About Tori Avey

About Tori Avey

Welcome to my website! My name is Tori Avey. I am fascinated by the story behind the food– why we eat what we eat, how cultural foods have evolved, and how yesterday’s recipes can inspire us in the kitchen today.

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. 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; 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.

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, YouTube 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. Join our growing culinary community as we explore the history of food!

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… 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 have recently upgraded to a Canon 5D Mark II, which I use 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? My favorite part about cooking is 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 share 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 food or dish; 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 feature some of my favorite titles in my online market, so you can go there to see for yourself.

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 (201)Post a Comment

  1. As someone who writes about both intermarriage and food, I love your blog and can’t wait to see your book! I’m going to link it to my site — if you’d like, please consider doing the same! Also, if you send me your e-mail, I will send you a column I wrote last year about the “shiksa” moniker.

    1. Julie Wiener – what is your blog? Both topics are extremely important to me and I would love to see more.


  2. Tori,

    Love the project, I am adding to our list of linked blogs (jewishfood.wordpress.com) and wanted to know if you would be interested in being listed.


  3. I am also in a mixed marriage and have learned by trial and error to cook for my husband. My sister in law told me I make better matzo balls than her………..mine are much more fluffy and tasty but I told her it is because I don’t follow a recipe, I add or even sometimes subtract something to make mine a little different……..what I did with them is add a few things……….I just made my soup and balls last week……..my husband wanted to eat it all week so I guess I better make it more often. So happy to have found your site and recipes.

    1. Carol, I promise this in the most positive tone, without judgement or anger, just a tiny bit of frustration….

      Tori is not in a mixed marriage. She is a Jew.

      There. I said it. Breathe.

      Brachot V’Shalom,

  4. I love to explore new foods and love to cook! I am excited to follow your blog and learn about the different recipes!

  5. Thanks so much for providing a welcoming, friendly, fun piece of the spirituality that we never want to lose, our heritage, our traditions. I once made latkes for a non-Jewish male friend~who promptly covered them with (of ALL things!) Ketchup! Arghhh. That was it. I dumped him faster than than a volcano-hot knaidlach! My husbands background is culturally close….Russian, Polish, and German. All in his family that we know of made it here before the war, very fortunately. His family even served in the Military in saving the victims of Concentration Camps and he, too is Military. For that deep goodness he has, and from generations before him, I am delighted to please him with food from our shared history.

  6. How can I link your blog to my website? Was directed here not only for your great recipes but also your photography.. Mazel Tov!
    I’m going to try the falafel soon..with my tzatziki ;)

  7. I read your blog because I too am a Shiksa. My favorite food is yet to be determined as I haven’t found one I don’t love. Your blog is very helpful. Thanks!

  8. Favorite Jewish Food: Kosher Sushi!
    Why I read this Blog: As a kosher mother of 5 school aged kids, I appreciate your lively and refreshingly different take on a subject never far from my mind!

  9. My favorite Jewish food is probably Latkes or Blintzes! I read your blog because I love hearing your stories about travel and learning about the recipes, etc. The way you write, makes your readers feel like they are a part of it! :)

  10. My favorite Jewish foods are Chopped Liver and Sweet Noodle Kugel….My Grandmother made the most delicious Chopped Liver and my mother made the sweetest and creamiest Noodle Kugel…..the reason I read your blog is because you show in exact detail how to make these great recipes….I also read your blog because both my Grandmother and my Mother have both passed and I always wanted to cook like them and you make all of those great dishes that I grew up with and miss just like I miss these two great woman! Thank you so much for your great blog and all the hard work you put into it…..it’s appreciated more than you know!

  11. My favorite Jewish food is Ful Maddamas (have been eating it like crazy since I found your recipe)! What makes your blog special is the care and love you show in detailing the history of each delicious recipe.

  12. Hi Tori!
    I so enjoy your website. I love cooking and trying new things from other cultures. I really like themed dinners. Also, I’m really excited that I can share your recipes and the stories behind them with my boys who are 6, 4, and 2. We had so much fun making the Hannukkah dreidels together!
    I like everything you put on here that I’ve made, especially challah bread because I am a carbohydrate fanatic, and I am looking forward to trying those little powdered doughnuts!! Thanks a lot!

  13. I don’t know if I have a favorite Jewish food. I suppose if I must choose it would be potato latkes.
    Why do I read this blog? Well, I am a born again Jew and love to hear your tales and recipes!

  14. Favorite Jewish Food:
    CHALLAH. Hands down. Most. Comforting. Food. Ever. When I bake challah (usually with a pot of my Mom’s chicken soup and matzo balls), it makes the whole house smell delicious and then I really feel like I’m at home.

    Why I Read Shiksa in the Kitchen:
    I love reading about your experiences, and of course your recipes- food is always most interesting in a social context : )

  15. I love Jewish food that Kravit’s Deli has made by women and men who do not own any measurement tools other than their hearts. Their recipes are not written down. They remind me of my Italian recipes that I learned from my mom and generations of my mom that I memorized by watching and doing.

    I like your blog cause you blend all of the above together and it makes sense.

  16. Aunt Rose’s Noodle pudding is my favorite Jewish dish, recipe from my Jewish friend Shirley Spitzberg. It is good both hot and cold. Very much similar to a noodle kugel.

    I subscribe to the Shiksa blog because I like the history of the recipes you give and the step by step directions both written and in pictures. I am not Jewish, but I have a lot of Jewish friends that I met in different studies about Judaism. I wanted to know more about my Jewish roots in order to read the Bible with a different perspective. I also like the way you present things because you are learning something new to you and you want to share it. You explain things so well. Thank you for being there.

  17. My family history and traditions were based around meals at holidays. My Grandmothers were both great cooks and my Mom passed it on to me. My husband and I changed our holidays to Holy Days and we have made new traditions. Your blog is so full of information of History and recipes, two of my favorite things. I was always looking for unleavened bread recipes and Kosher foods because they are from clean sources. Keep up the good work. It’s hard to pick one favorite food,but I do like latkes and challah. I have a recipe like your Missouri cookies I make for Unleavened Bread.

  18. I stumbled upon your blog, and have enjoyed reading it. I keep a kosher home and love to cook- so any recipe peeks my interest. Your stories are great and you make people feel a part of your journey.

    My favorite “Jewish” foods are chicken soup ( a Friday night staple in my home, even if it’s 100 degrees outside) and matzoh brie ( good all year round, not just on Passover).

    Thanks for sharing, and keep up the blog it’s great!!

  19. I really enjoy reading your blog, its history mixed with great food! My favorite jewish food is chicken soup with knaidlach!

  20. Hi– I love your blog! Noticed the Shiksa name first (love it!) …. I’m Jewish, married a Chinese man. Our two girls are “Chewish” and I look to your site to help them out with a bit of their Jewish identity. My favorite dish is Noodle Kugel– I remember my mom making it as a dessert with cinnamon and sugar. YUM!

  21. Hi Tori! My favorite food is ice cream! I follow your blog to see your recipes. You make many of the same foods I do, especially for the holidays, but I’m always looking for something new! The sweet kugel you posted with the beaten egg whites and graham cracker topping, I’ve been making for at least 15-20 years. I enjoy reading your recipes.

  22. Ok, I don’t have just one favorite jewish food! I know ice cream is not considered “Jewish” per se. Some of my fav Jewish foods are: Chopped Liver, Matzah ball soup, brisket and Kasha Varnishkes, all of which I make from scratch!

  23. My favorite is chopped liver. Or Kishka. hmm or corned beef. Hard to pick.

    I love your website. I am in a also mixed marriage. My husband is the goy though. He has learned all of the Jewish food and loves it all. Well maybe he hasnt aquired the taste for gefilte fish. At our temple he is very welcome and called the honorary Jew.

    You are doing a great job!!!!

  24. My favorite Jewish food is (in my opinion the ultimate Jewish comfort food ) chicken soup and matzah balls. My son refers to this as ” Jew Food” My husband and our guests refer to my chicken soup as ” liquid gold.” Second runner up is Beef and Sweet Potato Tzimmes ( I only make this at Rosh Hashanah). I love the Shiksa blog for it’s new twists on old Jewish recipes. I love to cook but get tired of making the same thing. I get so excited when you come out with some new, eclectic version of an old classic. I am also in an interfaith marriage ( I’m Jewish and my Hubby was raised Catholic) We got to shul and people just love him:) It’s never been the Jew/ Catholic thing for us…It’s been the Northern/ Southern thing for us! ( I’m from Boston, he’s from Richmond) My husband hated gefilte fish so I started experimenting on ways to get him to eat it. Two words…..Barbecue sauce. I bake a loaf of gefilte fish slathered in barbeque sauce and he loves it. I actually deep fried it once as well. LOL. Todah for your all your hard work. Catherine

  25. My favorite Jewish foods are Matzah Brie and Chicken Noodle Soup because it brings back a lot of good memories from my childhood.

    I read the Shiksa in the Kitchen Blog because you have a refreshing take on foods that I no longer thought of as special. Your excitement rubs off and makes me want to once again make and eat things I stopped making and eating years ago. I also love your recipes – they are precise, easy to follow, and delicious.

    Can’t wait for the book!

  26. My favorite Jewish food (like you can pick just one) are Lattkes…or is it Kugel…or maybe Brisket.

    I enjoy your blog for the recipes and learning more of my Jewish heritage. I was adopted by a gentile family, but interestingly enough, given a Hebrew name. Later found by birth mother…who is Jewish! There are no coincidences…

  27. Hi Tori:

    My favorite Jewish food is noodle kugel. I had to make it in 9th grade as part of a pot luck for our English class. I went to Temple the first time in 9th grade with our public school English class. I was raised Pentecostal and Catholic but always loved reading about the Jews and their triumphs over everything. I read Exodus, the book, not the chapter in the Torah or Bible in 6th grade. Some day I will take Jewish classes to learn more about my adopted heritage.

    I also love reading the stories behind the food. I keep telling my international loving husband, who won’t eat anything but meat and potatoes or KFC, that we will be trying some of these recipes. I did get him to take a bite of noodle kugel from Zingerman’s deli in Ann Arbor, Michigan and he loved it.

    Thank you for writing about your journey!!

  28. My favorite Jewish Food hands down is my grandma’s Jewish Cheesecake! The whole family loves it and I have some wonderful memories as a young child of her baking it and my grandfather trying to hide most of it for himself!

    I enjoy your blog very much so for the recipes and the stories you share. My grandparents were lucky to survive the Holocaust and they died when I was very young. Your sharing helps me to learn the recipes so I can then share with my daughters; it brings back some very fond memories of my grandmas cooking and special times I shared with her in the kitchen helping and learning traditional foods from her.

  29. *thinks* Too many favorites to pick just one…hmmmmm….brisket? Falafels? I love your blog because it has the best recipes and it’s funny and sweet. Take care!! <-not a writer :D

  30. I love learning new recipes and I came across your blog and loved it! I have jewish roots and love to learn about the culture and food. I wasn’t raised Jewish but I have found that isn’t unusual. Keep up the Great work!

    My favorite recipe is lattkes.

  31. I am not sure which is my favorite Jewish food…I love Lattkes; but, am too new at learning about Jewish food to declare a winner! I have always been interested in Jewish food, but have never had a resource to find out about it. Now that I’ve found Shiksa in the Kitchen Blog I am learning about all sorts of delicious foods that I have never even heard of before now. I’ve love it! Thank you.

  32. To pick a favorite Jewish dish is like asking me to pick my favorite movie…so many wonderful choices, it all depends on my mood.

    I have to say that I love a good knish. So simple yet so delicious. You can’t go wrong with brisket. I never met a brisket I didn’t like. Yet, I think the simple deliciousness of Lox on bagel can’t be beat. Matzo ball soup might have to take the top spot…and the baked goods, oh don’t even get me started!! I can’t choose just one thing, but the more acquainted I get with Jewish cuisine the more I am loving it.

    I just found you blog and need to catch up reading everything but I am loving it so far!! I am only recently learning about Jewish cuisine and customs. I grew up in Pennsylvania and we were more liking to be eating food of the Amish than that of the Jews, but moving to Los Angeles over 4 years ago I was introduced to a variety of people groups and cuisines and of course was taking to my first Jewish deli!!! I now dream in Matzo!!!

    I can’t wait to read of your blog and learn more about the delicious cuisine and the customs of the Jewish faith! I love that you make cooking and learning so approachable and fun. It’s amazing to learn the history behind the foods and why certain things were made and what they honor. I love that you put your heart into everything you make and how you are shining a light into a culture that most of us gentiles have been kept in the dark . Can’t wait for your book to come out and I can’t wait to cook up some of these delicious dishes. Stay sassy you Shiksa goddess!!

  33. My favorite is Kasha with noodles. But I am a sucker for good Latkes. Callah has to be right there too.
    I stumbled upon you blog by accident actually while to doing some research and now can’t leave. I love the history and the receipes.

  34. Being Irish Catholic, I don’t get a lot of opportunity to cook some of the great recipes in your blog but I do love the Kugel. And Latkes. My husband is a meat and potatoes guy though I do sneak in some italian and mexican and even chinese dishes. I also love the challah ,bupke and we both love chicken soup! I am going to keep trying new recipes little by little.

  35. Challah Bread and Latkes are my favorite Jewish food. Good staples. I like your site for tying together family and food. It should be a time of togetherness, as hard as it is in today’s busy world. I really enjoy the historical facts you post also. I learn something new everyday!

  36. I really enjoy new recipes. My sister lived in New Jersey and she would always make Matzo balls…oh…they were my favorite. Then we would go to the bakeries and get Jewish Rye Bread…I could not stop eating it!! I look forward to making some recipes from your website!! Thanks for all your hard work!

  37. I love your blog………I have been living in East Texas for over 27 years and I am from Montreal originally. My grandmothers were European so I grew up eating “real” jewish dishes from scratch. It never occurred to me that my life would change so much when I moved. I know live in an area where soul food and southern style food is the choice. When I read your blog and go to your site it brings back so many wonderful memories. I really appreciate you and your blog.

  38. To be honest don’t know if this is Jewish or not “Pierogis” made by my Polish grandmother and taught to me by an old friend who was Hungarian. Started to read your blog because I am an adament cook and love to learn new ways and especially learning the old ways of cooking. So far I am really impressed by your blog and look forward to continuing with it.

  39. I enjoy your blog, and hope to try some of the yummy looking food you have pictured here. I’ve never really tried Jewish food, but I’m interested in learning about it, and trying your recipes as I love to cook and bake and am always looking for new dishes to try.

  40. I’m starting my Living a Jewish Life year while considering conversion, and so far our family favorite is challah. My son thinks it tastes like pound cake, and of course the bonus of fantastic French toast doesn’t hurt!

    I’ve just found your recipe, and if I’m brave, will be giving it a try in our tiny kitchen.

    I’m glad your blog is here and I’m pretty sure I’ll be ordering a copy of your book. :-D

  41. Hi Tori!

    I’m a Shiksa too! I learned to cook Jewish food from my Russian Jewish mother-in-law, Ida, who didn’t criticize the attempts of a Sicilian-French girl but made suggestions, ” Did you ever try it with…” and therefore made me a better cook (and Balabusta)!

    I love chicken chopped liver and would appreciate a recipe because we usually get it at a Kosher deli. I also love chicken soup with matzoh balls and potato latkes, but I make those!

    I follow you on Face book. Shabbat Shalom!

  42. Oops! I forgot to say why I love your blog!

    There are so many varieties of Jewish food because of the Diaspora or Galut גלות. Your blog (with all the photos and background information) is like standing next to Jewish mothers and Bubbes from all over the world who tell us a little story while they make their special dishes!

  43. I think my favorite food is Kubbeh Soup.

    I enjoy your blog, because of your approach to Jewish food. Many of us grew up eating only what our families cooked. but there is a whole world of Jewish food out there. Keep up the good work!

  44. My favorite food was/is my Grandmother’s Kugel, unfortunately she is no longer around to make it for me and I can’t seem to get it right when I make it. I keep trying though

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