Sunday, September 25, 2022

Livingston—With “Passover on the brain,” cookbook author and media personality Jamie Geller held a demonstration and tasting of recipes from her latest cookbook, “Joy of Kosher: Fast, Fresh Family Meals.”

The program was held at the Synagogue at the Suburban Torah Center and co-sponsored with Congregation Etz Chaim, also of Livingston, a move that Geller praised before she began her talk.

“I think it’s so amazing that two synagogues have come together for a program,” Geller told the crowd of nearly 80 women before starting her demonstration, adding that such unity “doesn’t often happen … [and] it’s a testament to a great community.”

Then it was on to the rest of the program, which interspersed stories of Geller’s life and career with advice on cooking and more.

Saying that she “doesn’t want to cook something for just one time a year,” Geller explained that her approach to cooking for Pesach is to cook recipes that are year-round favorites and then modify them for the holiday.

That she is now teaching others how to cook is probably a bigger surprise for Geller than anyone, as when she got married 11 years ago, she “didn’t know the difference between a saucepan and a spatula.”

Noting that her parents were from Transylvania and had moved to the Philadelphia region in 1963, Geller explained that her mother was “enthralled” by all the opportunities women in America had and encouraged her daughters to be successful.

“They sent me to great schools … I played soccer, basketball and I had big dreams for myself,” said Geller, who was raised in a traditional Jewish home.

Geller, who originally dreamed of being the next Barbara Walters, took a job at CNN working for an entertainment news program. As her career flourished, Geller’s mother—like any Jewish mother—encouraged her daughter to meet some nice Jewish boys, and at that time a lot of those guys were taking Judaism classes through a variety of Jewish organizations like Aish HaTorah.

So off Geller went to Torah class. And she was hooked.

“I was floored and blown away,” she said of her experience at a “real authentic Shabbas.”

Geller was so moved that she made the decision to keep Shabbat and began learning more and more about Judaism.

A few years later, after plenty of dating and a stint working on HBO shows like “The Sopranos” and “The Wire,” Jamie was introduced to Nachum Geller. Two weeks later they were engaged and two months later, just before Pesach, they were married.

“Quick and Kosher isn’t just the name of my [first] cookbook,” Geller quipped, “it’s a metaphor for my entire life.”

Geller, who lives in Israel with her husband and five children—with another on the way—also gave a shout out to the Center for Kosher Culinary Arts in Brooklyn, N.Y. which helped with the food preparation for the demonstration.

Program attendees came from West Orange, Teaneck and even New York City and were treated to a tasting that included short ribs, pastrami fried salad with creamy dressing, eggplant caviar and a chocolate mousse dessert made with fresh eggs and olive oil that had an initially skeptical audience going back for seconds and thirds.

Nadine Wruble and her daughter Dana are longtime fans of Geller and her cooking and were glad to see her cook in person.

“I just want to watch how she prepares the food,” said Nadine Wruble. “It’s much different than reading a recipe. I’m a visual learner and it’s much better to see someone do something. I am just so excited to bring some of Jamie’s ideas into my own kitchen.”

By Faygie Levy

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