Ethel G. Hofman

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Ethel G. Hofman
Ethel G Hofman 2012.jpg
2012 portrait of Ethel G. Hofman
BornEthel Greenwald
Glasgow, Scotland
EducationGlasgow College of Domestic Science
University of Chicago
Culinary career
Cooking styleJewish, Israeli, British

Ethel Greenwald Hofman (born 1939) is a widely syndicated Jewish American food and travel columnist, author and culinary consultant. She is a recognized authority[1] on international Jewish foods and culture, with special emphasis on Israel and the United Kingdom.

Early life[edit]

Hofman was born in Glasgow, Scotland, one of three children to Jean and Harry Greenwald. In 1914, when her father, grandfather and paternal uncles left Russia, they thought they were going to America. They wound up in Lerwick in Scotland’s Shetland Islands, over 300 miles from the closest Jewish community.[2] In 1935, her father married Jean Segal, who had grown up in Scotland. Ethel’s parents moved back to Lerwick when she was six weeks old. There they became small shopkeepers, with their variety store selling everything “from candy to condoms.”[3] Even though the Greenwalds constituted the Jewish population of the island, the family maintained a strong Jewish identity.[4] Jean Segal Greenwald had been brought up in an Orthodox Jewish household, could read Hebrew, and spoke Yiddish with her husband.[5] During World War II, from 1941–45, Jean Greenwald annually organized Passover seders for British troops. The first was conducted by Sir Israel Brodie, who went on to become Chief Rabbi of Great Britain.[6]

Following her graduation from Glasgow College of Domestic Science in 1959, Hofman moved to Chicago to live with an aunt.[7] She took a one-year dietetic internship at the University of Chicago, and then served for three-and-a-half years as Chief Administrative Dietitian at Michael Reese Hospital, where she met her husband. After moving for two years to Basel, Switzerland, and then to Boston (where she was a nutritionist at the Harvard School of Public Health under Professor Jean Mayer), she settled with her family in Philadelphia.[8]

Hofman's husband, Dr. Walter I. Hofman, is a forensic pathologist who was elected coroner in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.[9] The couple has two children.[8]

Culinary career[edit]

Hofman came to cooking, and Jewish cooking in particular, in her mother’s kitchen.[10] She studied continental cuisine with local chefs during her years in Switzerland, and advanced gourmet cooking at Le Cordon Bleu in London. In Philadelphia, she established The Instant Gourmet, that city’s first cooking school. She also met and worked with some of the leading figures in the industry, including Emeril Lagasse, Jacques Pépin and Julia Child, from whom she took master cooking classes.[8] In 1995, she was elected president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals.[11]

Philosophy and reception[edit]

Hofman’s food philosophy and recipes have been described as uncomplicated: “’fresh, fast and easy’ is her basic approach,”[10] with a focus on “healthy cooking.”[12] Her Jewish home cooking recipes emphasize “convenience foods wherever possible, so that many of these dishes require the least possible time and effort … The result is both healthy simplicity and lively good taste.”[13]

Her written works have been well received by critics, especially her cookbook Everyday Cooking for the Jewish Home[14] and memoir Mackerel at Midnight.[15]

Journalism career[edit]

Print journalism[edit]

Hofman began writing on culinary subjects in 1980. She was a feature writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer[16] and Philadelphia's Jewish Exponent,[5] and from 1985-2011 served as Food Editor for the Baltimore Jewish Times.[17] Her feature articles have appeared in publications such as Gastronomica,[18] TeaTime[19] and over a dozen other publications. She was a syndicated columnist with Knight-Ridder[20] and self-syndicated her culinary columns to American Jewish newspapers. By 2005, her columns appeared in some 20 Jewish newspapers,[21] including the Washington Jewish Week,[22] Chicago Jewish Star[23] and the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix.[24]

Broadcast journalism[edit]

Hofman has made guest appearances on national television and radio, including Cooking Live on the Food Network.[25]

Awards and recognition[edit]


  • Mackerel at Midnight: Growing Up Jewish on a Remote Scottish Island (Philadelphia: Camino Books, 2005; Edinburgh: Mercat Press, 2006)
  • The Art of Cooking: Recipes & Techniques (Cooking Club of America, 2001)
  • Everyday Cooking for the Jewish Home: More than 350 Delectable Recipes (HarperCollins, 1997)
  • The Family Cookbook (1991)
  • Making Food Beautiful (East Woods Press, 1982)


  1. ^ “Renowned foodie returns to give inaugural ‘Dough School’ lecture,” Glasgow Caledonian University News & Events, June 20, 2011.
  2. ^ Ethel G. Hofman, Mackerel at Midnight, Philadelphia: Camino Books, 2005, chapter 2.
  3. ^ Mackerel at Midnight, p. 43.
  4. ^ Louise Fiszer, “Scottish Jewish memoir a cultural and culinary delight,” JWeekly, May 20, 2005.
  5. ^ a b Ethel G. Hofman, “A Shetland Island Passover,” Jewish Exponent, March 18, 1999.
  6. ^ Mackerel at Midnight, pp. 132-33.
  7. ^ Ethel G. Hofman, “A Remarkable Journey,” Glasgow Caledonian University Alumni and Friends. Accessed July 22, 2012.
  8. ^ a b c d Dianna Marder, "Princely repast: A Merion epicurean plans high tea," Philadelphia Inquirer, April 28, 2011.
  9. ^ Dr. Hofman was elected coroner in 2007 (Bryan Schwartzman, “New Coroner Plans to Shake It Up,” Jewish Exponent, January 31, 2008, p. 18) and re-elected in 2011 (Carl Hessler Jr., "Election 2011: Behr victorious in sheriff's race," The Times Herald of Montgomery County, PA, November 9, 2011).
  10. ^ a b Gila Wertheimer, “Fresh, fast and easy,” Chicago Jewish Star, October 24, 1997, p. 9.
  11. ^ a b "Past IACP Presidents," International Association of Culinary Professionals. Accessed July 22, 2012.
  12. ^ Barbara Pash, “A Lady With Taste: Jewish Times Food Editor Ethel G. Hofman has a new cookbook,” Baltimore Jewish Times, September 26, 1997, p. 18.
  13. ^ Ethel G. Hofman, Everyday Cooking for the Jewish Home, New York: HarperCollins, 1997, pp. 2-3.
  14. ^ “The book features an array of interesting deserts” (E.J. Kessler, “Where the Kitchen Is a Temple,” The Forward, September 19, 1997, p. 18); a cookbook that is “inviting to use, and will appeal to both the novice and the experienced cook” (Gila Wertheimer, “Fresh, fast and easy,” Chicago Jewish Star, October 24, 1997, p. 9).
  15. ^ “A charming, heartwarming and inspiring memoir” (Gila Wertheimer, “Jewish life in the remote Shetlands,” Chicago Jewish Star, January 28, 2005, p. 8); “an exceptionally cute and surprisingly recognizable jaunt into the margins of the Jewish Diaspora” (Eli Rosenblatt, “’Mackerel at Midnight: Growing Up Jewish on a Remote Scottish Island’”, The Forward, May 2, 2008, p. 20); “Hollywood could do worse than making this story into an epic film – happy ending, inspiration and all. Interspersed with a fusion of shtetl and Shetland Island recipes, this was one terrific read and cookbook” (Louise Fiszer, “Scottish Jewish memoir a cultural and culinary delight,” JWeekly, May 20, 2005, p. 22).
  16. ^ For example, Ethel G. Hofman, “Holiday tables: A Seder – with a British accent,” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 27, 1988.
  17. ^ Ethel G. Hofman, “’Keepin’ Cakes’ For Chanukah,” Baltimore Jewish Times, November 27, 1987, p. 115.
  18. ^ Ethel Hofman, “A Highland Ceilidh,” Gastronomica, vol. 4, Spring 2004.
  19. ^ Ethel G. Hofman, “Community Teas (Scotland),” TeaTime, volume 8, May–June 2011, p. 46.
  20. ^ Ethel G. Hofman, “Turkey burgers don’t have to be dry, tough,” The Spokesman-Review, October 8, 1991.
  21. ^ Aaron Leibel, “Jewish on the Shetland Isles; WJW cooking columnist writes memoir/recipe book,” Washington Jewish Week, February 20, 2005, p. 10.
  22. ^ Ethel G. Hofman, “Beyond Nibbles and Noshes: Oatmeal – a hearty Scottish staple,” Washington Jewish Week, January 8, 2004, p. 25.
  23. ^ Ethel Hofman, “We’re Cooking: An Israeli feast for the eye and the palate,” Chicago Jewish Star, February 22, 1991, p. 15.
  24. ^ Ethel G. Hofman, “Thanksgiving can be a fussless feast,” Jewish News of Greater Phoenix, November 20, 1998, S21.
  25. ^ Cooking Live, “Hanukkah” episode, Food Network. Accessed July 22, 2012.
  26. ^ Chicago Jewish Star, July 16, 2010, p. 10.
  27. ^ Chicago Jewish Star, June 24, 1994, p. 13.

External links[edit]