Author offers recipes, stories from Holocaust survivors

Joanne Caras, center, talks with Anne Watson, left, and Kathi Shaw before giving a presentation on her Holocaust Survivor Cookbook, at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Vacaville Thursday. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)

Joanne Caras, center, talks with Anne Watson, left, and Kathi Shaw before giving a presentation on her Holocaust Survivor Cookbook, at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Vacaville Thursday. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic) 

VACAVILLE — When the Croatian sympathizers working for the Nazis demanded that Ruth Bloch’s father hand over his two children during World War II, he refused, saying they could take his business and home, but never his children.

The Croats then suddenly released the family and put them on a fishing boat leaving the town.

“Later we found out that if my father had chosen to give us up, they would have taken us out in the backyard and shot us,” wrote Bloch.

Bloch’s story of surviving the Holocaust and the mock crab cakes recipe she had from that time were one of several that members of Chabad of Solano County learned about and tasted Thursday night as part of Chabad’s Holocaust lecture series.

The story was offered by author Joanne Caras who created the cookbook to honor “those who survived and went on to create their lives again,” Caras said.

“They kept their spirit alive, their religion alive,” Caras said.

The idea for the cookbook was born in 2005 when Caras was in Israel visiting her son and his wife, and they took her to the Carmei Ha’ir open restaurant in Jerusalem where they volunteer serving meals to the needy.

Caras was so inspired by her son’s work that she cast about for fundraising ideas to help. The death of her daughter-in-law’s mother, a Holocaust survivor, gave Caras the idea to create a cookbook with the recipes and stories of other Holocaust survivors.

“My life’s purpose changed in an instant,” Caras said.

She spent the next three years collecting recipes and stories from survivors and their families. Caras ended up with 129 stories from all over the world which she calls “129 miracles.” Proceeds from the cookbook go to support the Carmei Ha’ir Soup Kitchen. So far, she has raised about $700,000 for the kitchen which has allowed the kitchen to keep its doors open.

In the cookbook’s introduction, Caras asks anyone who cooks one of the recipes to also read out loud to their family the story that goes with it.

Another such story is about Arlette Baron of Baltimore, who contributed a recipe for fruit cake as well as lentil and beet soup. She was a baby in Paris when the Nazis overran France in 1940.

Her father, who was in the French army, was sent to a prison camp and was kept alive only because he was able to repair watches and clocks for the German soldiers.

Baron’s older sister was hidden in a convent while she was sent to a country farmhouse where food was so scarce that they ate chestnuts they could pick from the trees and mushrooms, which her mother tasted first to see if they were poisonous.

Caras is not resting after doing one cookbook. She has already collected 150 more stories and 250 more recipes for a second cookbook that will be published later this spring.

For more information about Caras and her cookbooks, go tohttp://www.survivorcookbook.org.