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Gil Marks, Historian of Jewish Food and Culture, Dies at 62

Historians in the News
tags: obituary, Gil Marks




Gil Marks, a culinary historian who wrote widely on the relationship between Jewish food and Jewish culture in a manner that was both scholarly and friendly, died on Friday in Jerusalem. He was 62.

The cause was lung cancer, his niece Efrat Altshul Schorr said, adding that Mr. Marks was not a smoker.

Mr. Marks studied for the rabbinate at Yeshiva University in New York, but he burrowed into the history and culture of the Jews more through the recipe book than the Talmud. Still, some would argue that his work was, in its way, Talmudic — full of information and interpretive wisdom on the foods of Jewish tradition and the governing principles of cooking and eating them.

He was the author of five books, an oeuvre that not only provided a recipe-by-recipe chronicle of kosher menus through the centuries but also examined the role of food in the establishment and growth of cultural traditions.

A writer of eloquent informality with a wide frame of reference, Mr. Marks was as apt to cite the song parodist Allan Sherman or the acerbic monologuist Lenny Bruce, as he was the Torah scholar Maimonides or the Yiddish author Sholom Aleichem. He spent a working lifetime not simply in the kitchen testing unusual seasonings and combinations of ingredients, but also in libraries poring over texts for the arcane details of food preparation...

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