Months of isolation and restrictions caused by the continuing COVID-19 pandemic have given rise to some gallows humor, mostly revolving around how many pounds people have gained since the cessation of so many activities caused a rash of spontaneous cooking and eating.
But one Cherry Hill house of worship is putting a positive and creative spin on those who decided to take fate into their own hands to head into the kitchen for a bit of “fattening the curve.”
Congregation M’Kor Shalom is about to release a cookbook comprised of colorful recipes, just in time for the season of holiday gift-giving. It’s called “Pots and Pandemic – Cooking In Quarantine.”
The collection features over 200 recipes contributed by synagogue congregants, members of the community and others across the country. It reflects the spirit, determination and resourcefulness of those who found meaning and purpose during these historic times.
As a bonus, many contributors shared anecdotes about the motivation and experiences that drew them into the kitchen during quarantine.
“Since the early days of this stressful time, people have been searching for creative ways to add productivity to their lives,” said Ellen Zinn co-chairperson of the book committee, along with fellow New York expat Marsha Seader.
The seeds of the recipe book were sown nearly 20 years ago, during another national emergency, as Zinn recalled the days following 9/11 and drew a parallel to the present.
“Everyone was so determined to create an atmosphere of normality. It suddenly dawned on me that the most normal thing we were doing in quarantine, day in and day out, was cooking,” she related.
“If we put together a cookbook of recipes made during the quarantine, it would be a testament to our resilience.”
An added motivation for Zinn was that the book could end up as a fundraiser for the synagogue. Available for distribution right after Thanksgiving, the book costs $20 and will also include discount coupons from local restaurants. It is divided into five sections: appetizers, soups, salads, sides and sauces, main dishes. baked goods and desserts. A portion of the profits will be donated to the Betsy and Peter Fischer Food Pantry of Jewish Family and Children’s Service.
“As it is now, as we’re all looking to regain some sense of normalcy,” said Sherry Wolkoff, publicity chairperson of the cookbook committee. “This book should serve as a guide for people who started to take to cooking as a way to cope with the isolation and the lack of activities.”
Wolkoff shared the story of two acquaintances, one male and one female, who both had their issues with cooking before the pandemic, but who took to it as a matter of necessity: a man accustomed to his wife taking on cooking duties and a woman who ran her own business and often dined out, now both glued to the kitchen.
“My own husband, even he started cooking since then,” Wolkoff added. “I did all the cooking I ever wanted to do during my younger years. It just gives a sense of comfort to create and to feed the people that you love.”
The stories behind each recipe serve the usual purpose of passing on family history, knowledge and culture, but Wolkoff maintained that what sets this one apart is the specific correlation between the storytellers and why they decided to take on culinary therapy in the midst of a pandemic.
“It serves as a connector between people, friends, and family during a tough time,” she said.
A virtual demonstration is planned for one of the recipes (jalapeño chickpea fritters) on Nov. 12. For more information, interested parties can register through the synagogue’s website at: https://mkorshalom.org/events/fritters.
To order a copy of the book, visit: https://mkorshalom.org/potspandemicsale.