding, they moved into a home on New Court, St. Swithin’s Lane, besides Nathan Mayer Rothschild, founder of the Rothschild banking family of England, whom one of Judith’s sisters, Hannah, had wed in 1806. Together they became two of the most well-known members of the Jewish elite.

Lady Montefiore greatly influenced all of her husband’s affairs, and when he retired from business, she administered his fortune in humanitarian ventures. Because of her remarkable linguistic skills, Lady Montefiore traveled with her husband on all of his overseas missions up to 1859, including his excursions to the Holy Land, Damascus, Saint Petersburg, and Rome. While traveling to Russia, in 1846, the wife and daughter of the Russian governor paid her a ceremonial visit to show their appreciation for the reverence she had aroused among all classes. She anonymously published two accounts of some of these trips.

Judith Cohen Montefiore was recognized throughout Jewish society for her social impact and humanity. Besides her memoirs there are no known publications under her name, but academics believe that she wrote the first Jewish cookbook in English, The Jewish Manual: or Practical Information in Jewish & Modern Cookery; with a Collection of Valuable Recipes and Hints Relating to the Toilette, edited by a Lady, which was published in 1846.

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