Susanne Belovari, Assistant Professor and Archivist for Faculty Papers at the University Library, has been awarded the Sophie Coe Prize by the Oxford Food & Cookery Symposium for her article The Viennese Cuisine before Hitler–‘One Cuisine in the Use of Two Nations’. The Oxford Food Symposium is the oldest and most respected food symposium globally and awards the annual Sophie Coe Prize for food history, the longest-running and most generous prize for food history (in English).
First awarded in 1995, the fund that administers the Sophie Coe Prize was founded in memory of Sophie Coe, the eminent food historian who died in 1994, by her husband Michael Coe and their friend Alan Davidson. Every year, the winner is chosen by an anonymous panel of distinguished judges, and the prize is awarded to the author of an original, informative article or essay on some aspect of food history that embodies new research or provides new insights.
Belovari’s winning essay meticulously traces how the famous Viennese Cuisine had become a collective creation, product, and legacy of Viennese Jews and Non-Jews starting in the late 18th century; and leading up to and including the recipes in Wiener Küche, the definitive pre-War Viennese cookbook, that was shared by Vienna’s Jews and Christians before 1938. Thereafter, systematic National Socialist persecution of Jews culminated in the Holocaust — including the bizarre attempt to Aryanize the (largely) intangible culinary culture — and helped erase all knowledge about the common and shared cuisine.
The judges’ report says that “Belovari offers a profound and disturbing view of the strengths and limitations of cross-cultural exchanges. This work is ultimately about the power and limits of hyphenated identities. Despite the fact that the Jews and the Christians in Vienna both shared a single cuisine, and according to Belovari that this cuisine was fundamentally structured around Jewish culinary traditions, including those dictated by the requirements of Kosher kitchens, this was not enough to save the Jewish community from total destruction at the hands of its Christian neighbours.”
Twenty years in the making, Belovari’s essay is being celebrated by the judges and Jewish international and American scholars alike. One scholar, William Rubel, reached out to Belovari and wrote, ” [It is] stylistically brilliant that you let the fuller story of the Jews in Vienna and the Viennese Holocaust speak for itself. Such a great paper about something that is so important. The best work comes from cultural mixes. The insights you derived from close textural analysis is close to my heart.”
Belovari has been awarded £1,500 and an online event was held to honor her achievement; because of COVID-19, a scheduled event in Oxford was unable to happen. In discussing the origins of her paper, Belovari noted, “If this culinary research helps to unearth, acknowledge, and honor the contributions of Viennese Jews to our Viennese Cuisine, if it helps us see the complexities involved in everyday culture and the most simple of acts, if it helps us to remember and honor the Viennese Jews I met along the way as well as the amazing grandparents on both sides of my family who held on to the humanity of their neighbors, friends, and their own in troubling and dangerous times, then this research served its purpose.”