By Miranda Bannister

Find yourself in league with “housewives from every quarter of the globe that Manischewitz’s Matzo Products are used” by trying out the matzo ball recipe found at the bottom of this blog post. Though the description of who uses their matzo products is dated, Tempting Kosher Dishes, a cookbook printed in 1930 by the iconic B. Manischewitz Co. of Cincinnati, Ohio, continues to fascinate and inspire.

Ninety-one years after the initial printing of this cookbook, B. Manischewitz Co. is still the largest producer of matzo in the world. Its name is almost synonymous with store-bought kosher products, not to mention the most famous kosher wine in the world.

The English and Yiddish language cookbook offers two hundred and fifty recipes, all of them supposedly submitted by housewives around the globe. A woman listed as Miss F.O. Gaer, B.S., Domestic Science Expert and Graduate in Institutional Management subsequently tested all the of the recipes in the Manischewitz test kitchen.

"Tempting Kosher Dishes" cookbook
The front, English language cover, and the back, Yiddish language cover of “Tempting Kosher Dishes”. Gift of the family of Frances and Donald Rosenberg. 2013.33.1.

The cookbook’s foreword notes, “Some of these recipes are old favorites… Some are so distinctly new as to offer one tempting surprise after another.” But what all of the recipes share in common is the matzo that put the Manischewitz company on the map.

The Man Behind the Matzo Meal

B. Manischewitz Co. was originally established in 1888 by Rabbi Dov Behr Manischewitz. It started as a small bakery in Cincinnati servicing the local orthodox community but was already an institution in kosher cooking by the time Tempting Kosher Dishes was released in 1930.

By the end of the 19th century, the company was so successful that the rabbi sought to mechanize production. He opened a factory that utilized gas-powered machines to produce matzo.

The outrage was immediate. The industrial revolution had brought about a halachic (Jewish law) debate over whether or not mechanization was compatible with kosher cooking. Opinion was still very divided at the time Manischewitz, himself a rabbi well-practiced in overseeing the preparation of food in accordance with kosher laws, implemented machinery in his factories.

However, by the 20th century, most of the Jewish world had accepted mechanization as compatible with kosher cooking. Consumers, previously accustomed to traditional handmade round matzo, even came to expect the square matzo produced by machines, in no small part due to the prevalence of Manischewitz products.

Bernard Manischewitz, a CEO of the company for 27 years and the grandson of the original founder, once called the popularization of mass-produced and distributed kosher goods “the biggest change in Jewish domestic life since Biblical times.” He was not overstating the matter.

While Rabbi Manischewitz passed away in 1914, his family continued to manage the company with much success. It went public in 1929, one year before the release of “Tempting Kosher Recipes,” and began trading on the Cincinatti Stock exchange.

Unfortunately, 1929 also marked the start of the Great Depression, which forced the company to develop new strategies to survive the economic troubles of the following years. In the coming decade, B. Manischewitz Co. began to sponsor Yiddish-language radio shows across the country as a means to draw greater numbers of Yiddish-speaking clientele. This cookbook, Tempting Kosher Dishes, which is written in both English and Yiddish, is one of the earliest examples of such outreach.

The company was able to stay afloat despite harsh economic conditions and even opened a second factory in New Jersey in 1930, which brought it closer to the larger Jewish populations in many major East Coast cities.

Recipes to Try

B. Manischewitz Co. now sells dozens of different products, but it was not until the 1940s that the company offered much more than the Manischewitz Matzo and Manischewitz Matzo Meal found in most of the book’s recipes. However, even in the 1930’s these two products lent themselves to the recipes of such varied dishes as Corn Fritters, Almond Pudding, Chocolate Souffle, Fruit Pudding, Chocolate Custard Pudding, Pineapple Dainty, and hundreds more.

Matzo Ball Soup
Matzo ball soup. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia.

Among the “old favorites” promised by Tempting Kosher Dishes is a recipe for Alsatian-style “Feather Balls,” a category of particularly fluffy Matzo balls. Their unique texture comes from beating the chicken fat and eggs aggressively before incorporating them into the matzo dough. The recipe is below:

 
Miranda Bannister is a recent graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she double majored in History and Writing Seminars. While still an undergraduate, she served as Editor-in-Chief of the JHU Politik, and as Executive Vice President of the Student Government Association. She is an intern in the Museum’s Marketing department.