Need Help With Your Passover Feast? Just Ask 3 Local Bloggers

It’s always fun to write about friends, and three fellow bloggers and friends and well-worth writing about right about now with Passover upon us. Friend of the ‘Rag Melody Elliot-Koontz (aka Melly), Eileen Makishima Thornton, and Shankari Easwaran, have been working their way for the last few months through the recipes of Marlena Spieler, a Sacramento native and world-renowned cookbook author. Specifically, they’ve been working on recipes from Spieler’s Jewish Cooking, a collection of over 100 Jewish recipes from all over the world.

They’ve been featured in the Bee, on the local networks, and the recipes have been used recently at the Oak Cafe at ARC. The whole project, called “Sundays With Marlena,” has not only highlighted the diversity and overall yumminess of Jewish food, but also the diversity and overall awesomeness in Sacramento. The local media have eaten up the diversity angle, what with folks whose ancestors came from India, and Japan, and England, getting together to cook Jewish food. But hey, why not?  This is Sacramento after all, the self-proclaimed (and demographically backed-up) most diverse city in America. I just find it funny since I’m either too much a Sacramentan or too naive to have noticed the whole diversity angle in the first place. I just heard about my friends Melly and Shankari and Eileen getting together to cook great food and though, “Cool. Yummy.”

The other angle here is the whole idea of Jewish cooking getting some respect in foodie circles. (By the way, I’m really not a fan of the word “foodie” and try to use it as little as possible, but will probably use it at least twice more in this piece.) Spieler does a great job in Jewish Cooking of highlighting recipes that are more than the Eastern and Central European food that have been most closely associated with Jewish cooking in America. She reaches throughout the whole diaspora (is it OK to use that word when we’re talking about the modern Jewish worldwide population?) and grabs beautiful and delicious recipes from the Near and Far East, Southern Europe, and all points in between.  Spieler herself is a great champion of Jewish cuisine, but it’s not her only passion, as she’s truly a global eater. As a Sacramento native she’s also truly a local treasure and we’re lucky to claim her as our own.  Her writing has garnered her countless awards and commendations, her radio appearances are legendary, and her absolute passion for life, food, and family is something to behold.

I urge you to check out Melly’s blog , Shankari’s blog, and Eileen’s blog for great recipes, awesome stories, and lovely ladies. You can also go right to the source and check out Marlena Spieler’s books on Amazon, or check out her SF Chronicle column “Roving Feast” at

14 thoughts on “Need Help With Your Passover Feast? Just Ask 3 Local Bloggers”

  1. wonderful piece on a wonderful project, Greg!

    I’ve learned as much from “The Three Bloggers” as they have from cooking and blogging their way through my Jewish Heritage Cookbook! From Melody I”m reminded of how important that a big big heart and a lot of determination are; from Shankari I’m seduced by the spices and reminded of my late brother who once lived in India. And from Eileen my memory of wonderful Japanese culture was renewed, and came to blossom so on a recent trip to Japan!

    And most importantly, my heart is warmed with the fact that so much of Jewishness from the twentieth century is dead, ashes, and yet here is a group of young women who have found goodness and are, through its food, bringing to life a community of ghosts. and reminding those of us who are alive, how much our own cuisine and culture has to offer.

    Finally, I say with great warmth and admiration, move over Julie/Julia, move over three men and a baby and, in the words of food writer Sarah Le Trent, “make way for “Three Bloggers and One Marlena”!”

    These guys rock!


  2. I’ve had the pleasure of dining at Mellie’s place several times over the last few years and it’s always a pleasure.

    The project is inspired and inspirational and the three bloggers are all having a lot of fun, which to me is what food and cooking is all about. I hope to get there someday myself in the cooking department – right now, it’s stuffing carbs down hollow teenage legs.


  3. Like the article Greg. I am just enjoying the smells coming out of the kitchen all of the time. That is my reward. I have had the pleasure of getting to know Marlena, Eileen, Shankari, and Raj and that has been a real bonus. I keep working at making the bread when Mel needs it..and I have pumpernickle down to a gd science.

    It was good seeing you in SF that night.


  4. Loved the article and, of course, Melody’s blog site. I haven’t her food for quite a few years, but if she makes spaghetti ask her about her Oklahoma colander.


  5. Thank you took me a while to actually get here but I so thrilled and surprised by you article.
    It’s been a fun journey, and meeting Marlena and becoming her friend has topped it off. Plus my blogger buddies they are the best!


  6. Very cool. As a sometimes-beneficiary of the “Sundays with Marlena” largesse, I encourage everyone to read the three blogs, they are fascinating.


  7. I’ve been following Melly’s blog for some time now, and when I see a dish we might enjoy we’ll try it. So far all have turned out very well. I’ve lived in other places a good bit & she has been a good reminder of foods somehow removed to the deep recesses of my memory. I shall be checking the other two ladies out now as well.

    Commendable job on the article.


  8. I loved the write up, Greg! Well done. I don’t know 2 of the blogger’s nor have I met Marlena. However, I do know Melody and Marlena is correct, she has a big heart…in fact she’s all heart. I’m sure that it’s a major factor in the deliciousness of her food! Everyone keep up the phenomenal work!


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