East–West Recipes

Jana B. - Recipe BookJana B. grew up in the town of Halle and she is very proud of her East German heritage. Consequently, she was very surprised when she discovered that the key cookbook her mother used at home actually came from the West. According to Jana’s father, a great aunt gave it to her mother as a wedding gift for her first marriage. Jana received the book, whose title translates to The New Big Cookbook in 1998 after her mother passed away from cancer only fifty years old.

Before becoming ill, Jana’s mother had worked at Konsum, the only widely accessible supermarket chain in Eastern Germany. She was also a trained butcher, which put her in a privileged position. Jana rejects the common story according to which East Germans were unable to get hold of fresh tropical fruits or fresh meat. Indeed, Konsum employees often bought fresh fruit and other rarities as they came in and then re-sold the products.

In 2007, after completing a traineeship in hotel business in Eltville on the Rhine, Jana moved to London for work. She had long wanted to leave Germany and had always been fascinated by England – the language, the history, iconic figures such as Sherlock Holmes, and the grey and rainy weather.

The cookbook, which she carries with her wherever she moves, is always close by. It is the strongest and most vivid reminder of her mother. Before she fell ill, the two had made plans to write their own recipe book; that never happened. Between the pages of Jana’s copy of The New Big Cookbook are some notes, rare traces of her mother’s handwriting. ‘It is my most prized possession’, Jana asserts.

Object Information

  • Year Received: 1998
  • Year Published: 1963
  • Publisher: Bertelsmann Verlag
  • Place of Publication: Gütersloh in West Germany
  • Material: Paper
  • Size: 23 cm x 16 cm x 4 cm
  • Colour: White with various illustrations of food on the title page