Denise Margolis (nee Choueka)

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Dear Mrs. Dweck,

On visiting my daughter in Israel in September I was reading the ‘Jerusalem Post’ weekend supplement when I came across a book review for your book ‘Aromas of Aleppo’. I read the review several times and it really caught my interest.

On returning home, with a copy of the paper, I went on to Amazon and found that it was possible to purchase a copy of your book, which I promptly did.

Nothing could have possibly prepared me for the amazing experience of receiving my copy. When it arrived I opened the parcel and sat, turning the pages with amazement! It was as if my whole family jumped out of the pages to greet me!

There I met my grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles – in fact all my long since departed relatives. My mother, whose parents were born and married in Aleppo, but left there on their marriage to set up home and raise a family in Manchester, cooked just the same as all your recipes.

My father, who was born in Aleppo but grew up in Cairo with his Syrian born father and Turkish born mother, never lost his taste for this food. I have found many cookery books along the way but was always disappointed with the results of the dishes I made. I also did not like the fact, that even though some of these books were written by Jewish cooks, the recipes contained non kosher items so were difficult to reproduce. My mother died when I was 20, and even though I could cook before then, it never seemed necessary to write down her recipes, so I only had the ‘taste’ in my head. Of course all our parents and grandparents kept strictly kosher homes.

I immediately bought a copy for my daughter in Israel and my daughter in England, both of whom are married with families. Even though they are both married to Ashkenazi Jews they also love this cuisine, and have already tried several of your recipes, all of which work wonderfully. We are all, my cousins and my daughters and I, are still plucking up the courage to try to make kibbehs, which of course you make sound easy, but we know are very hard!

This seems to be one recipe and method which has died with our mothers and grandmothers. I then proceeded to buy copies for several of my cousins, without telling them, so that when their copies arrived they were also as amazed as me. We have all decided this is too beautiful a book to be put in a shelf but needs to be on a coffee table.

We have all enjoyed reading the history of your family and the tales of the Jews of Aleppo, and looking at the beautiful pictures. Our family names, Choueka, Tawil and Labaton are names with which I am sure you will feel familiar. The Choueka name, which had several different spellings with each brother leaving for pastures new, was all one family.

In Manchester, there is still a very thriving Sephardic community made up of Syrian, Egyptian, Persian, Iraqi and Moroccan Jews who try to keep all the old traditions, but many of the younger ones marry Ashkenazi Jews and also do not have the same interests in cooking as many of us do! Still it is all a history lesson for them and it is awakening new interests for them in the past lives of their grandparents. We, of my generation were all mostly born in England.

I am sure that your publishers would find an excellent market in this country for your book, and if you would possibly do a book tour of Manchester and London I would happily be willing to help promotes a visit to Manchester for you!

Once again, thank you so much for such a wonderful experience. May you go from strength to strength, together with your wonderful family.

Yours most sincerely,

Denise Margolis (nee Choueka)

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