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

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, 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 (210)Post a Comment

  1. The recipes for matbucha and Mooshi’s Eggplant Salad are wonderful! I didn’t have jalapeno peppers, so I used roasted pasilla peppers and roasted orange bell peppers, and the matbucha was outstanding! I’m not an “appetizer cook,” so both of these give me something I can make now to take to a potluck or to serve here at home.

  2. woow! super if were like u then then it will more super. you r very lucky 2 have this amazing grandparents. but like this i also have my grandparents like u but as u known there is only 1 difference u are forienger & me INDIAN . BYE! HAVE A GREAT JOB

  3. Hi Tori,

    Happy Passover. I loved reading your story and seeing photos of you with your bubby and zeda (grandmother and grandfather in Yiddish). As a stay at home dad, I do all the cooking in our home, and I appreciate you are considerate of those of us who keep kosher with your recipes…greatly appreciated. :-).

    My wife’s mother grew up in Hungary and her grandparents lived through the Holocaust. Her grandmother was one of Dr. Menege’s subjects, so she died at a young age. I am trying to get as many of her recipes before the family is all gone, since no one wrote down recipes. We need traditions for the kids.

    Keep us the awesome blog!

  4. Hi Tori ~
    Just wanted to throw my appreciation of your study, cooking and blog your way!! I just Google-searched Jewish Cooking one day, near Rosh Hashanah (I’m not only NOT a Shiksa (close a few times hahaha) and nor am I Jewish. I just too, have many friends who are and am very interested in history, food and religions – the origins of everything). My Swedish/English husband loves to cook and explore cultures this way with me, your recipes and instruction are AWESOME. I’m not positive but eating Mediterranean and Sephardic recipes just MAY BE the key to longevity and health! I love your recipes and share many on Pinterest, hopefully drawing people here too!
    Way to FOLLOW YOU BLISS!!

  5. I am a genealogist, and I do have some Avey relation in Wash. Ore. and Cally, but don’t have your G/Pa in the family tree. My linage came from Switzerland in 1731 to Maryland, any connection??

  6. Dear Toria,
    I was asked to make Hamantaschen this Purim and of course the recipe I received for it went odd (first time try).
    So I searched for the perfect recipe and I found yours, after following your minutious instructions mine turned out almost as perfect as in your pictures.
    I became an instant fan of yours, al throughout your blogyou are so gratious and full of joy. One can literally read through the lines how much you enjoy cooking and writing about it.

  7. “There is something quietly civilizing about sharing a meal with other people. The simple act of making someone something to eat, even a bowl of soup or a loaf of bread, has a many-layered meaning. It suggests an act of protection and caring, of generosity and intimacy. It is in itself a sign of respect.”

  8. Beautiful foods, beautiful site, beautiful woman, beautiful everything!
    I cooked Date Syrup Glazed Chicken for my family and it was like that moment in Ratatuille when Ego eats that dish that takes him back to his childhood…We almost had tears in our eyes. All of the recipes i’ve tried here are keepers.

  9. 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!

  10. 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

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

  14. 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!

  15. 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.

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

  17. 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

  18. 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!

  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. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

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