Happy Valentine’s Day! Let’s celebrate with a cookbook from a place that arguably led to a million affairs of the heart — formed on the archery courts, indoor pools, ponds, in rhumba classes, and atop the artificially created snow on ski slopes that in 1952 was a world first. We speak of none other than one of the biggest attractions of the Borscht Belt: Grossinger’s. Located in the Jewish Alps, the Catskill Mountains, the ultimate in sleepover Jewish country clubs. From the 1920s to the 1980s, summers for many Jewish families were always spent in upstate New York, and Grossinger’s was one of the areas most popular resorts. Who says romance is dead?
“Here we are in the Catskills and I’m starving… after six weeks up here, tits just start looking like a couple of Grossinger’s Baked Alaskas.”Midge Maisel, Midnight At The Concord, S2E5
The Art of Jewish Cooking, published in 1958 by Jennie Grossinger, captured the zeitgeist of the time: food that was filling, kosher, and familiar, nothing too exotic. Jennie’s parents had started the resort, her father Asher overseeing hospitality and her mother, Malka, running the kosher kitchen. Jennie (1891–1972) was the resort’s legendary hostess. Noodles and Kreplach get a chapter, as do vegetables with recipes that nearly all call for the addition of white sugar. The cookbook is fascinating. Times change and tastes change, and this is not a case of this type of cooking being back in style, it’s just great fun to revisit.
It is a particular taste, and these recipes are nostalgic. But, they are also really sound: they have been made a million times and are fail-proof. I chose the Pineapple Chiffon Pie for all the reasons above. Sometimes you need to lean into an experience, the joy of a different era. This may not be a Grossinger Baked Alaska, but it is a hell of a pie.
Dead Easy No-Bake Pineapple Chiffon Pie
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch
- 2 cups pineapple juice
- 1 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 cups crushed pineapple
- 4 egg whites
- 1 baked 9-inch pie shell (homemade or store bought)
Mix the cornstarch with the pineapple juice until smooth. Combine in a saucepan with the rest of the juice, 1/2 cup of the sugar and the salt. cook over low heat, stirring constantly until thickened. Stir in the pineapple and cool.
Beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry, then beat in the remaining sugar. Fold into the pineapple mixture and fill the pie shell. Chill and serve.
For the most accurate and comprehensive understanding of the Catskills of this period watch Dirty Dancing (1987) and The Fabulous Mrs. Maisel (2017-) on Amazon, specifically season 2 episodes 4 – 6 which are set in the Jewish Alps. Although do yourself a favor and watch all three seasons of the show if you haven’t yet. And yes, you can watch Dirty Dancing again, and yes, you can get choked up at the line “no one puts Baby in the corner”. This website is a safe space.