Book Review: The Dairy Restaurant
Ben Katchor, an American cartoonist and illustrator best known for his critically acclaimed comic strip Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer, begins The Dairy Restaurant (Schocken Books, 2020) with the Garden of Eden story. He speculates whether Adam and Eve were the world’s first vegetarians, and we follow his journey through time to America’s ubiquitous Jewish dairy restaurants – and their ultimate demise.
With his humorous illustrations on nearly every page, Katchor presents an extraordinary range of facts, from the curative properties of milk and vegetarianism to the reason Jewish religious law prohibits consuming meat and milk together to the origins of the first public restaurants in France. He also explains why dairy products are linked to the spring Jewish harvest festival of Shavuot, and he gives a shout out to Sholom Aleichem’s most famous fictional character, Tevye the Dairyman.
Dairy restaurants, especially in New York City, expanded as millions of Jews arrived on our shores from Eastern Europe between 1882 and 1924. These eateries were believed to be healthy, sanitary, and affordable alternatives to venues that served meat and poultry.
Rabbi James Rudin
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