In 2008, the Jewish Museum Berlin received a generous gift from Elisabeth and Herbert Simon. Along with kitchen utensils, tableware, porcelain and cutlery, the gift contained archival materials from Herbert Simon's grandparents Anselm Simon (1851–1928) and his wife Caroline Simon (née Hanau, 1856–1930), including the 348-page Vollständiges Praktisches Kochbuch für die jüdische Küche (Complete Practical Cookbook for the Jewish Kitchen) by Bertha Gumprich. The cookbook belonged to Caroline Simon, whose household was kept kosher. In it, she is sure to have found all sorts of inspiration and guidance on cooking and proper housekeeping.
The Cook and Author
If the presumed date, 1900, is correct for this fourth edition, it may have been published while the author was still alive. On the title page of this edition, her name is still given as “Widow Joseph Gumprich”. This may be why she is listed as “Josephine” in the contemporaneous Lexikon deutscher Frauen der Feder (Lexicon of German Women of the Quill), Berlin 1898. At this time, it was uncommon for women, and sometimes even men, to be named as authors. Publishing was done anonymously.
So, who was this Bertha Gumprich, who, as early as 1888, ventured to publish an author's edition of a cookbook of Jewish cuisine? Bertha Gumprich, who is only later referred to by this name, was a “cleaning lady” and cook. As such, she had already gathered 30 years of experience and knowledge in the Trier region by the time she self-published this cookbook. In the first edition from 1888, she notes:
“What helps her in this is her more than thirty years of experience in the service of the culinary arts. For years, there has hardly been a distinguished Jewish celebration in the county of Trier and beyond to which the author was not called in as a cook. The fact that she has always kept a strictly orthodox kitchen will be testified everywhere.”
There was no shortage of cookbooks at this time – except, apparently, when it came to those for the Jewish kitchen. Although statistics suggest that there were only 823 Jews living in Trier in 1895, it appears that Bertha Gumprich's instincts were right in her decision to publish. The quick succession of editions are proof of this: the first edition of 1000 copies was published in 1888, a second edition in 1896, a third edition in 1899, and a fourth edition was published without a year, but presumably in 1900, by Verlag von Kaufmann & Co. in Frankfurt am Main.
After Bertha Gumprich's death, another six editions were brought out by the same publishing house. During the period of National Socialism, many copies went missing and the book faded into obscurity. It was only rediscovered through the research of the Jewish studies scholar Annette Haller. In 2002, a reprint of the 2nd edition from 1896 was published by the Universitätsbibliothek Freiburg. In Trier itself, no copies remain in either private collections or the regional libraries.
Middle-Class Dining Pleasures
Gumprich strives to write reliable and middle-class instructions that enable uninformed and inexperienced women to manage or even to direct a household. She wants to enhance the
"dining pleasures and thus the family and festive occasions of Jewish circles!" With occasional references to "Christian cuisine" she also accommodates the readership beyond Jewish communities.
Despite the publishing success of many editions and interest in the Jewish community and beyond, the author lived in impoverished circumstances and did not make much profit from the cookbook during her lifetime. This is shown in an entry in the above-mentioned lexicon: “May the book find many friends and so lead to an improvement in the poor old woman's living situation.” This was not to be granted, for she died in August 1901 “after long suffering endured patiently”.
We would like to commemorate Bertha Gumprich and her work, and it seems fitting to do so with a recipe from her cookbook.
Recipe for Noodle Pancakes
Boil half a plateful of noodles in salted water, pour it into a colander and rinse with cold water. Thoroughly beat two to three eggs and a little sugar and stir in the noodles. Cook pancakes using this batter and sprinkle them with sugar and cinnamon when they are cooked through.
Ulrike Sonnemann, Head Librarian
Ulrike Sonnemann (2021), “... there is, however, a definite want of a good Jewish cookbook.”. Complete Practical Cookbook for the Jewish Kitchen, by Bertha Gumprich, née Meyer. Fourth edition, significantly expanded and improved, Trier, about 1900, gift of Herbert and Elisabeth Simon, 2008.
Selected Objects: Library (5)
Discover treasures from our Library’s collection such as the medieval manuscript Sefer Sinai and the rare first edition of the essay collection Aus drei Jahrtausenden (From three millennia) by Leo Baeck.
Leo Baeck’s Essay Collection From Three Millennia
There are very few copies of this book's first edition in existence because shortly after being published in 1938, it was banned.
Sefer Sinai by Abraham ben Baruch
Medieval manuscript by Abraham ben Baruch is the most valuable object in our library’s holdings. It is one of the few books from the time period that have survived.
The Complete Horse Connoisseur
This book from 1764, purchased for our permanent exhibition in 2007, is a testament to trade relationships between Jews and Non-Jews in the eighteenth century
Tom Seidmann-Freud, Eser sihot li-yeladim
Kleine Märchen (Little Fairy Tales) with artworks for kids, Jerusalem 1923, with link to the digital copy of the book
Bertha Gumprichs Complete Practical Cookbook for the Jewish Kitchen
Our library holds the Forth Edition of this best seller of its time, about 1900