- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 24, 2002

Cooking show host Joan Nathan, known to some as the "Julia Child of Jewish Cooking," has proven that Jewish food, while not as popular as Italian or French cuisine, can appeal to people of all ages and ancestry.
"I knew we'd [targeted] Jewish people with the show," Ms. Nathan said during a recent phone conversation from her vacation home on Martha's Vineyard, "but I never expected the kind of positive reaction we got from the non-Jewish population."
The success of the first season of her cooking show "Jewish Cooking in America With Joan Nathan," ensured a second. Tomorrow at 4 p.m. marks the debut of the 13-program series on Maryland Public Television.
The first show, "A Vermont Yankee in King David's Court," is about a 93-year old woman, a Polish-born Vermonter, who bakes a yummy challah.
Unlike cooking shows a la Emeril, where the chef stands in front of a studio audience in a fancy, all-equipped kitchen, Ms. Nathan travels cross-country to profile "normal people," who, aside from being great cooks, also have interesting life stories.
Take Eva Young, who shares not only her chicken paprikash and spaetzel with viewers but also her experience as a child in Nazi-dominated Europe. She survived four concentration camps.
"What people really like about our show is that we have conversations with real people," Ms. Nathan says. "They like the humanness of it."
Aside from getting her guests to relate their personal histories, Ms. Nathan emphasizes the richness and complexity of Jewish cooking, which has many influences outside those of Eastern Europe (a common misperception). Jewish cooking can be just about anything, she says. It doesn't depend on certain staple ingredients like Italian cooking, with its oil and garlic, or French cuisine, which could never survive without wine, butter and cream.
As long as the recipes follow the dietary laws, which include prohibitions on shellfish and pork, they can be equally influenced by Mediterranean and Chinese cooking.
Take Wolfgang Puck's pizza, for example, a fusion of culinary traditions that he serves to movie stars at Spago, his Beverly Hills restaurant. It's thinly crusted and topped with creme fraiche and smoked salmon. (Mr. Puck and his pizza will be featured next Sunday.)
Later in the fall, Ms. Nathan will show how each culture along the Silk Road had its own type of dumpling.
"You find that the dumpling [in China] becomes the kreplach, which becomes the tortellini," she says. "Showing how the recipes traveled gives a commonality."
A show on Nov. 10 features Washington chef Roberto Donna and others, who will demonstrate recipes for all three types of dumplings.
Speaking of commonality, during Ms. Nathan's years in Jerusalem (she worked for then-mayor Teddy Kollek) she realized there was one thing Arabs and Jews could agree on: food.
"Arabs and Jews don't eat pork, and they even use the same slaughterhouse in Jerusalem," she says. "Food is an amazing equalizer."

WHAT: "Jewish Cooking in America With Joan Nathan"
WHEN: 4 p.m., Sundays
Maryland Public Television

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