Mina Pachter's Cookbook in
"In Memory's Kitchen: A Legacy from the Women of Terezin"
(reprinted with permission of the publisher)
Food Editor's Notes: In anticipation of the upcoming Holocaust Remembrance Day, I took down from my shelf a book that a friend had given me a few years ago, In Memory's Kitchen: A Legacy from the Women of Terezin. This small but powerful volume describes the brutal conditions in Terezin (German name: Theresienstadt), a way station to Auschwitz and other death camps, and presents the recipes that the women of Terezin managed to write down on scraps of paper as they went about their lives as best they could, with memories of cooking for their loved ones and the hope that one day they would be able to do so again. Reading this book was heartbreaking, yet inspired me to attempt some of the recipes, to recreate just a little of what life might have been like for these women before the war and to honor their memories by helping to pass on a piece of their legacy. I tried two of the recipes, Omelet with Apples and Vanilla Cake, and both were delicious, despite the certain inaccuracies in my cooking due to the translation of amounts and the brief instructions. The original recipe for the Omelet with Apples is printed below as it appears in the book, followed by my comments with more detail so that you can recreate this dish in your own home.
Omelet with Apples
3/8 liter milk, 25 decagrams flour, 2 egg yolks, 1 spoon sugar, salt, 2 decagrams yeast, mix well. Then stir in 2 egg whites [stiffly beaten to] snow. Let stand covered in a warm place. Peel and grate apples on a grater to mix in [to batter]. Now with a ladle [of batter poured] into boiling fat, fry omelets. Fold and sprinkle well with sugar and cinnamon.
1.6 cups (375 ml) milk
8.75 ounces flour
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon sugar
Dash of salt
0.7 ounces yeast (almost 3 packets)
2 egg whites
1 1/2 apples (but you could use more)
Butter or oil (I used butter)
Mix together in a bowl the milk, flour, egg yolks, sugar, salt, and yeast. Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl until stiff. Fold into the first bowl. Let stand covered in a warm place while you peel and grate the apples. Mix them in to the batter. (Add the apples in steps as you grate them, to keep them from discoloring.) Melt a good amount of butter in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat. Spoon enough batter into the pan to make a round pancake, approximately 6 inches in diameter. When it is firm enough to lift with a spatula and browned on the bottom, turn the pancake over and cook on the other side. You'll need to figure out the proper burner temperature so that you don't overcook the outsides before the inside has a chance to cook. Repeat until the batter is used up, adding extra butter as necessary.
More Notes: I made one omelet – they were really like pancakes to me – at a time, and the batter made six altogether. They were quite big and hearty and fed 5 of us, including 3 young teenage boys, for supper. The boys used either cinnamon and sugar or powdered sugar on top and all 3 said I should make this recipe again. My husband, though touched by the reason behind my making this dish, was not quite so enamored of the flavor, mainly due to the taste contributed by the large amount of yeast. Liberal doses of the sprinkled toppings masked this for the rest of us, and I would indeed make this recipe again. It is quite amazing that just 2 eggs, less than 2 cups of milk and 2 apples, could result in such a large output of "omelets."
In Memory's Kitchen: A Legacy from the Women of Terezin was published by Jason Aronson Inc (New Jersey and London) in 1996. It was edited by Cara De Silva and translated by Bianca Steiner Brown, with a foreword by Michael Berenbaum. The book contains the relevant history of Terezin, Mina's Cookbook of dozens of recipes plain and fancy, practical notes on ingredients and amounts, and poems and letters written by Mina Pachter, along with a short biography of her life. Click here to read more about the book and to purchase it.
Omelet with Apples