Julia's Kitchen discusses several topics of Jewish culture, such as Shabbat, the grieving process, Bat Mitzvahs, and food. During the funeral, all mourners participate in keriah. Keriah is when mourners tear a piece of their clothing to signify their loss. However, in modern times, many people wear a piece of torn, black ribbon to signify their loss during keriah. Shiva is a seven-day mourning period after a loved one passes away. During shiva, friends and family visit and comfort each other. Friends and family also bring food to help comfort mourners. For example, Cara was given a hard-boiled egg after the funeral because it is symbolic of life (p. 24). Cara was also given noodle kugel, bagels with lox and cream cheese, and desserts. Food is also a big part of Shabbat, which is a day of rest and worship. Brisket and challah is made and eaten with wine or grape juice. Challah is a braided bread that is eaten on other holidays as well. When Cara struggles with her faith in God, she wonders what the point of a Bat Mitzvah is. A Bat Mitzvah is a celebration of a young girl becoming mature enough to practice religious law, generally when she turns 13. In the back of the book, Ferber includes a glossary of Jewish terms that are used throughout the story. This book is not only a heartwarming story, but it also teaches readers about modern-day Jewish-American culture.

Below are a couple of recipes for food that was discussed in the book. The first recipe is for Cara's Chocolate Chip Cookies that she baked for her cookie baskets. The second recipe is for Challah, which Cara learned to bake to celebrate Shabbat with her father at the end of the story.

Cara's Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 1/2 Cups sifted flour 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon baking soda 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt 2 large eggs
1 cup packed light brown sugar 12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup granulated sugar

In a medium-sized bowl, sift together the flour with the baking soda and salt. Stir and set aside. In a large bowl, beat together the sugars with the butter until creamy. Add the vanilla extract and the eggs. Mix well. Add the dry ingredients and combine until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drop heaping teaspoons of dough onto ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove cookies onto cooling rack, and serve when cool. This recipe makes approximately 50 cookies.

Challah
1/2 cup plus 2/3 cup warm water 2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons active dry yeast 7 cups flour
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar 1 large egg yolk
5 large eggs 1 tablespoon water
1 cup vegetable oil

Combine 1/2 cup of warm water, the yeast, and 1 tablespoon of sugar in a small bowl and stir to dissolve the yeast. Let it set in a warm spot for about 10 minutes, until foamy. Beat the 5 eggs until foamy. Add the yeast mixture, oil, salt, and remaining sugar. Beat until the mixture is pale yellow and slightly thickened. Add the remaining water and blend. Add 1/2 cup of flour at a time until the dough no longer sticks to the bowl. Knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth and elastic, adding flour if it's too sticky. Put the dough in a large bowl covered in plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Let the dough rise for about one hour. Punch down the dough, and let it rise for 30 more minutes. Divide the dough in half. Divide each half into 3 eual pieces, and roll into ropes. For each loaf, braid together 3 ropes on a lightly greased baking sheet. After braiding, cover each loaf with a towel and let the dough rise for about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Whisk together the egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of water, and lightly brush the mixture on the loaf tops. Bake bread for 10 minutes. Then, lower the oven heat to 350 degrees and bake until golden brown. This recipe makes two loaves of Challah.

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