With her \’Totally Kosher\’ cookbook, Chanie Apfelbaum aims for a wider audience – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

(New York Jewish Week) Chanie Apfelbaum\’s latest cookbook, Totally Kosher, is filled with many inventive and flavor-packed recipes, such as miso matzo ball soup, brisket berbere, and pad chai, a version no prawns of the Thai staple.

But while the book is meant for observant kosher Jews like herself, Apfelbaum, who boasts 101,000 Instagram followers and runs the popular Jewish lifestyle blog Busy in Brooklyn, had a wider audience in mind. Her first book, Millennial Kosher, published in 2018, is now in its sixth printing and is available in nearly every Judaica store across the country. With her second effort, however, I wanted to reach a wider demographic, Apfelbaum, 42, told New York Jewish Week. I wanted to reach people who don\’t necessarily know what kosher is.

That\’s how Apfelbaum ended up publishing Totally Kosher with Clarkson Potter, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group and publisher of cookbooks by culinary megastars like Ina Garten and Alison Roman. When Raquel Pelzel, editorial director of Clarkson Potter cookbooks, approached Apfelbaum in 2019 about writing a cookbook meant as a celebration of kosher, as Apfelbaum recalls, she immediately said yes.

I was so excited, Apfelbaum said.

We haven\’t published a kosher cookbook in a long time, and with Instagram and social media, there\’s obviously a huge kosher community, Pelzel told New York Jewish Week. Not publishing a kosher cookbook seemed like a huge omission and a hole in our list.

When I\’m looking for authors, I\’m looking for someone whose recipes sound delicious and original and creative and who has a really strong voice and is clear who their audience is, Pelzel added. Chanie definitely has it all.

Apfelbaum\’s decision to go with a traditional publisher meant the book would appear in regular bookstores and not just Judaica stores, but the change came with some new challenges. One stumbling block was the publisher\’s decision to feature a large color photo of Apfelbaum on the back cover of the book, a decision that might be considered controversial in the Haredi Orthodox world, where many publishers refrain from showing photos of women in the interests of sexual modesty. (Apfelbaums\’ photo does not appear anywhere in Millennial Kosher, published by Artscroll/Shaar Press, which serves the haredi market. An ArtScroll spokesperson said that, to date, they have not included photographs of women in their cookbooks , but we\’re not against including pictures of women in our books.)

If my photo is on the back of the book, maybe Judaica stores won\’t really accept it, Apfelbaum recalled thinking when she was sent a mockup of the cover. I called friends in the publishing industry. I called Judaica stores and asked if my picture is on the back cover, are you going to bring the book? The responses, Apfelbaum said, have been mixed.

Still, she didn\’t back down or ask for a cover change. I was like you know what? I\’m doing it for my daughters, I\’m doing it for the women out there, she said. There is nothing wrong with having a picture of a Jewish woman on the back of the book. I\’m just doing it and I\’m behind it.

Fortunately, validation came quickly. When I walk down the street in my neighborhood [of Crown Heights]I pass Hamafitz Judaica and they have two books in the window one of my book cover, depicting my corned beef ramen, and one of the back.

Apfelbaum\’s mother, Devorah Halberstam, a leading member of the Crown Heights Chabad community, couldn\’t be more proud. Her eldest son, Ari Halberstam, was killed in 1994 when a man of Lebanese descent shot down a van full of Chabad Lubavitch students, killing Ari and wounding three others. Afterward, Halberstam fought tirelessly to formally classify her murder as a terrorist attack, which ultimately occurred in 2005. She was also a founder of the Jewish Children\’s Museum, dedicated to the memory of her son.

Of all people, Halberstam understands the power of a photo. Aris yahrtzeit [anniversary of his death], I tweet things out, she told New York Jewish Week, noting that her son passed away 29 years ago. I got 85,000 responses because I put her picture up there. The images make you stop. They make you pause.


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Photos, he added, personalize everything. A story is not a story without images. It makes it real. It comes to life.

Apfelbaum agrees, believing her decision to include photos of herself, her boys in their tzitzit (ritual prayer fringes), and her children around a table is a huge step forward in the Orthodox world.

I\’m doing this because I think this is something that needs to change, she said. Jewish women should be celebrated just like men.

As a child, Apfelbaum said, she followed the rules and was drawn to the creative world. I\’ve gotten really into the art projects for school, she said. I loved drawing and handcrafted and artistic things.

Apfelbaum\’s culinary journey began in 2002 when she was 22 and newly married. Apfelbaum\’s mother had been the cook in the Halberstam home, and she Apfelbaum grew up on what she calls brown food matzah meatball soup, fish gefilte, potato kugel. She arrived at her wedding skilled as a web designer but not knowing how to boil an egg. Her Syrian/Argentinian/Jewish mother-in-law introduced her to ingredients like rose water and dishes like empanadas, piquing Apfelbaum\’s interest.

When I first started cooking, I was always very artistic and looking for ways to give my food color and package it well, Apfelbaum said. I would make my mother\’s recipes. But when I started hosting friends and spreading the word, with menus and plated meals, I remember thinking, Wow, this is beautiful. Such a beautiful way to express my artistic side.

When Apfelbaum quit her job as a web designer after the birth of her third child in 2010, she poured her creative juices into her budding cooking and photography skills, and her family encouraged her to start her own blog. In 2011, she launched Busy in Brooklyn as she raised three children under 5, ran a home, and taught Hebrew while taking knitting and crochet lessons.

His first post, in January of that year, was for sautéed chicken cutlets topped with canned dark cherries. That same year, she held her first cooking class for teachers at her children\’s school.

In 2013, she enrolled in a program at the Center for Kosher Culinary Arts (now closed). I started looking for different cultural dishes and put my kosher Jewish twist on them, she said. She also attended a photography course.

The following year, her recipe for Drunken Hasselback Salami, a whole sliced ​​salami covered in a jam, brandy and mustard sauce, then cooked until crisp, went viral. That same year, she was featured on the front page of the Wall Street Journal for her creative spins on the traditional Ashkenazi Hanukkah treat, latkes. In 2015, she did the first of many out-of-town food demonstrations, traveling to Montreal to make harissa chicken sliders with preserved lemon carrot slaw and a marbled halvah mousse.

These recipes, among others, have become Millennial Kosher. And though Apfelbaum swore she\’d never write another cookbook because of all the work involved, that 2019 phone call from Clarkson Potter made her rethink her decision. Apfelbaum\’s global recipes like Nachos Bassar, nachos with hummus, Israeli salad and pickles and the way she bounces off trends that are happening in social media, in restaurants, as Pelzel describes it, are what drew the mainstream editor to Apfelbaum

From the first time I met Chanie, I knew why she was the obvious choice to make kosher cool, Apfelbaums mentor and fellow cookbook author Adeena Sussman told New York Jewish Week over text. She is wildly passionate about her food and her Jewishness, and she makes no apologies for either.


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Add to that her natural warmth, sense of humor, and willingness to share life\’s ups and downs with her followers, and you truly have a recipe for success, Sussman added.

And there have been many ups and downs: After signing her book deal in 2019, Apfelbaum became a single mom due to divorce. She was also hospitalized with COVID-19 (as one of her children) and lost her sense of smell and taste, at a time when no one knew it was a side effect of the virus.

Fortunately, Apfelbaum has since regained her sense of taste and smell, and remains very busy in Brooklyn and elsewhere. In July, she will lead a food tour of Italy where her group will make ice cream, hunt for truffles and taste olive oil. She hopes to continue the culinary journeys in the future. She just came out with a line of her own spices called TK (as in Totally Kosher) Spices; lei\’s first two products are yemeni spice mix, hawaijj one for savory foods and one for coffee, which has a sweet profile. With Totally Kosher now in its third printing, she is (finally) looking to hire an assistant and find a workspace away from home.

“There were many times where I said I didn\’t have the emotional bandwidth and the strength to do this book that I wanted to give up,” Apfelbaum said. My friends believed in me and pushed me and made it happen. When I look at this book, I see so much more than recipes. It has really been a journey for me.

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