My name is Tori Avey, I’m the Shiksa in the Kitchen.
Welcome to my website!
I’m a convert to Judaism and my family’s resident cook. My blog The Shiksa in the Kitchen explores the history of Jewish cuisine as well as my creative adventures in the kitchen. My other website, The History Kitchen, deals with general food history and anthropological culinary topics. I am fascinated by the story behind the food– why we eat what we eat, how cultural foods have evolved, and how yesterday’s food can inspire us in the kitchen today. I also post free recipes that include step-by-step photos. It’s all about food here, and everybody is welcome!
Food is a way of communicating; the energy we pass on through our cooking feeds the body as well as the soul. By writing this blog and taking a journey into food history, I am learning right beside you. I am not a trained chef or a food critic or a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu. I started this blog to learn more about food history. Consider this our shared virtual culinary classroom– a place where we learn not only how to cook delicious food, but how that food came to be in the first place. Every kitchen has a heritage; every recipe has a writer. Knowing the story behind the food– the ancient history, or the family history, or even the history of one particular ingredient– can infuse a dish with meaning. And then a meal becomes more than just food, or something that fills you up physically. Food takes on a deeper significance, and ultimately becomes more nourishing.
If you have found your way to my blog, you are probably somebody who loves food. That’s something we all share. A good meal can bring warmth and joy to anybody, no matter who you are or where you come from. I welcome all faiths and backgrounds to join me on my journey into the heart of food history. Our diversity makes us stronger.
I’m a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP), the American Anthropological Association, the American Folklore Society, the Association for the Study of Food and Society, and the Culinary Historians of Southern California.
I invite you to subscribe to my website for blog updates and the latest news. You can also friend me on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest. I love hearing from my cooking friends, and I do my best to respond in a timely manner to comments posted here on my website. Join our growing culinary community as we explore the history of food!
Have a question? Please see my list of FAQ’s below.
Looking for my contact information? Click here!
Readers often email me random questions about the blog, my cooking, and life in general. I’ve compiled this list of the most frequently asked questions to help you get to know me better. If your question is not answered here, please feel free to contact me!
Why do you call yourself The Shiksa in the Kitchen? Click here for the answer.
When did you start your blog? January 1, 2010
Where are you from? I grew up on the Central Coast of California. Now I live in Southern California with my husband, my sweet stepdaughter, and Marley, the best dog in the world. Seriously… he’s the ultimate!
How did you learn to cook? I learned to cook the old fashioned way, from friends and family members who have generously shared their recipes and cooking know-how with me. I’ve also taught myself by reading cookbooks, particularly antique and vintage ones. I like knowing how to make dishes the old fashioned way, from scratch, before I take any shortcuts. It provides a solid foundation and a deeper understanding of what a dish is supposed to taste like.
How did you become interested in food history? I’ve always loved history, a trait that my paternal grandparents passed down to me. My Grandpa Avey was a walking encyclopedia of historic knowledge. I caught the history bug at an early age, and I integrated it into every part of my life. I wrote historical novels as a kid and performed in Shakespearean plays as a teenager. I even dabbled in historical screenwriting. So when I started teaching myself how to cook, my first instinct was to find out the history behind the dishes I was cooking. It made being in the kitchen more exciting.
Does somebody take your photographs for you? I get this question a lot, which I must admit is very flattering! I do all of my own photography. I am not a trained photographer by any stretch of the imagination, but I do enjoy taking pictures. I have recently upgraded to a Canon 5D Mark II, which I use for the “beauty shots” of my finished recipes. For the step-by-step photos, I use a Canon G12 point and shoot.
Can I use one of your photographs or blogs on my site and/or in my publication? All content (photographs, writing, and graphics) on this website is copyright protected, and cannot be used without my permission. If you would like to request permission, please contact me.
What is your favorite part about cooking? My favorite part about cooking is nourishing others… and eating, of course! I love food. I always have. Case in point, check out this picture from my first birthday:
How do you stay in shape when you blog about such rich dishes? It’s not easy! Especially since I hate working out. I think I’m allergic to exercise. Most of the time I eat pretty healthy Mediterranean and Sephardic style food. I indulge in rich dishes once in a while, usually on Shabbat. When I notice my jeans fitting tighter than normal, I watch what I eat till I shed a few points. But I try not to stress about it too much. Life is there to be enjoyed. I subscribe to Julia Child’s motto – “Everything in moderation… including moderation.”
Where do your recipes come from? Many of the recipes featured on this site come from family, friends, and blog readers who submit their personal recipes along with their family story. I also feature original recipes that I’ve developed in my kitchen, taking what I’ve learned about spices, flavors and cooking techniques to create my own unique dishes. Part of the fun of this blog has been expanding my creativity in the kitchen, and experimenting with ingredients to find out what works and what doesn’t. I never post a dish that I didn’t really enjoy eating– it has to taste great to make it onto my site. Some of the recipes I blog about are from vintage and historical cookbooks, and once in a while I feature a recipe from a modern cookbook. If it’s not something I’ve created myself, the source will be credited in the blog.
Do you have a cookbook? Where can I find it? Not yet. I’ve been working on a cookbook manuscript since I started this blog, but it’s not finished yet. When I do have a publish date, my blog readers will be the first to know!
Are you Jewish? Yes! I converted to Judaism in 2010.
If you’re Jewish, why do you still call yourself a shiksa? Read why here.
Why do you include a kosher key on your recipes? I include the kosher key on The Shiksa in the Kitchen blog out of respect to my Jewish readers who keep kosher. I only include recipes here that are kosher-style, meaning no pork or shellfish. I also do my best to keep dairy and meat recipes separate for the sake of my kosher readers. I do not have a kosher key on The History Kitchen, because it is not a kosher website– though I do offer kosher modifications to recipes whenever possible.
How did you learn so much about keeping kosher? Part of my conversion to Judaism included learning about the kosher laws. I also educated myself about the subject when trying to decide if keeping kosher was right for me. I am by no means a kosher expert, but I have learned quite a bit about the subject, and I’m happy to share what I have learned with you. If you have a question, feel free to comment on my blog and ask!
Do you keep kosher? Not in the strictest sense. There are many different levels of kosher observance. When it comes to my own dietary rules, I would describe myself as kosher-style, not kosher. For the most part, I try to enjoy simple foods and spices the way our ancient Jewish ancestors did. I prefer eating and cooking with whole, organic foods that have not been processed.
Though I usually eat kosher-style in my own home, I am also a firm believer in living life to the fullest and enjoying unique food opportunities that come my way. If I am given the rare chance to dine in a world-renowned French bistro, I’m not going to ask if there is butter in the meat sauce. If a Southern grandmother asks me to try her generations-old family recipe for jambalaya, I won’t hesitate to have a taste. I believe that we are put on this earth to enjoy the gifts of our Creator. Restrictions are important for spiritual growth, but I also feel it’s important to be open and willing to try new things. That is my personal food philosophy, but I also respect the philosophies of others, both kosher and non-kosher. We are all different, which is a good thing… variety is the spice of life! So no judgement here. Everybody is welcome!
Do you have any hobbies besides cooking? I love to write and travel… and write about traveling! I especially love to visit other countries and try new foods I’ve never tasted before.
What is your favorite cookbook? This is a very tough question to answer… I love so many cookbooks, for so many reasons! I’ll be launching an online market soon that will feature some of my favorite titles, so you can see for yourself.
I have a recipe and/or a family story I’d like you to blog about. Where can I submit it? I absolutely love hearing and blogging about family food stories! If you have a story and/or recipe you’d like me to consider, please submit it here.
Have a question you don’t see an answer to? Email me or comment me on the website and I will try to get back to you as soon as I can! My email inbox is overflowing, so if you don’t hear back from me, please don’t take it personally. I try my best to keep up with all the emails, but sometimes I just can’t. Know that I read each and every email I receive, and I thank you for taking the time to write!