Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett’s cookbook collection will amaze and inspire you

There are cookbook collections and then there are cookbook collections – numbers that boggle the mind and a depth that astonishes. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett has the latter type of collection, with over 14,000 volumes including a noteworthy subsection of Jewish cookbooks that numbers over 1,200. “I collect absolutely everything, I’m indiscriminate,” she recently explained to Tasting Table. “The issue isn’t whether they are good or bad, it’s that they exist.”

The Tasting Table article, written by none other than the amazing Leah Koenig, delves into the history of how the trailblazing NYU professor amassed this incredible cookbook library. At New York University, Kirshenblatt-Gimblett specialized in the fields of Yiddish culture and folklore, and was one of the first to acknowledge food studies as a serious academic discipline.

Since the bulk of her collection was created prior to the convenience of online shopping, Kirshenblatt-Gimblett had to be creative in how she sourced her books. This included scouring catalogs of rare and antiquarian books, making cold calls to discover community cookbooks published by synagogues or organizations, and even dumpster diving behind publishing houses. The result of this tremendous effort is a wealth of knowledge that is truly inspiring – so much so that when Kirshenblatt-Gimblett retired, her former colleagues and students, along with her friends, created a cookbook in her honor.

Although Kirshenblatt-Gimblett says she is indiscriminate in her collecting, that is not exactly true. When looking for new volumes to add to her library, she searches for books that are deeper than a mere grouping of recipes. “I’m intrigued by the range and variety of them, and what that represents,” she said. “I’m interested in them as Jewish material culture—the culture of the table, the home, and of women.”

Barbara will be speaking at a Gale lecture tomorrow Sunday February 28, 6:00PM EST / 5:00PM CST / 3:00PM PST. She will talk about her Jewish cookbook collection. Register here.

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  • manycookbooks  on  February 28, 2021

    Very impressive! I have 6,658 cookbooks, but I admire Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett ! Like her, 95% of mine were located through estate sales, garage and yard sales, donations from people, who knew of my collection, etc. Many people read “history” books to learn about a culture. For me, cookbooks are history and I read them. A bonus is the recipes!

  • Barb_N  on  February 28, 2021

    I signed up for this webinar but was unable to join as they didn’t provide a password or ID. Very dissapointing

  • Barb_N  on  March 1, 2021

    I was finally able to log on about 20 minutes after it started. It was very interesting to hear an in depth analysis of early Kosher Gourmet cookbooks.

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