About Tori Avey

Baking challah on top of the mountain of Masada, Israel

Welcome to my website!

My name is Tori Avey. 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, explores general food history. 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!

This is Marley, the best dog in the world!

FAQ’S

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.

Me and Grandpa Avey

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:

Nom nom nom…

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.”

I try to provide a balance of healthy recipes on my website. In fact, I recently created a Healthy Food category for all of my lighter recipes. Click here to take a look.

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.

My conversion to Judaism

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.

Keeping it natural since age 6.

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.

At a Greek Restaurant in Paris

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!

Comments (177)Post a Comment

  1. Esa says:

    Theres something very nice and pure about you…God bless you

  2. Linda says:

    What a wonderful website! I have been lucky enough to connect with a high school friend who is Jewish…..We are not in the position to make this a legitimate relationship, but I love the fact that I’m learning so much about his culture

  3. The shaigts says:

    Love you; you are awesome!

  4. Softa says:

    Hi Tori,
    I tried to email you last week asking permission to use your latke recipe and pictures for a term paper presentation, but haven’t heard back.

    I know you’re busy, but I need to know by the end of this weekk, if possible.

    Thanks for your time, and Chag Sameack,
    Softa

  5. Hi Tori

    This is a wonderful site! My wife and I are both Jewish (I was born in Israel and she converted as well). I’ve been taking over more of the cooking responsibilities lately and I think this site is fantastic. Keep up the good work!

  6. Marcia G says:

    Love your blog & nice stories about you!
    If i didn’t know you were married, i have a nice boychick for you!

  7. Amy Maguire says:

    Terrific blog. It was great learning more about you here. Thank you for all your great recipes, they have helped to make my life in the kitchen easier.

  8. okay says:

    you’re not a shiksa if you converted.

  9. Burton Stein says:

    Thank you 1000 times I just returned from Israel where every trip begins with a bowl of Yemenite beef soup. Until today, when I tried your recipe I had not come close enough. But today I have a huge smile on my face, you nailed it perfectly. Now, if only I could make the wounderful pancake like bread,
    “lechouch” (gutteral Hebrew ch)

  10. Leor says:

    hi there! i stumbled onto your blog randomly the other day when i googled “quinoa bowl” and found your black bean quinoa recipe…it was delicious, and so was the shawarma that i made the next day!

    just wanted to say that your site is terrific, and i look forward to reading more of your articles and their accompanying recipes! i have a pretty similar philosophy as you when it comes to food (though i don’t keep kosher) and it’s as if your list of recipes was compiled just for me! keep up the great work :)

  11. Madhulika says:

    Well Love ur blog and the way you represents recipes. I have recently started my food blog and it’s so true that you said “Every Kitchen has it’s heritage.” Shiksa is related Hindi word as Shiksha which means Knowledge and your content with it.

    Keep up the good work :)

  12. habibullah says:

    thanks for your hardworking in this regards

  13. Charlene says:

    Just stumbled upon your blog because I was looking for creative ways to peel tomatoes and I found so much more! I recently did a family ‘heritage’ cook book and it was so interesting to research food history, like Cholent for example. My blog is not a Jewish food blog, and we do eat shellfish in my family, but you should take a look if you’re interested “http://galleykitchengourmet.blogspot.com/” The Galley Kitchen Gourment (I live in Manhattan, hence the ‘Galley Kitchen’)

  14. Morty says:

    Thank you for providing so many Sephardi recipes. I was raised in a kosher home. My folks were holocaust survivors from Poland originally. Most of our meals were of the high fat/low fiber variety. (My father ate a banana for the first time at age 81. ‘Its not bad’ he said). North African and Middle Eastern foods are the antidote to Ashkenazi fare. Keep those deliciously spicy veggie recipes coming!

  15. Celia Riviere says:

    Dear Tori,
    thank you so much for your wonderful recipes! We live in Guadalajara MX and I’ve been craving Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food since we moved here. So, for my daughter second birthday I decided to cook it myself, since it is impossible to find it here. It was a great success, thanks to your nicely explained, delicious recipes.

  16. Bubby Issaquah says:

    Just found your website while talking to our granddaughter who just returned from Birthright Israel. We asked if she had eaten shakshuka in Israel, and she said that in 10 days, she had eaten it seven times! So I googled for a recipe and yours came up…I printed it out and we’ll definitely try it tomorrow morning. Lovely blog; I’ll be reading it.

  17. Bubby Issaquah says:

    I got up at 6 this morning and got out all the ingredients for shakshuka, quietly prepped all the veggies and measured everything out…got the sauce going nicely and let it simmer for a bit, then called the family to breakfast in 20 minutes. Eggs onto the sauce, coffee brewing, leftover baguette slices under the broiler, and VOILA!….our shakshuka breakfast! It was delicious and we’ll definitely do this again. Thinking of serving this as a light supper after the matinee of “Chicago” at a wonderful local theatre, maybe with tabouleh and roasted asparagus, arugula and avocado salad?

  18. Amalie says:

    Hi Tori, interesting to read your opinion on what judaism is all about, thank you for sharing it :) A good friend of mine just finished conversion ( orthodox) and made alyah recently. Did you get an ortodocs conversion and have you ever considered making alyah?

    • Tori Avey says:

      Hi Amalie, I converted Reform and have no plans for an Orthodox conversion. My husband was born in Israel and we visit there frequently, but I do not have plans to move there at this time.

  19. Linda says:

    Found you while looking for chopped liver, you use chicken, I want to use beef, so I’m hoping it’s inter-changeable, also I’m wondering why you are not using Nyafat,? I thought that was a staple,, love the site, will visit often, also a Shiksa, trying to impress my husband.

  20. Bubby Issaquah says:

    You can use beef liver instead of chicken, although the chicken livers make a lighter spread. We used to use rendered chicken fat and then switched to Nyafat, but I’ve been using mayonnaise for years and it works very well. Be sure to sauté the onions slowly so that they will bring a sweet rather than harsh flavor to the chopped liver. Good luck!

  21. Cheryl (Sternberg) Michener says:

    Can U help me. I live just outside Buffalo NY. My son (38) lives in N.C. my mom (bubbie) and I went down and he asked us to share some recipe’s. My mom and him made Kasha & vanishka’s (?) we also made potato pancakes. I have been looking in my area for (sp) hamishi farfel??? I remember that as a child haven’t had it in years. Am i spelling it right? can you give me an idea where i can get it? Thanks

    • Tori Avey says:

      Hi Cheryl, I live in California so I’m not sure I can help. Out here, farfel is available at most normal grocery stores in the kosher section. If that’s not the case where you live, I would suggest finding a local kosher market (Google kosher markets in your area), they are sure to carry it.

  22. Bubby Issaquah says:

    Just when I think I’ve seen it all, I find another product on amazon.com! Go to that site and find all the farfels you could use in a lifetime, including the Haimeshe farfel you were looking for. Kosher products are available in Seattle, but not generally and definitely not at a reasonable price farther out east of there, so I’m tempted to put in my order at amazon.com myself. I hope this helps.

  23. Marise Hausner says:

    Came across you by accident and am now hooked! FYI, shiksa has always had different connotations. At the most elementary level, simply a non-Jewish woman (and yes, invariably that a Jewish man was involved with). Quintessential shiksa? Uma Thurman, as in stunning blonde Amazon. For me, coming from a different time, being referred to as looking like a little shiksa simply meant that the next time they came for us, I could pass.

  24. Rhoda Shustri says:

    please add me to your subscriber list

  25. Arlene Caplan says:

    Subscribe me to weekly newsletter.

  26. I was at a lunch today and everyone was raving about your challah bread recipe … While not Jewish, my youngest kids go to a wonderful temple school where we keep kosher. I can’t wait to try your challah bread and will link up to your site on my blog! Can’t wait to dig in …. carolina buia, chicksinaprons.com

  27. Eva says:

    please include me in your weekly newsletter

  28. Bubby Issaquah says:

    I love your blog. I don’t think I’m getting your weekly newsletter. Did I subscribe? Please sign me up! Thanks.

  29. Sylvia G. says:

    Hello Tori

    Thanks for an informative blog.

    I’d like to know how to prepare for a Jewish person coming to my house for dinner. If my kitchen is not kosher, what can I do? Also what are the guidlines for preparing kosher food? Can I assume that vegan food or vegan restaurants are also kosher?

    Thanks so much.
    Sylvia G.

    • Tori Avey says:

      Hi Sylvia, kosher is a bit more complicated than that. Here is a clear explanation of the basics: link to theshiksa.com It really depends on who your guest is and “how kosher” they keep (there are varying levels of observance). Hope that link helps you!

  30. Judy Barnhart says:

    Love your recipe ideas =)

  31. bubbyissaquah says:

    My granddaughter Abigail is a marvelous vegetarian cook. Her eggplant blog is fabulous…she takes pictures of all the kinds of eggplants she finds in the market and then creates wonderful recipes using them. Every step of her process is pictured accompanied by her delightful comments. Here’s the link to the blog:
    Aubergenius
    theaubergenius.blogspot.com

  32. Jet says:

    In response to Denise above, I have a great vegetarian chopped liver recipe. Yes I know it doesn’t make sense… ☺️

  33. Eugene says:

    Thanks for Seared Salmon with Creamy Dill Sauce recipe
    In the coming Sabbath want to try to do.
    Best wishes from Israel!
    Good luck!

  34. Wade S. says:

    Just discovered your website doing a search for brisket recipes. Spent the last hour going through it laughing, remembering, printing recipes and generally enjoying it. You have a great site, a great attitude and what looks like a rich life. Congrats. As one who grew up in Hawaii, I never really knew much about Jews and until I was about 20, never knew any of my friends or acquaintances (or 2 bosses) as Jewish. I only knew them as good, caring people, who loved life, family, food and music and treated me well…in one case as if I was their offspring. It was only when I went to the Mainland for graduate school that I was introduced to Jewish folk and became aware of the culture/religion/race, food and history and the discussion/debate about it all, a conversation that happened often as I tried to learn about my new friends and acquaintances. Like you I love history and was fascinated by this exposure and like your blog reflects saw many different sides of it. I too did not learn the phrase Shiksa as being a positive one nor goy or numerous others. As someone who grew up multiethnic in a very multiethnic culture, it was a bit of a rude awakening especially being judged by others with preconceptions. (I was lucky that people generally dont know what Hawaiians look like and have a positive perspective of our culture.) The fact that I was willing, able and open to being friendly with everyone won me “points” and friends across the spectrum. But I also learned the pain of falling for a Jewish girl and being told that we can date but never progress because her family would not accept it. That was 30 years ago so it seems that times have changed which is great. Your site, especially the recipes, brought lots of that back….so thank you. I can actually make a few of the things that I got exposed to in those early years….a pretty cool takeaway.

  35. lNoCrud says:

    Very nice webpage. Enjoyed it immensely. Thanks!

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