Publication date: February 15, 2023
Bitter Sweet: A Wartime Journal and Heirloom Recipes from Occupied France
by Kitty Morse
Photography by Owen Morse
Hardcover, over 70 illustrations, including food photography and original documents
Trim size: 7″x9″, 240 pp
Pub date: February 15, 2023
$35.00 plus tax
Shipping : $5 (via Media Mail in the US ONLY) Please contact me for other options and international shipping rates.
Hardcover, over 70 illustrations, including food photography and original documents Trim size: 7″x9″, 240 pp Pub date: February 1, 2023 $35.00 plus tax Shipping : $5 (via Media Mail in the US ONLY) Please contact me for other options and international shipping fees. Preorder a signed copy now via Paypal
My COVID confinement has been consumed with writing a memoir with recipes based upon family documents my mother left me in a little black suitcase I discovered after her death in 2017. The suitcase contained my great-grandfather’s journal chronicling the advance of the Germans in Le Grand Est (formerly Alsace/Lorraine) between April and December 1940, and two little notebooks written in my great-grandmother’s hand, listing about 65 family recipes, translated from the French, tested, and photographed. Bitter Sweet takes place in and around Nancy and Châlons-sur-Marne, today renamed Châlons-en-Champagne, my mother’s birthplace.
Switching from the Mediterranean foods of my Sephardic relatives in Morocco (as in The Scent of Orange Blossoms: Sephardic Cuisine from Morocco) to the cuisine bourgeoise of my maternal ancestors of Ashkenazi descent has been an enriching experience and a culinary challenge in more ways than one!
Blanche Lévy-Neymarck, my maternal great-grandmother, died at Auschwitz along with one of her daughters and her son-in-law. Her husband, Prosper, an army surgeon in WWI, was twice the recipient of the Légion d’Honneur, was left to die alone, in a hospital in Toul.
PART 1: Excerpt from the Preface:
“I’d never come across another suitcase quite like it. But what was the tattered black leather valise doing there, hidden behind a crocheted comforter on the top shelf of my late mother’s closet?… A label lying on top of a cache of sundry photos and documents took my breath away. Written in my grandfather’s hand, it read: Les Archives Complètes des Familles Lévy-Neymark…. Blanche’s portrait partially hid a pocket-size doctor’s notebook, a gift from a Parisian medical laboratory, titled Carnet Médical 1936, listing close to 100 family recipes. Below it, lay Dr. Prosper Levy-Neymarck’s journal chronicling the advance of the Germans on Alsace Lorraine in 1940…”
PART 2: Excerpt from Prosper’s journal:
9 May 1940
French troops have swept into Nancy. The city has come to life. There is a run on boutiques and grocery stores, especially those selling fine wines and aperitifs. Tailors display their finest military uniforms, at prices that scare off veterans of 1914-1918, whose entire monthly earnings could not begin to cover the cost of a sous-lieutenant’s tunic. Our officers waste gasoline driving aimlessly around town and fall asleep in the shadow of the Maginot Line.
Part 3: Blanche’s Recipes:
More than 65 recipes, many of them illustrated with professional food photography,
From New Year’s Eve Endive Salad, Ham-Wrapped Belgian Endives, Cherry Clafoutis, Blanche’s Carrot Cake, Plum Tart, Yule Log, to an Alsatian Zimmetkuchen.
Advance praise for Bitter Sweet:
“Bitter Sweet is a fascinating and harrowing account of the lives and worlds that were lost and disrupted in one French family during the wars and political convulsions of the 20th century. A selection of family recipes add a delicious poignancy to this story and remind us that cooking is an act of emotional memory.” –—Alexander Lobrano, author of My Place at the Table: A Recipe for a Delicious Life in Paris
“Kitty Morse’s latest book, Bitter Sweet, is a rare and rich telling of a family’s journey through WWII, comprised from three perspectives: Kitty’s tale of her discovery of an old valise containing her great-grandfather’s diary, written in occupied France in 1940 and the genealogical archival research it engendered; heartbreaking entries from Prosper Levy’s impeccably written perspective of the increasing horror of Nazi occupation of Europe; and culminating with Kitty’s passion for exploring culinary arts: the comfort and hope served up with treasured family recipes handed down through generations of women. Part history, part memoir, part cookbook, Bitter Sweet is an important addition both to Holocaust literature and the healing that traditional foods can offer our souls.” –—Kathi Diamant, author of Kafka’s Last Love: The Mystery of Dora Diamant and Heart of the Zoo
“In Bitter Sweet, cookbook author Kitty Morse brings us a very personal family history, complete with the translated wartime journal of her great-grandfather, a French-Jewish retired médecin-colonel and recipient of the French Légion d’Honneur, who ultimately did not survive the Second World War and whose family was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944. With his words and her historical context, she brings to life two rediscovered notebooks containing 65 family recipes. A true taste of Occupied France, from Morse’s family table to yours.” –—New York Times bestselling author Kristin Harmel
“Bitter Sweet is a book I couldn’t put down!
I knew about Kitty Morse’s North African roots but in this book I discovered there is another side to her family–her Alsatian-Jewish great-grandparents. While going through her late mother’s belongings, Kitty found a suitcase that she refers to as “la petite valise”. In it, she discovered so much about her family that had never been disclosed before by her mother or grandmother. Kitty writes beautifully, relating her family’s life to historic events of the period. Kitty writes beautifully, relating her family’s life to historic events of the period.
The suitcase held the journal of her great-grandfather, Dr. Prosper Lévy, recounting how life deteriorated when the Nazis took over France in WWII, and the tragic ways in which these events affected the family. The valise also contained a notebook in which Blanche recorded family recipes. Many were well-known to Kitty from her mother’s and grandmother’s cooking but the dishes’ origin remained in the dark. And these recipes are tempting. From the dessert chapter, I look forward to trying the carrot cake made with orange juice, Cointreau and almond flour; Zimmetkuchen cinnamon coffee cake baked with dollops of crème fraiche; a moist Kalougat chocolate pudding cake; and Pain d’Epices, a classic spice cake flavored with aniseed powder, allspice and cinnamon, which, Kitty notes, awaited her every day when she came home from school in Casablanca.”–—Faye Levy, author, 1,000 Jewish Recipes, Feast from the Mideast and Fresh from France series
“This multi-sensory exploration of Kitty Morse’s family’s history and recipes is full of surprises I can just imagine how delighted the author must have been stumbling on this treasure trove of family documents. “Bitter Sweet” is truly a bitter sweet tale about how part of a family was saved from Nazi-occupied Alsace/Lorraine and the delicious, rediscovered recipes that show how French, Alsatian, yet culturally Jewish her family once was, living in La Belle Epoque (The Beautiful Age).–—Joan Nathan, author of Quiches, Kugels and Couscous and My Search for Jewish Cooking in France
My women’s club has monthly luncheons and speakers. Do you do programs for clubs? We are located in North County and your book Bitter Sweet sounds like something our members would like to hear about. Please contact me at your convenience.
I have just come back from France where I found all the traces of my ancestors mentioned in my mother’s documents. I would be happy to schedule an event with your group. Pls reply by email at [email protected].
I’m truly looking forward to reading this book, Bitter Sweet, as I wrote about the same period of time in Alsace and interviewed those who had been children when the Germans once again took over Strasbourg. My novel, A Cup of Redemption, touches on these same war stories, and also the book, Searching for Family and Traditions at the French Table, Book One, definitely embraces the people who experienced such trauma.