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Just Add Joy

Libi Astaire

When Jamie Geller named her latest cookbook Joy of Kosher, it wasn’t just a clever takeoff of the classic nonkosher cookbook Joy of Cooking. Her book really is a winning combination of great-tasting kosher dishes and enthusiasm for joyous Torah living — and it’s giving Jews from all walks of life a generous serving of inspiring food for thought.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

At the launch of a new ship, it’s customary to break a bottle of champagne over its bow. But you can’t do that for a book launch. Nobody minds when a ship gets wet; soggy pages are an entirely different matter.

So what does an author do when she wants to tell the world that she has just published a new book? If you’re the “Queen of Kosher,” otherwise known as Jamie Geller, you put together an evening where your message can be heard loud and clear: Kosher food is delicious and surprisingly easy to prepare; kosher living is inspiring and fun, too.

That latter message is sometimes surprising to people who think Orthodox Jews are a dour bunch with lives that are one big “thou shalt not.” This fuels Jamie’s dual mission: inspiring people to live kosher while helping busy moms figure out what to cook for dinner.

Have I Got a Story for You

When she started her cookbook-writing career, Jamie didn’t expect her life story to become one of the most popular entrées on the menu. For that first venture, Quick & Kosher: Recipes From the Bride Who Knew Nothing (Feldheim), which is now in its seventh printing, she talked about her transition from successful TV producer who lived on takeout and didn’t know much about Yiddishkeit to Orthodox wife and mother expected to effortlessly whip up traditional Shabbos meals for 40 or more.

But the main thing was the recipes, right?

“When I wrote Quick & Kosher, it wasn’t my intention to use kosher food as a kiruv tool,” Jamie comments when we met at the Israel launch of her new cookbook, Joy of Kosher: Fast, Fresh Family Recipes. “Then I was invited to do cooking demonstrations, and I discovered that people also wanted to hear my story. They wanted to know how a TV producer became a sheitel-wearing baalas teshuvah.”

Jamie’s cooking demonstrations and book-signing tours have taken her all over the United Statesand Israel, and to all sorts of venues. She has cooked and talked at secular Jewish Community Center events, Chabad kiruv-oriented programs, and Bais Yaakov fundraisers. Everywhere she goes, she says, she sees that women aren’t just hungering for new ideas for fixing dinner; they also want food for their souls. “Women, including non-frum women, like to hear a story that’s about spiritual growth. Even if they’re not keeping kosher, they can relate to it. They want to feel connected to Yiddishkeit.”

 

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