Friday, November 8, 2013

Second Helpings with Norene Gilletz: Canada's Kosher Culinary Icon

Norene Gilletz, Canada's top kosher cookbook author serves up her delicious rice noodle kugel.

Seven years ago cooking became one of my biggest joys. Granted, I wasn't a trained chef, nor was I a restaurateur. I turned to culinary arts as a getaway from rocky marriage days. I was a young mother roaming IGA grocery lanes, pushing two babies in a double stroller, discovering all kinds of ingredients. "Do you know where I can find cream of tartar?"  I  asked an elderly woman in the baking aisle "...it's an ingredient I need for a Martha Stewart recipe," I added. Surprisingly clueless of who Martha Stewart was, she kindly replied, "the only cookbook you need is Norene Gilletz's Second Helpings, Please." Luckily, that was one of the first cookbooks I bought, and used to learn how to make apple cake, challah, banana bread, latkes, hamentashen, sweet and sour meatballs and more. 

An original, the first ever Second Helpings, Please! cookbook.
It includes signatures of all the contributors on the first page.


"People long for classics, and food transports us
through time." ~ Norene Gilletz


Of Russian and Polish decent, Norene was born on May 29, 1940, in Winnipeg. Belle Rykiss, her mother, inspired Norene to cherish and make Jewish food. In 1960, Norene moved to Montreal and joined the B'nai Brith Women Mount Sinai Chapter. During that time, the concept for developing a fundraising cookbook was initiated and Norene Gilletz, played a crucial role putting this culinary classic together. After three years and a half of gathering and testing recipes, the first edition was published in 1968. Since then, the book was re-printed over fifteen times and proceeds from the sale of the book were used for Jewish Women International (JWI) the leading Jewish organization empowering women and girls.

Norene has been recognized as the leading author of kosher cookbooks in Canada. In addition from being the author of numerous kosher cookbooks i.e. Healthy HelpingsNorene's Healthy Kitchen, and The New Food Processor Bible, she has influenced thousands of Jewish homes as a freelance food writer, food consultant, cooking teacher\lecturer, culinary spokesperson, and owner of www.gourmania.com. Norene had the chance to meet renowned French chefs like Jaques Pepin and Julia Child.  She was featured on Martha Stewart Living Radio Show plus she was recently honored, last October, at KosherFest's Social Media dinner along with Susie FishbeinChef Laura Frankel, Gil Marks, Levana Kirschenbaum, and Menachem Lubinsky.

Two Sunday's ago, I found myself in her Toronto kitchen, having a cup of coffee over delicious homemade bran muffins and buttermilk noodle kugel (plus I got to enjoy peanut-free peanut butter cookies and biscottis, testers for an upcoming cookbook). We got to look-over and discuss the latest kosher cookbooks on the market that needed her review (coincidentally including Montreal's latest, And Then There was Cake).  We chatted for hours, and realized we had more than Jewish food in common. Both Gemini's, we both lived in the West Island of Montreal in our past, we both experienced single-motherhood (and understand the hardships of the dating scene) and we both love Paula Abdul (Norene is actually her cousin). I truly had a delightful time, benefiting from her wise advice ;)


Norene and her cutsy dog.

Norene Gilletz's cookbooks. Her mother's original copy of The Food Processor Bible,
Norene's Healthy Kitchen. And the pile of books in the back that needed her review.
Seven years have past and my two little babies are now little girls. I have the nachas of turning to a book like Norene's Second Helpings, Please! as a means to teach my children how to bake, but even more appreciate the joys of Jewish living. Thank you Norene! :-)