New York Times Faces a Brisket Brouhaha
The cover story in this week’s New York Times food section asserts, “Brisket remains oddly off limits for one large segment of the population: home cooks.”
The article was about Texas or Kansas City-style barbecued brisket, but the sentence sweepingly suggesting the cut of meat is rarely if ever cooked at home was enough to exasperate more than a few Times readers.
One comment, with 33 upvotes, was, “My first thoughts were, ‘excuse me, have you ever met a Jewish person…?’”
That was precisely my reaction, too.
Another Times commenter, Rudi Weinberg of Philadelphia, said, “What are you talking about? Every Jewish mother knows how to make brisket!”
Another Times reader, in a comment with 50 upvotes, wrote, “You want brisket? Go to a nice, elderly Jewish grandmother, Ashkenazi, usually who grew up in a Yiddish speaking home, and you will find brisket. This stuff you describe is a shanda.”
One Times commenter, from Chicago, wrote, “My family’s been making brisket for years. My aunt taught my dad (who did the cooking in my house), and my dad taught me. But that was good old Jewish-style braised brisket, and apparently that’s not trendy enough to count…. Our market carries high quality beef, and around the holidays they always run out of brisket. SOMEONE must be cooking it at home besides me!”
The Times illustrates its brisket article with slices of the meat served in a sandwich between two pieces of white bread.
It’s not as if Jewish home-cooked brisket is a big secret to the Times; in the past the newspaper has published Joan Nathan’s recipe for brisket in sweet-and-sour sauce and also a Passover brisket recipe by Melissa Clark that she says is based on her mother’s recipe. Another Times article, by David Danis, reported a few years ago, “Brisket, for me, is an aromatic memory. The scent of it wafted through my childhood home for hours as the meat braised slowly, with the familiar bouquet of bay leaf and onion, the beefy perfume of the simmering broth. … It was welcome for a weeknight dinner, or a cold sandwich the next day, but it was also special enough to serve on Friday night.”
This latest Times article claiming, inaccurately, that brisket “remains oddly off limits for … home cooks” was published under the byline of Steven Raichlen.
Raichlen, it turns out, is also the author of a book titled Healthy Jewish Cooking that includes two brisket recipes. The May 2019 issue of Hadassah magazine carries an article about Raichlen in which he describes his Aunt Annette Farber’s brisket as “the stuff of dreams — braised in wine and sweetened with dried prunes and apricots, so tender you could cut it with the side of a fork.” It quotes him as writing, “Long before my indoctrination into barbecue, I ate brisket. So did every other Jewish kid in the neighborhood.”
Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. More of his media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.