Author Name: Mitchell James Kaplan

OBOJC Book Title: By Fire, By Water

Have you published another book since your OBOJC book? If so, what is the title? Can you briefly describe the book?  If you have another book due out soon, please tell us about that one and the estimated publication date.

I’ve recently finished revising my second novel, tentatively titled Same Stars, Different Constellations. It’s another historical, and it deals with Roman military and religious colonialism in Britannia and Judea. Characters include Yohanan ben Zakkai, Paul of Tarsus, Nero, and a refugee from Britannia named Aislin. Themes and issues include the conflict between monotheism and polytheism, the circumstances that led to the fall of the Second Temple, and the difficult early survival of rabbinic Judaism and what I call “proto-Christianity.” I spent about the same time researching and writing Same Stars, Different Constellations as I did on By Fire, By Water –six years. Same Stars, Different Constellations has not yet been seen by publishers, but will be very soon. I hope it will be available in bookstores in a year or two.

What book(s) are you reading now that you would like to recommend to our community?

I’m reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, a lovely recreation of the Irish community in Brooklyn just after the turn of the twentieth century. (Other immigrant communities, including Jews, Italians, and Austrians, are exquisitely depicted as well.) In terms of contemporary authors, I recently finished reading through Murakami, much of whose work I adore. 

Please share your memories about OBOJC and what the experience meant to you.

That One Book, One Jewish Community were willing to give serious consideration to a first novel by an unknown writer, published by an independent press, is powerful testimony to the leadership qualities of the OBOJC book evaluation community. OBOJC selected By Fire, By Water even before it came out, about six years ago, and much of all that followed, including the selection of my novel by similar organizations in other communities, and awards and invitations from as far away as Italy and Mexico, probably had a lot to do with the credibility that OBOJC bestowed upon my fledgling creation.  OBOJC changed my life, and I will always feel deeply grateful.

Please share a favorite recipe and tell us why it is meaningful to you.

My wife was born in Casablanca, Morocco, and raised in Paris, France. Shortly after I met her, she invited me to her parents’ home for a Sabbath lunch. I had been living in France for seven years, and had not been involved with the Jewish community. The warmth of Annie’s family, and her mother’s Jewish-Moroccan cooking, moved me. Among the many astonishing plats that I first tasted that evening was a stuffed chicken. I have translated the following recipe from La Cuisine Juive Marocaine, by Viviane et Nina Moryoussef.

  1.  Spread a de-boned chicken open on a cutting board.
  2. Combine 200 grams ground veal with two to three teaspoons powdered bread crumbs, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, ½ teaspoon mace, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, and four chopped egg whites. (Save the cooked egg yolks for later).
  3. Add two teaspoons of oil and mix well. Mold this paste around two hard-boiled eggs (shells removed), place it inside the de-boned chicken, and add the cooked egg yolks, spacing them approximately evenly.
  4. Wrap the chicken around this filling, forming a “roll,” and sew closed.
  5. Place the filled chicken into a cheesecloth and wrap tightly with gauze.
  6. Boil for thirty minutes, drain, and allow to cool. Remove the cheesecloth and the gauze and chill overnight.
  7. Serve cold, sliced, with a green salad.