About The History Kitchen

Welcome to The History Kitchen!

My name is Tori Avey. I’m a food writer, recipe developer, and creator of the award winning food blog, The Shiksa in the Kitchen. I explore culinary anthropology and the story behind the food – why we eat what we eat, how the recipes of different cultures have evolved, and how yesterday’s food can inspire us in the kitchen today. Welcome to The History Kitchen, a website dedicated to a deeper exploration of food, history, and culture.

The History Kitchen is the culmination of a journey that started when I was a little girl. As a child, I spent a lot of time with my paternal grandparents, Grandpa Clarence and Grandma Lois. Grandma and Grandpa did their best to enrich my days with art, music, film, and history. Weird kid that I was, I soaked up the culture like a sponge. Grandpa Clarence screened old historical films in the living room like Cleopatra, Ben Hur and The Ten Commandments. Grandma Lois, an artist, set up a small easel in the barn so I could paint alongside her while she told me about the lives of her favorite artists – Van Gogh, Monet, Degas. Grandpa showed me maps of the world in old atlases he’d collected, pointing out the ancient city of Troy and spinning tales of Helen and the Trojan Horse. We weeded the vegetable garden and harvested the sweet, fresh tomatoes from the vine while we chatted about Thomas Jefferson and his garden at Monticello. Grandma and I cooked dinner together using the fresh produce I’d picked with my own two hands—always a dish that was slightly exotic, with a new spice from India or couscous from Morocco. Then after dinner, my favorite part of the evening, they would set up a projector and show me slides from their travels, giving me a glimpse of the world beyond my small California hometown. Because of my grandparents, I grew up curious and excited about world history.

With my Grandma and Grandpa Avey

In my twenties, I explored many different career paths, but none of them really “fit.” At a certain point I paused to reevaluate my path. I knew I loved history, reading, and writing, but I wasn’t sure how it all fit together. I also had a passion for something entirely visceral and seemingly unrelated—food. Cooking had become a major focus of my life. I’d always been comfortable in the kitchen, but I wanted to be a great cook—a real “balabusta,” as they say in Yiddish. I was inspired by the exotic meals I’d cooked with my Grandma Lois, as well as the flavors of my husband’s Jewish roots—the Middle Eastern Sephardic cuisine of his mom, and the Russian Ashkenazi cuisine of his dad. I learned to cook the old fashioned way, from friends and family members who generously shared their recipes and cooking know-how with me. It’s a learning process that continues to this day.

In the ancient city of Jerusalem, 2010

As I became more skilled in the kitchen, I began to collect vintage and historical cookbooks. It started as mere curiosity. I wanted to know how my Great Grandma Arnold made a pie from scratch, so I bought a cookbook published in 1908 from her home state, Nebraska. Then I started wondering about that pie’s journey… where does strawberry pie come from? What are the origins of pie? Did pie start sweet, or savory? I looked for historical cookbooks that could point me in the right direction—The Good Housekeeper by Sarah Josepha Hale (1841) led me to American Cookery by Amelia Simmons (1796), then back to The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by Hannah Glasse (1747).  The further back in time I went, the more questions I had. I became a food sleuth. Everything I cooked was a mystery, and I made it my mission to dig up the roots and origins of every dish I cooked.

In 2010, I started a food blog called The Shiksa in the Kitchen. As a writer who loves food, it was a natural progression. Originally the focus of the blog was Jewish food—I’m a convert to Judaism, and my husband grew up in Israel, so I had a particular interest in the roots of Jewish cuisine. There I blog about my adventures in the kitchen and my favorite recipes, both Jewish and non-Jewish. The site quickly gained fans from all over the globe; the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Readers especially enjoy the historical research behind my posts. I absolutely love writing The Shiksa Blog. At the same time, my nerdy food historian side has been yearning to delve deeper into culinary anthropology and the roots of our food.

Over time, my broader interest in food history led me to create a website for exploring all facets of food history, from ancient Mesopotamian meals to the cocktails of Mad Men and everything in between. The History Kitchen was born!

Food is a way of communicating; the energy we pass on through our cooking feeds the body as well as the soul. By writing this blog and taking a journey into food history, I am learning right beside you. I do not have a PhD in history, nor am I a classically trained chef or a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu. I started this blog to learn more about our culinary roots. Consider this our shared virtual culinary classroom– a place where we learn not only how to cook delicious food, but how that food came to be in the first place. Every kitchen has a heritage and every recipe has a writer. Knowing the story behind the food– the ancient history, or the family history, or even the history of one particular ingredient– can infuse a dish with meaning. And then a meal becomes more than just food, or something that fills you up physically. Food takes on a deeper significance, and ultimately becomes more nourishing.

This is a space for us to learn and explore food history together. I’m excited to take this journey with all of you. Welcome to The History Kitchen!

Comments (36)Post a Comment

  1. I am a fellow blogger and I was drawn to your blog “The History Kitchen” because I write about what I call “Heirloom Recipies” which are family recipies that I wanted to save from extinction.

    1. I am looking forward to see your blog. Please make recipe ingredient amounts as clear as possible (I once stood next to my Mother-in-Law while she dumped in a little of this, a little of that, etc., while I measured what she was using. When I used her recipe, it wasn’t as good because I forgot one ingredient)

  2. Mazel Tov to you on the new website. I am looking forward to learning about the origins of food (not only my Ashkenazi roots).
    Your website will be most exciting and delicious. I have been cooking and baking for many many years but always enjoy food with a new/old twist.

    Wishing you everything you would want for yourself.

  3. I’m so very happy that you have started this sister site! I’ve always been fascinated with old recipes and how things were done. I’ve collected recipe books for many years, have my grandmothers which my mother used also and it just gives me a great feeling. I can’t wait to try the lentil soup :D TY sooo much!

  4. I can hardly wait to read all the recipes on your new site. If your other recipes are any indication, the new ones should be fantabulous!

    If you haven’t already, you should check out Lynne Olver’s food history site, foodtimeline.org . It’s a very simple website with little to no graphics, but it’s still very active and a labor of love by her since 1999. And, no, I don’t know Lynne personally, I just like giving shout-outs to fellow librarians.

  5. What a great idea! I am a big fan of The History Kitchen already! I always wonder about the history of food and love history itself. It’s such a great combination. It’s so fascinating. It always captures my attention and I think it’s wonderful that we can travel back in time and learn what people used to eat, what was popular and what came out of necessity. Thank you for creating this blog.

  6. Congrats on your new site Tori! Terrific idea, I too love food history, so I am linking History Kitchen right now. You are the perfect person to launch a site like this, best wishes for super-success.
    LL

  7. Hello Dear,
    I LOVE your site/blog! History of food is a subject dear to my heart. As a chef and huge foodie I could live, eat and breathe cooking. Well, I’ll be darned if I don’t!
    Thank you for your wonderful, interesting and FUN way for me to relax and read a bit. Gets me off my feet, which is a step in the right direction!
    Hugs to you, Jan

  8. I first started following you because Bill Cosby tweeted about the Shiksa blog. I love your recipes and your wonderful information about the food. I am thrilled to see your new site History Kitchen. I am always so curious about the origins of the dishes we eat. Thank you!

  9. What a wonderful site! I am in love with it! I love food and never knew I could know their history so readily.It must be a great load of work behind each article.For that I must thank you on behalf of the readers in generations to come!Love from here.

  10. I love both of your blogs! I love history, too, and am thoroughly enjoying your “journey”. Thanks for sharing – you are a marvelous resource and a great inspiration!

  11. Dear Tori
    From an early age and the influence of my mother, i was always intrigued with cooking and baking of food. My mother was an immigrant to this country coming from Russia about the age of 15. I was the middle child of 3 brothers, so somehow i became the girl in the family.
    My mother could not write or read english and no recipes yet her Challahs on Friday or the shtrudels or taiglachs or Chicken soup or whatever was always perfect and delicious. So my question to her as I got older HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT IS ENOUGH ? Her answer in yiddish was a shrug of the shoulder “whatever it will take” and then wiped her hands or face with her large apron that she was always wearing.
    All my life those beautiful aromas stayed withy me and at the young age of 70 I enrolled as a full time student
    ( 5 days a week for 18 months) at a prestigious culinary school
    During these pasat 20 years I have done a variety of cooking for the schhool “Special Events” Private catering, chef at my temple, Passover Seders, even twice at the Culinary school with over 150 people etc etc and now at my beautiful temple in Gloucester MA. with a first class commercial cooking.
    We now have a program called “GOOGLE THE KUGEL” We do monthly demonstrations and have cooking classes’ for all from the youngest in our Hebrew school to adults.
    So ever since getting on to the Shiksa’s site I can appreciate her love of cooking and often use her recipe’s as well as her wonderful articles and descriptions
    SHIKSA KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK YOU ARE A CREDIT TO THE PROFESSION AND ALL THAT HAVE A LOVE OF COOKING AND FOOD
    Chef Abe

    1. Thank you so much Abe! That is very kind of you. Mazel tov on finding your passion at this stage in life! Love that name “Google the Kugel,” so sweet. :)

  12. Hi Tori,
    I am the director of a Jewish religious school. I am developing a curriculum for a combined 7th and 8th Grade class for next year. I would very much like to do some “Jewish cooking” with the kids, but I want it to be an educational as well as a fun experience. I am looking for videos that explain how “Jewish cuisine” developed, what it is, where is came from, how it differed from that of the general population in each country, and why. I want the kids to understand that the nomadic nature of Jews had a huge impact on Jewish cuisine, as did the climate, soil and local produce in each geographic region.
    Do you know of any videos and other resources that would serve my purposes?
    I’d appreciate any help that you can give me.

  13. Wow! What a lovely, unique and inspiring ‘nische’ you have yourself here.. I am so happy to have stumbled upon this intriguing blog ~ Thank you for exciting me about the history of food with your passions…I look forward to following!

  14. Dear Tori–Your site is amazing. From your adorable logo to your compelling recipes to the wonderful stories you tell, what’s not to love?

    You’re obviously completely connected in the food world, so I’m puzzled about why you haven’t produced a cookbook yet. I’ve written eight of them (and totally burned myself out on cooking!); it’s not hard–especially for a woman of your experience and talent. Isn’t your agent breathing down your neck?

    You clearly have the (admirable!) range of skills for the job–where’s the book? Without seeming presumptuous, may I say that If there’s anything I can do to speed you on your way, I would love to do it. Though you’re such a consummate professional, I can’t believe anything is impeding you. Maybe you just prefer blogging to publishing?

    All best wishes–Lorraine Bodger

    1. Hi Lorraine– my first cookbook is in the works, and a second cookbook has been conceptualized. Finding the time to finish it all has been challenging, but I do expect news on that front soon! :)

  15. I am doing a 7th grader doing a judaics research project on what Ancient Israelites ate on a daily basis. My teacher would like to know what sources you used for your research, and has any jewish organization or institute of higher learning recognized your work?

    1. Hi Regina. Sources are clearly cited at the end of each article or within the body of the article on The History Kitchen. For the ancient Israelite articles I have written, the majority of my information came from interviews with biblical cooking experts in Israel (as noted in the articles). Several Jewish organizations and publications have printed and cited my articles; newspapers and other publications have reached out to me as a source for historical cooking topics. My work is syndicated twice monthly on PBS, and I am the chair of the Food History section of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. One of my food history articles was recently chosen as a reading response test question on a major country-wide college preparatory exam. That said, I would recommend you take a look at the sources cited in the articles that interest you for further scholarly information on your topic of research. It is never a good idea to rely on one source for information, and primary sources are ideal for research projects if you can find them. Good luck!

  16. I just found your blog today…found and made the asparagus quiche recipe a couple of days ago. I look forward to the resource of your recipes as I am an avid cultural cook and can’t wait to delve into the History Kitchen section! Thank you!

  17. I just found your blog AND have already subscribed. My daughter just decided to become a vegan (probably will end up being a vegetarian more than a vegan) and your blog came up as I was looking on information on how to do cashew milk. I was raised Catholic, but have always felt close to Judaism, so your blog caught my eye in more ways than one. I am currently reading a lot on Buddhism, maybe I am just confused ;). Great blog … Looking forward to many interesting reads.

  18. I have just found your blog and website which I am in love with. I love your story. I have already made your Apple and Honey challah and Apple and Honey cake for Rosh Hashana. Both recipes are just delicious. I am looking forward to making more of your recipes.
    I would love to find a recipe that my late grandmother used to make. It is an apple strudel made with chicken fat and the “gribbiness” that you eat with chicken soup. I have searched online and in cooking books but cannot find the recipe or something similar.
    Look forward to hearing from you,
    Vicki

    1. Hi Vicki, I have made apple strudel before, but not one with schmaltz and gribenes. You may be able to substitute the fat in the strudel dough with schmaltz, but I have never tried it. Here’s my tutorial for making schmaltz and gribenes:

      link to theshiksa.com

      So happy you are enjoying the sites!

  19. I am a Family Nurse Practitioner and nurse for 30 years. I love food and love,love, love your site. I found it last night and made the pumpkin Challah. I turned out perfect. I find that so many health problems are caused by poor nutrition. People are so caught up their busy lives, they don’t cook. They don’t relax and enjoy the fellowship and joy of a delish shared meal. Thanks, I am enjoying your site.

  20. We celebrated our fiftieth wedding anniversary this month that we were thrilled to share with our adult “pizza bagel” children and our thirteen grandchildren. My love of everything food began when my father owned the local sandwich shop in 1950’s Brooklyn. This has continued for fifty years enriched by my husband’s Italian-American and my Ashkenazi roots. Our family celebrates Christmas and Hanukkah together each year. Now that we live in Florida and the “kids” are up north, I love feeding and entertaining friends of diverse backgrounds and ethnicities.

    Your website is a joy to have found and I am looking forward to your cookbook!

  21. Just discovered this wonderfully interesting site!
    Thank you! Looking forward to reading , learning & trying recipes. This is terrific.

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