About the Book
When writer, photographer, and home cook Marcia Friedman converted to Judaism, her journey to connect with Jewish history and culture naturally led to her kitchen—already a touchstone to the Italian-American foods of her childhood growing up with a half-Sicilian father. Thus began Meatballs and Matzah Balls, Friedman’s endeavor to explore the union of Jewish and Italian life through food and to recreate, as well as reinterpret, classics and craft her own Jewish-Italian culinary tradition.
In Meatballs and Matzah Balls, Friedman shares reflections on her childhood, family, and exploration of Jewish and Italian culture that made her the person and cook she is today. The book features full-color photographs and more than 100 recipes, all of which can be made kosher.
You’ll savor this visit to a richly inspired Jewish-Italian kitchen, which offers classic and new recipes that will soon become favorites. In Italian, Yiddish, and Hebrew—Buon appetito, est gezunterhayt, and bete’avon!
“In addition to the tempting recipes in Meatballs and Matzah Balls, the color photos will whet any home cook’s appetite—as it did mine. And as a cookbook author, I appreciate the attractive layout and engaging approach to the book. I’m excited about adding Marcia’s book to my own collection of cookbooks, and this book would make a wonderful gift.” —Maxine Rapoport, co-author with Nina Graybill of six successful cookbooks
“Italian by birth and Jewish by choice, Marcia has amassed a delectable feast filled with nostalgic reflections from both traditions. Crossover dishes like Frittata Kugel with Roasted Red Peppers, Passover Gnocchi and, yes, Meatball Matzah Balls mingle companionably with the focaccia and challah, the latkes and lasagna, to create a multi-cultural banquet with tempting photos throughout.” —Judy Bart Kancigor, author of Cooking Jewish
Food is more than just something to eat. That’s what motivates my journey through Jewish and Italian cuisine and why I’ve found such joy in every part of it (well, except doing the dishes). Understanding the personal, historical, and cultural connections behind foods and ingredients makes the cooking and sharing much more meaningful and fulfilling.
The Italian part of my story comes to me by birth, through a part-Sicilian dad. However, being well assimilated, he passed on little sense of that Italian culture, other than having his own sauce recipe that was not to be messed with. He and my mom made the best spaghetti and meatballs and lasagna—and for a long time, that was my Italian connection.
For my love of cooking, I thank them both but especially my mom. She taught me to measure, mix, knead, roll, bake, fry, simmer, and roast. She encouraged me to be curious about flavor and texture, and to appreciate great results. She showed me that satisfying family meals can be fussy but mostly don’t have to be (thank goodness) and truly the best meals are ones shared over favorite foods. In our family, a hot casserole dish of Mom’s famous baked macaroni and cheese and some spoons is really all we need sometimes.
That curiosity she fostered propelled my Jewish and Italian journey. When I converted to Judaism after meeting my soon-to-be husband, I sought a greater connection to Jewish culture through food. That sparked a deeper interest about my Italian culture, and I found exploring the two together to be just what I needed to find my own path forward. My cookbook Meatballs and Matzah Balls captures parts of that endeavor and recipes I collected, tweaked, or created—everything from the family latkes and my dad’s sauce to Jewish-Italian hybrids like mandelbrot-biscotti and my original meatball matzah balls.
That same curiosity and love of food has helped me develop recipes that work in a home kitchen and taste just like you hope they would. Testing recipes delights and challenges me, though I can wear myself out and jeopardize my family’s waistlines as I remake recipes, adjusting techniques and flavors until that first bite makes me smile, and then take another. And another.
When I’m not up to my elbows in flour, I love giving talks about the book and my journey and sharing recipe samples or doing demonstrations. I also, of course, write. Besides writing recipes and sharing the origins, ideas, and processes behind them, I write about my experiences with food and converting to Judaism—and seeking to find connections between my adopted culture and inherited one. In 2015, I was honored to join the Advisory Council for The Jewish Food Experience, a Washington-area organization seeking to connect us all and do good through food.
A writer, editor, and photographer with more than 20 years of experience in publishing, I also write and edit for others, with particular fondness for resources that teach about the arts.
I grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, and attended two great Virginia schools—the University of Virginia (bachelor’s degree in foreign affairs) and George Mason University (master’s degree in education). I still live in Northern Virginia and can’t imagine growing tired of the Blue Ridge mountains, the charms of small towns and wineries, and the arts, food scene, and political culture right nearby in the nation’s capital.
I’m pleased to meet you here on this site and hope to also see you at an upcoming talk and tasting, demo, or other event. Do stay in touch and tell me how the recipes turn out for you—and what you find meaningful in the foods you bring to your table.