About Tori Avey

About Tori Avey

Tori Avey weaves delectable tales with delicious recipes to create the perfect balance of wit, wisdom, and wonderment. She brings our culinary history to life and inspires our modern day kitchens with her timeless recipes. Every morsel is delicious!

-Mark Dacascos, The Chairman – Iron Chef America

Tori Avey has quickly become one of my very favorite food personalities on the web. She has made me appreciate the history of the foods we eat, and has inspired me to branch out beyond my culinary comfort zone. I absolutely love what she does.

-Ree Drummond, #1 NYT Bestselling Author of The Pioneer Woman Cooks

Welcome to my website! My name is Tori Avey. I’m a film and television producer, screenwriter, and food blogger. If you’ve found your way here, it’s probably because you love cooking. Me too! I am fascinated by the history of food and the stories behind our favorite recipes– why we eat what we eat, how cultural foods have evolved, and how yesterday’s recipes can inspire us in the kitchen today.

If you’re looking for a professional press bio, click here. If you’re wondering how the heck I got into this whole blogging thing, read on!

This website 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.

Tori Avey - ToriAvey.com

With my Grandma and Grandpa Avey

In my twenties, cooking became 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 food my Israeli husband grew up with—the Middle Eastern Sephardic cuisine of his mom, and the Russian Ashkenazi cuisine of his dad.

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.

Tori Avey - ToriAvey.com

In 2010, I started a food blog called “The Shiksa in the Kitchen.” As a writer who loves food, it was a natural progression. It was just a hobby at the start, a simple diversion. I had writer’s block while working on a novel, and I needed to shift gears for a few weeks, so I started a little cooking blog. 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. Over time, my nerdy side led me to create a place for exploring all facets of food history, from ancient Mesopotamian meals to the cocktails of Mad Men and everything in between. I gathered a group of distinguished contributors— food writers, professors, and cookbook authors who all shared an interest in historical cookery. Another blog, “The History Kitchen,” was born. Over time keeping up with two popular blogs proved complicated, so I ended up combining them here at ToriAvey.com. The rest, as they say, is history!

Food is a way of communicating; I believe the energy we pass on through our cooking feeds the body as well as the soul. By writing this blog, 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.

If you have found your way to my blog, you are probably somebody who loves food or history. This is a space for us to learn and grow together, inspired by our delicious past. I invite you to subscribe to my website for blog updates and the latest news. You can also friend me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. I love hearing from my cooking friends, and I do my best to respond in a timely manner to comments posted here on my website (I’m not always successful with that, but I do try!). I’m so please you are here and part of our growing cooking community.

Have a question? Please see my list of FAQ’s below.

Looking for my contact information? Click here!

Cooking with Friends

Cooking with Friends


Readers often email me random questions about the blog, my cooking, and life in general. I’ve compiled this list of the most frequently asked questions to help you get to know me better. If your question is not answered here, please feel free to contact me!

When did you start your blog? January 1, 2010

Where are you from? I grew up on the Central Coast of California. Now I live in Southern California with my husband, my sweet stepdaughter, our two pups Marley and Milo, our cat Muffin, three parrots and lots of koi fish… in other words, a small zoo.

How did you learn to cook? I learned to cook the old fashioned way from friends and family members who have generously shared their recipes and cooking know-how with me. I’ve also taught myself by reading cookbooks, particularly antique and vintage ones. I like knowing how to make dishes from scratch before I take any shortcuts. It provides a solid foundation and a deeper understanding of what a dish is supposed to taste like.

Me and Grandpa Avey

How did you become interested in food history? I’ve always loved history, a trait that my paternal grandparents passed down to me. My Grandpa Avey was a walking encyclopedia of historic knowledge. I caught the history bug at an early age, and I integrated it into every part of my life. I wrote historical stories as a kid and performed in Shakespearean plays as a teenager. I even dabbled in historical screenwriting. So when I started teaching myself how to cook, my first instinct was to find out the history behind the dishes I was cooking.

Does somebody take your photographs for you? I do most of my own photography; I do have a couple of photography contributors as well. I am not a trained photographer by any stretch of the imagination, but I do enjoy taking pictures. I use a Canon 5D Mark II for the “beauty shots” of my finished recipes. For the step-by-step photos, I use a Canon G12 point and shoot.

Can I use one of your photographs or blogs on my site and/or in my publication? All content (photographs, writing, and graphics) on this website is copyright protected, and cannot be used without my permission. If you would like to request permission, please contact me.

What is your favorite part about cooking? Nourishing others… and eating, of course! I love food. I always have. Case in point, check out this picture from my first birthday:

Nom nom nom…

How do you stay in shape when you blog about such rich dishes? It’s not easy! Especially since I hate working out. I think I’m allergic to exercise. Most of the time I eat pretty healthy Mediterranean and Sephardic style food. I indulge in rich dishes once in a while when I’m traveling or on holidays. When I notice my jeans fitting tighter than normal, I watch what I eat till I shed a few points. My husband and I have recently become addicted to bike riding, which helps. I also enjoy yoga. But I try not to stress about it too much. Life is there to be enjoyed. I subscribe to Julia Child’s motto – “Everything in moderation… including moderation.”

I try to provide a balance of both healthy and indulgent recipes on my website. I have a Healthy Food category for all of my lighter recipes, click here to take a look.

Where do your recipes come from? I feature original recipes that I’ve developed in my kitchen, taking what I’ve learned about spices, flavors and cooking techniques to create my own unique dishes. Some of the recipes featured on this site come from family, friends, and blog readers who submit their personal recipes along with their family story. Once in a while I share a recipe from a cookbook; a lot of my friends are cookbook authors, and I love to share their work. Many of my posts feature historical and vintage-inspired recipes; I also have several contributors that blog about food history. I never post a dish that I didn’t really enjoy eating– it has to taste great to make it onto my site. If it’s not something I’ve created myself, the source will be credited in the blog.

Do you have a cookbook? Not yet!

Are you Jewish? Yes, I converted to Judaism in 2010.

My conversion to Judaism

Why do you include a kosher key on your recipes? The vast majority of recipes on this website are kosher-style, meaning no pork or shellfish. I also do my best to keep dairy and meat recipes separate for the sake of my kosher readers. From time to time a contributor will share an article about a non-kosher ingredient or recipe; those posts are clearly marked “non-kosher.”

How did you learn so much about keeping kosher? Part of my conversion to Judaism included learning about the kosher laws. I also educated myself about the subject when trying to decide if keeping kosher was right for me. I do not keep kosher personally, and I am by no means a kosher expert, but I have learned quite a bit about the subject. I’m happy to share what I have learned with you. If you have a question, feel free to comment on my blog and ask!

Keeping it natural since age 6.

Do you have any hobbies besides cooking? I love to write and travel… and write about traveling! I especially love to visit other countries and try new foods I’ve never tasted before. I am also a screenwriter and family entertainment producer… yes, I lead a dual life as both a food blogger and a storyteller. Life is funny!

What is your favorite cookbook? This is a very tough question to answer. I love so many cookbooks, for so many reasons! I am a big fan of my late friend Gil Marks’ cookbooks as well as his historical research, so I must give him a mention here. I often blog about my other friends when their cookbooks are published. If I come across something great, I will blog about it to share it with all of you!

At a Greek Restaurant in Paris

I have a recipe and/or a family story I’d like you to blog about. Where can I submit it? I absolutely love hearing and blogging about family food stories! If you have a story and/or recipe you’d like me to consider, please submit it here.

Have a question you don’t see an answer to? Email me or comment me on the website and I will try my best to get back to you. My email inbox looks a lot like my spice drawer– full to overflowing– so if you don’t hear back from me please don’t take it personally. I try my best to keep up with all the emails, but sometimes I just can’t. Know that I read each and every email I receive, and I thank you for taking the time to write!

Comments (233)Post a Comment

  1. Hi Tori,

    I didn’t realize you were the Shiksa in the Kitchen. I actually wanted to send you a message because I’ve noticed you popping up ever ytime I have a food question on Google. So now I will move on from your grape leaves recipe and advice on getting skins off of almonds to a regular reader. Thank you for sharing your knowledge!!

  2. I found your blog looking for a way to cook garbanzo beans. I was reading about you and was delighted when you started talking about Israel and Judaism because I live in Israel and I also converted to Judaism. Also when you mentioned Gila Ronel, I was interested because I’ve been having serious health issues–I think it is mercury poisoning from amalgam fillings. Thank you for a wonderful blog.

  3. Hi Tori. I was looking specifically for the Andersen’s Pea Soup recipe and came across your article about it. I am excited to try it for myself. My wife and I went there in ’81 ( from Texas) and spent a week exploring up and down the coast. This soup made an indelible impression on me. But I always thought it had a dollop of sherry in it too. Was that an option, and not part of the main recipe? I have tried making my own imitations, with and without the sherry, and it was never right.

  4. Thankyou Tori, for your beautiful blogs and your very interesting recipes as well as the time you have taken to research their historical origins. I too, was influenced by my maternal grandparents who grew their own vegetables, and berries, and cooked from scratch, sharing their culinary skills with me. If we all ate whole food made from real ingredients…health and therefore happiness would bloom!

  5. Hi Tori!
    I found your website by looking up recipes for Challah bread. I am not Jewish but love , love Jewish and Kosher cooking. That’s from growing up in Brooklyn NY and visiting and eating at the myriad of deli’s and restaurants the city has to offer plus having many Jewish friends.
    I will be making this bread as soon as I get some fresh yeast. Looks divine! You are a beautiful young woman and blessings to you and your family!

  6. Hello Tori,
    I thank you for your blog. I am in the process of conversion (about to start classes in November). Have never been a baker or a cook. But as I embark on this journey toward Judaism, and interact more intimately with the community at my wonderful synagogue, I feel (as the daughter of a black woman and a white man) that one of the best ways to learn about a new culture is to learn how to bake the food of the culture. My mother agrees. :)

    So, from one shiksa to another, thank you.

  7. I have been a home baker for more than 40 years so when I was asked to make challah for Rosh Hashanah, it was not threatening even tho’ it would be a totally new item. The group, I was told, was about 50/50 Jew/Gentile, and everyone had a positive comment about the Apple Honey Challah. It was fun to make the challah, even tho’ it was 5+ hours start (proofing the yeast) until the second Challah was our of the oven. Thanks very much!

  8. I just made the apple challah for Rosh hashanah and had to say thank you. I couldn’t find my original recipe for it so I tried yours. It was as if you were standing in my kitchen and talking me through it! I snuck a small taste before I wrap it up for the holiday. Yummmm! I can’t wait to share it with my family.

  9. I love to bake and cook and surprisingly have a good reputation for delicious food and deserts,which I have always enjoyed preparing for birthdays, holidays & many dinner parties, therefore I am certainly very impressed reading about your interests, your family, your travels, your talents and also your conversion to Judaism, your are certainly amazing! At the moment I’m preparing the menu for Rosh Hashanah, I would love receiving a few suggestions with your recipes to do something a bit different than the previous holidays. Thank you so much for being a such a great “inspiration” sincerely Dorothy Goihman

  10. Thanks for your website! Came looking for some Israeli recipes and spotted the picture of Nazareth Village straight away (I’ve volunteered there for two years, and always get roped into the kitchen ;)) God bless, Kirsty

  11. Thanks for the crispy, seared salmon recipe! It was a wonderful success (for someone afraid of cooking fish)! It makes me look forward to enjoying more of your good work.

  12. Wow, what an amazing discovery!
    I discovered your blog after I soaked a whole bag of garbanzo beans overnight, cooked them the following morning, wanting to make falafel. Now only I have learned this is not the best way to go. Thankfully there are so many other things to make with them. Next time I will make falafel the way you suggest, thanks Tori 😀

  13. Thank you for the Washington Cake recipe! We needed a historically accurate recipe from the late 1700s-early 1800s to use to celebrate an event at the Historic Betts House. The Betts House was built in Cincinnati in 1804.

  14. Tori – I came to your site looking at clotted cream. I’ve read so much of the earlier English authors from Brontes, Austen to Elizabeth Gaskell and so many more. Often I read about grilling cheese over a fire and putting/smearing the cheese on bread. They show this process in the movie version of Wives and Daughters (1999). I have tried to find out about this process and have had no luck. It has led me to grill cheese straight on a skillet (no bread) which is unbelievably good. some say that you are cooking out some of the fats from the cheese. It is like the wonderful cheese on the top of a pizza but without all of the carbs and fuss of the pizza. Do you know anything about grilling cheese on long grilling forks over a fire? Did this practice follow the English colonists to America? Would George Washington have enjoyed such a tasty snack on some late night? Do you have any resources to find out any info on this? I understand if this is of no interest to you.

  15. Hi Tori,
    I stumbled across your site from a PBS website, and I was immediately hooked – for two reasons. First, I am completing my undergraduate this year in Nutritional Anthropology because I have the same fascination with food and culture that you describe. Second, You used the term “balabusta” which I had to look up and now love; I have a deep and abiding affection for words and their etymologies, so to have found a blog that incorporated my two major passions was a real score! Thank you for doing what you do, and for making a point to remember and record what history would whisk away.

  16. Dear Tori,
    I found you looking up a shakshuka recipe and decided to read the info about you. Normally, I just like to read and not comment but I wanted to tell you that the reason I was looking for the recipe is that, like you, my boyfriend is from Israel and I have become interested in Judaism and the foods that are from Israel. I really enjoyed reading about you!! Shalom!


  17. Dear Tori,

    I love your recipes keep it up! I cannot wait for new recipes. Every recipe that I tried worked wonderful!

  18. What a marvelous young lady you are. I love your recipes and your stories.
    my husband and I both enjoyed reading your father’s story.
    He sounds like a great man. and what marvelous Grand Parents you had, all the lessons they taught you.

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