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From matzo balls to Christmas pudding: the Jewish Cookery Book (1895)

By Erika Delbecque, on 22 April 2021

Dishes you would expect to find in a book entitled Jewish Cookery Book probably do not include jam roly-poly, shepherd’s pie and Cornish pasties. Yet, these traditional British recipes are all listed in this curious cookery book, which was recently acquired for UCL Special Collections.

A cookery curriculum for Jewish school children in London

A picture of the cover of the book

M.A.S. Tattersall, Jewish Cookery Book, compiled for use in the cookery centres under the school board for London (London: Wertheimer, Leah & Co, 1895)

The Jewish Cookery Book, published in 1895, was written by Miss M.A.S. Tattersall, about whom little is known other than that she worked as the superintendent of cookery for the School Board for London. It was compiled for use in teaching cookery to Jewish pupils in schools across London. Miss Tattersall, who was presumably not Jewish herself, asked a “Jewish lady” to revise her draft to ensure that it met Jewish dietary requirements.

That lady is likely to have been Rachel Adler, who writes in a foreword to the work that she believes that the included recipes are “are in full accordance with the requirements of our dietary code”. She was the wife of rabbi Hermann Adler, chairman of the Jews’ College, which incidentally had links to what was then University College: at the time of Adler’s chairmanship, Jews’ College was located in Tavistock Square near University College, so that students could combine their religious studies with an academic degree course from the University of London (LSJS).

Kosher British cuisine

The Jewish Cookery Book presents a curriculum consisting of two courses, through which the student progressed by learning to cook increasingly complex dishes. Students move on from boiling eggs and making vegetable soup in the very first lesson to stewed veal with forcemeat balls by the end of the second course. The work includes standard British fare that has been adapted to meet the requirement for kosher food (the introductory section includes instructions on “koshering meat, poultry, etc.”), as well a small number of recipes for Passover dishes such as matzo balls and sassafras, a drink made of liquorice and aniseed.

A picture of two pages with recipes

Recipes including jam roly-poly and pea soup

As such, despite its title, the curriculum set out by this book essentially offered Jewish pupils in London an education in English cooking. It was part of a spate of cookery books in the late nineteenth century aimed at the rapidly increasing Jewish immigrant communities in London. The implicit aim of books such as Jewish Cookery Book was to “anglicise and integrate” these communities into British society, which explains the inclusion of, of all things, a recipe for a Christmas pudding in what purports to be a Jewish cookery book (Gerson, p. 303).

Selected by a student book collector

A picture of the section containing Passover recipes

Recipes for Passover dishes

The work joins several other cookery books in our Jewish and Hebrew collections, including a copy of the Jewish Manual, published in 1846, which is regarded as the first Anglo-Jewish cookery book. This new acquisition for our collections was selected by Alexandra Plane, the winner of last year’s Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize. It struck her as an “interesting as an example of assimilation of British and Jewish cultures”.

As well as the opportunity to work together with UCL Special Collection staff to select an item for the collections, the winner of the Anthony Davis Book Collecting Prize receives £600 and the opportunity to give an online talk on his or her collection as part of the UCL Special Collections events programme. We are accepting submissions for this year’s Prize until 30th April 2021. For further details, please visit our page for applicants.

The Jewish Cookery Book can be consulted in our reading room. If this blog post has inspired you to try some of Miss Tattersall’s recipes, a digitised copy from the University of Leeds Library is available here.

Further reading

David, Keren (2019). Miss Tattersall’s guide for the Jewish cooks of 1895, The Jewish Chronicle, https://www.thejc.com/lifestyle/food/a-%EF%AC%82avour-of-haimish-history-from-an-antique-cookery-book-1.493119 (accessed 22 April 2021)

Gerson, Jane (2010) From Bola d’Amour to the Ultimate Cheesecake: 150 Years of Anglo-Jewish Cookery Writing, Jewish Culture and History, 12:1-2, 297-316, DOI: 10.1080/1462169X.2010.10512156

LSJS (2018) About LSJS: A Brief History, https://www.lsjs.ac.uk/about-lsjs.php (accessed 22 April 2021)

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