Full disclosure #1: I’ve never written a book review before. I apologize in advance.
Full disclosure #2: The publisher sent me the book for free, but I was not compensated in any way to review it.
Full disclosure #3: I don’t have a third one, but I kinda feel a list should have at least three things on it.
Do not, I repeat, do NOT read Hot Mamalah, The Ultimate Guide for Every Woman of the Tribe if you are hungry, thirsty, or chocolate deprived. DO read it if you have a stocked liquor cabinet and an open mind.
Lisa Alcalay Klug formats her book like a meal, with each of the four chapters representing one of the courses. Truly, though, it is sprinkled with bits of dessert throughout every course, which is how I like it. It’s the kind of book where you can open up to any page and learn something new about food, Judaism, and a Joan Rivers line. Groan-inducing puns (a playlist for the “Jewke Box”) and saliva-inducing drink recipes abound. It’s even better if you imagine it being read to you by Mike Meyers in his Linda Richman Coffee Talk voice.
Rather than refute stereotypes, “Hot Mamalah” celebrates in caricature fashion all the elements of Jews with two X chromosomes. Recurring informational tidbits help educate and amuse, like the “Recycle, Reuse, Reschmooze” sections, and the “FYI: For the Yiddish Impaired” boxes.
“FYI: For the Yiddish Impaired
Three Jewish women are sitting quietly minding their business.
Lisa devotes entire pages to ways you can know if you’re a Hot Mamalah. Most are funny, but every once in a while, there’s one thrown in that makes the heart smile. “You know you’re a Hot Mamalah because you always exaggerate for the sake of clarity.” “You know you’re a Hot Mamalah because your favorite food is seconds.” See? Those made me laugh. “You know you’re a Hot Mamalah because your life is one adorable clumsy waltz.” “You know you’re a Hot Mamalah because you befriend kids next to you in line.” Those made my heart smile.
The lists are abundant and fun – like strong Hot Mamalahs from Biblical times and their claims to fame, and fabulous names for our nether regions titled “Upstairs/Downstairs” – (my faves: Upstairs? “Mount of Olives.” Downstairs? It’s tied between “Hot Pocket” and “The Negev.”) There is dating advice, break-up advice, and a proven bullshit detection device.
Be willing to abandon linear thinking – this book is a tornado filled with stories, jokes, TONS of recipes, and where things land within each course/chapter, they land. Once I got into it, though, (I’m a painfully linear thinker) I found it liberating to just let Lisa grab me by the hand and take me along for the kooky and hilarious ride, wherever it went. I admit I found myself wishing I knew more Yiddish and Hebrew so I could get all the jokes, dammit! But isn’t that something a good book does? Leave you wanting to know more?
I did learn one thing I wish I hadn’t, though – involving the fact that some Bubbes made gefilte fish from scratch, fresh from carp that was actually swimming in their bathtubs. Daddy? Please tell me the gefilte fish we had at Grandma’s was out of a jar. Please?
Here’s the link where you can buy “Hot Mamalah”, which is a follow-up companion book to her guide for 21st-century members of the Tribe, “Cool Jew.” Buy ‘em both!