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. My blog The Shiksa in the Kitchen features original recipes, cooking tips, historical tidbits and family food stories. My other blog The History Kitchen is a deeper exploration of food history and culinary culture.

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. 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.

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

FAQ’S

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, and our two pups Marley and Mo.

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 get this question a lot, which I must admit is very flattering! I do most of my own photography. 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. 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. In The History Kitchen, my contributors and I share historical and vintage-inspired recipes. 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.

If you’re Jewish, why is the Jewish section of your website called The Shiksa in the Kitchen? Read why here.

Why do you include a kosher key on your recipes? I include the kosher key on The Shiksa in the Kitchen blog out of respect to my Jewish readers who keep kosher. All recipes in that section 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. I do not have a kosher key on recipes in The History Kitchen because it is not a kosher website, though I do offer kosher modifications to recipes whenever possible.

My conversion to Judaism

Do you keep kosher? No, but I do blog about kosher recipes in The Shiksa in the Kitchen section of the site for the sake of my readers who keep 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 am by no means a kosher expert, but I have learned quite a bit about the subject, and 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 sometimes.

At a Greek Restaurant in Paris

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.

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 is constantly 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 (191)Post a Comment

  1. What a wonderful website! I have been lucky enough to connect with a high school friend who is Jewish…..We are not in the position to make this a legitimate relationship, but I love the fact that I’m learning so much about his culture

  2. Hi Tori,
    I tried to email you last week asking permission to use your latke recipe and pictures for a term paper presentation, but haven’t heard back.

    I know you’re busy, but I need to know by the end of this weekk, if possible.

    Thanks for your time, and Chag Sameack,
    Softa

  3. Hi Tori

    This is a wonderful site! My wife and I are both Jewish (I was born in Israel and she converted as well). I’ve been taking over more of the cooking responsibilities lately and I think this site is fantastic. Keep up the good work!

  4. Terrific blog. It was great learning more about you here. Thank you for all your great recipes, they have helped to make my life in the kitchen easier.

  5. Thank you 1000 times I just returned from Israel where every trip begins with a bowl of Yemenite beef soup. Until today, when I tried your recipe I had not come close enough. But today I have a huge smile on my face, you nailed it perfectly. Now, if only I could make the wounderful pancake like bread,
    “lechouch” (gutteral Hebrew ch)

  6. hi there! i stumbled onto your blog randomly the other day when i googled “quinoa bowl” and found your black bean quinoa recipe…it was delicious, and so was the shawarma that i made the next day!

    just wanted to say that your site is terrific, and i look forward to reading more of your articles and their accompanying recipes! i have a pretty similar philosophy as you when it comes to food (though i don’t keep kosher) and it’s as if your list of recipes was compiled just for me! keep up the great work :)

  7. Well Love ur blog and the way you represents recipes. I have recently started my food blog and it’s so true that you said “Every Kitchen has it’s heritage.” Shiksa is related Hindi word as Shiksha which means Knowledge and your content with it.

    Keep up the good work :)

  8. Just stumbled upon your blog because I was looking for creative ways to peel tomatoes and I found so much more! I recently did a family ‘heritage’ cook book and it was so interesting to research food history, like Cholent for example. My blog is not a Jewish food blog, and we do eat shellfish in my family, but you should take a look if you’re interested “http://galleykitchengourmet.blogspot.com/” The Galley Kitchen Gourment (I live in Manhattan, hence the ‘Galley Kitchen’)

  9. Thank you for providing so many Sephardi recipes. I was raised in a kosher home. My folks were holocaust survivors from Poland originally. Most of our meals were of the high fat/low fiber variety. (My father ate a banana for the first time at age 81. ‘Its not bad’ he said). North African and Middle Eastern foods are the antidote to Ashkenazi fare. Keep those deliciously spicy veggie recipes coming!

  10. Dear Tori,
    thank you so much for your wonderful recipes! We live in Guadalajara MX and I’ve been craving Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food since we moved here. So, for my daughter second birthday I decided to cook it myself, since it is impossible to find it here. It was a great success, thanks to your nicely explained, delicious recipes.

  11. Just found your website while talking to our granddaughter who just returned from Birthright Israel. We asked if she had eaten shakshuka in Israel, and she said that in 10 days, she had eaten it seven times! So I googled for a recipe and yours came up…I printed it out and we’ll definitely try it tomorrow morning. Lovely blog; I’ll be reading it.

  12. I got up at 6 this morning and got out all the ingredients for shakshuka, quietly prepped all the veggies and measured everything out…got the sauce going nicely and let it simmer for a bit, then called the family to breakfast in 20 minutes. Eggs onto the sauce, coffee brewing, leftover baguette slices under the broiler, and VOILA!….our shakshuka breakfast! It was delicious and we’ll definitely do this again. Thinking of serving this as a light supper after the matinee of “Chicago” at a wonderful local theatre, maybe with tabouleh and roasted asparagus, arugula and avocado salad?

  13. Hi Tori, interesting to read your opinion on what judaism is all about, thank you for sharing it :) A good friend of mine just finished conversion ( orthodox) and made alyah recently. Did you get an ortodocs conversion and have you ever considered making alyah?

    1. Hi Amalie, I converted Reform and have no plans for an Orthodox conversion. My husband was born in Israel and we visit there frequently, but I do not have plans to move there at this time.

  14. Found you while looking for chopped liver, you use chicken, I want to use beef, so I’m hoping it’s inter-changeable, also I’m wondering why you are not using Nyafat,? I thought that was a staple,, love the site, will visit often, also a Shiksa, trying to impress my husband.

  15. You can use beef liver instead of chicken, although the chicken livers make a lighter spread. We used to use rendered chicken fat and then switched to Nyafat, but I’ve been using mayonnaise for years and it works very well. Be sure to sauté the onions slowly so that they will bring a sweet rather than harsh flavor to the chopped liver. Good luck!

  16. Can U help me. I live just outside Buffalo NY. My son (38) lives in N.C. my mom (bubbie) and I went down and he asked us to share some recipe’s. My mom and him made Kasha & vanishka’s (?) we also made potato pancakes. I have been looking in my area for (sp) hamishi farfel??? I remember that as a child haven’t had it in years. Am i spelling it right? can you give me an idea where i can get it? Thanks

    1. Hi Cheryl, I live in California so I’m not sure I can help. Out here, farfel is available at most normal grocery stores in the kosher section. If that’s not the case where you live, I would suggest finding a local kosher market (Google kosher markets in your area), they are sure to carry it.

  17. Just when I think I’ve seen it all, I find another product on amazon.com! Go to that site and find all the farfels you could use in a lifetime, including the Haimeshe farfel you were looking for. Kosher products are available in Seattle, but not generally and definitely not at a reasonable price farther out east of there, so I’m tempted to put in my order at amazon.com myself. I hope this helps.

  18. Came across you by accident and am now hooked! FYI, shiksa has always had different connotations. At the most elementary level, simply a non-Jewish woman (and yes, invariably that a Jewish man was involved with). Quintessential shiksa? Uma Thurman, as in stunning blonde Amazon. For me, coming from a different time, being referred to as looking like a little shiksa simply meant that the next time they came for us, I could pass.

  19. I was at a lunch today and everyone was raving about your challah bread recipe … While not Jewish, my youngest kids go to a wonderful temple school where we keep kosher. I can’t wait to try your challah bread and will link up to your site on my blog! Can’t wait to dig in …. carolina buia, chicksinaprons.com

  20. Hello Tori

    Thanks for an informative blog.

    I’d like to know how to prepare for a Jewish person coming to my house for dinner. If my kitchen is not kosher, what can I do? Also what are the guidlines for preparing kosher food? Can I assume that vegan food or vegan restaurants are also kosher?

    Thanks so much.
    Sylvia G.

    1. Hi Sylvia, kosher is a bit more complicated than that. Here is a clear explanation of the basics: link to theshiksa.com It really depends on who your guest is and “how kosher” they keep (there are varying levels of observance). Hope that link helps you!

  21. My granddaughter Abigail is a marvelous vegetarian cook. Her eggplant blog is fabulous…she takes pictures of all the kinds of eggplants she finds in the market and then creates wonderful recipes using them. Every step of her process is pictured accompanied by her delightful comments. Here’s the link to the blog:
    Aubergenius
    theaubergenius.blogspot.com

  22. Thanks for Seared Salmon with Creamy Dill Sauce recipe
    In the coming Sabbath want to try to do.
    Best wishes from Israel!
    Good luck!

  23. Just discovered your website doing a search for brisket recipes. Spent the last hour going through it laughing, remembering, printing recipes and generally enjoying it. You have a great site, a great attitude and what looks like a rich life. Congrats. As one who grew up in Hawaii, I never really knew much about Jews and until I was about 20, never knew any of my friends or acquaintances (or 2 bosses) as Jewish. I only knew them as good, caring people, who loved life, family, food and music and treated me well…in one case as if I was their offspring. It was only when I went to the Mainland for graduate school that I was introduced to Jewish folk and became aware of the culture/religion/race, food and history and the discussion/debate about it all, a conversation that happened often as I tried to learn about my new friends and acquaintances. Like you I love history and was fascinated by this exposure and like your blog reflects saw many different sides of it. I too did not learn the phrase Shiksa as being a positive one nor goy or numerous others. As someone who grew up multiethnic in a very multiethnic culture, it was a bit of a rude awakening especially being judged by others with preconceptions. (I was lucky that people generally dont know what Hawaiians look like and have a positive perspective of our culture.) The fact that I was willing, able and open to being friendly with everyone won me “points” and friends across the spectrum. But I also learned the pain of falling for a Jewish girl and being told that we can date but never progress because her family would not accept it. That was 30 years ago so it seems that times have changed which is great. Your site, especially the recipes, brought lots of that back….so thank you. I can actually make a few of the things that I got exposed to in those early years….a pretty cool takeaway.

  24. Hello Tori,

    I am not getting mail from you any more!! I love your recipes. Thank you for sharing with us.
    warmest regard

    1. Hi Sara, I’m sorry about that! When my site transitioned over a few subscribers seemed to have gotten lost in the shuffle. I’ll resubscribe you now. Thanks for reading!

  25. grrrrr – i appear to be one of the people who was lost during the transition. if possible, could you please re-add me to the subscriber list?
    thanks!

    1. Just subscribed you J, make sure you click the confirm link in the email. If you don’t see it in your inbox, check spam and add the address to your safe list. Let me know if you have any trouble!

  26. Hello Tori, I am still awaiting for your delicious recipes, but so far you have lost me. I sent you a notice on June, and now is August. Perhaps you are off for Holiday. Have a wonderful summer.

  27. Hello Tory, It is fine if I do not receive your mail, I can find it on the internet. I have a request though, is it possible to show me how to eat fresh Salmon eggs. I can see how it is been cured on youtube, but am afraid of the word Borax. to me sounds like I am washing the eggs. Is there any other way to prepare fish eggs. please help. Thank you

    1. Hi Sara, it is strange I have resubscribed you twice now, you are definitely in the system. Have you checked your spam folder? If you find the letter in there please make sure that subscriptions@toriavey.com is added to your safe list. As for salmon eggs I’m afraid I can’t be much help, I have never cured them before.

  28. Found your site looking for Fried Green Tomatoes. I am very glad I did. So now I’m going to try that down here in New South Wales, Australia.
    Thank you.
    Pete

  29. Tori, I love your blog and your recipes! Your felafel recipe was a big hit with the family. Thanks for sharing all the good stuff!
    L’Shanah Tovah!

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