When Bobbie and Joe Lewis first stayed at the Everett Jewish Life Center in Chautauqua in 2014, they enjoyed the classic continental breakfast fare: yogurt, toast, hard boiled eggs. But when they took over as host couple in 2017, they decided to add a personal touch. Inspired by their stays at bed and breakfasts and eager to use the house’s industrial kitchen, the Lewises began adding a hot casserole and homemade baked goods to the table each morning.
Guests noticed the extra effort.
“People last summer, our first summer, were saying, ‘Oh this is delicious. Can I have the recipe?’ ” Bobbie Lewis said.
After a summer of frequent questioning, the Lewises returned to their home in Detroit and compiled a breakfast cookbook, mapping out dishes they had served over the nine weeks — with some extras thrown in. When they returned this season, they brought along 100 copies of Everett Eats! Sales proceeds benefit EJLCC.
The 85-page volume includes classics like homemade granola dressed with sesame seeds, grape juice and cinnamon, and some fancier brunch options like crustless salmon quiche, sour cream banana bread and massaged kale salad. The Lewises tested each recipe themselves before adding it to the book.
The couple has seemingly serendipitous backgrounds for cookbook compilation: Both retired, Bobbie Lewis runs a food blog titled “Bobbie’s Best Recipes,” and Joe Lewis has a side business publishing custom Jewish prayer books. He arranged printing for the cookbook using funds from EJLCC’s board. The Lewises estimate they have sold about 75 copies, and consider the fundraiser a success.
The requested donation for each book is $18, a significant number in Jewish tradition. In Hebrew, the number 18 is spelled with the eighth and 10th letters of the alphabet. This combination also spells “chai” (the “ch” pronounced like in “challah”), meaning “life.” Giving gifts or donations in multiples of 18 is known as “giving chai,” and takes on a spiritual significance.
And of course, other Jewish traditions have a home in the book itself. Among recipes pulled from The New York Times and Ina Garten are ones for Joe Lewis’ go-to challah and multiple types of kugel, a Jewish pudding made with rice or noodles that is often served on holy days. EJLCC keeps a kosher, dairy-only kitchen, and this is reflected in the mostly meat-free cookbook.
On Aug. 17, EJLCC guests sipped coffee and passed newspapers around cheesy hash brown casserole and “glorious morning” muffins, which are filled with sliced almonds, apple, coconut and carrots.
“Every morning is something special,” said Judy Braumfeld of Champaign, Illinois, who has stayed at the EJLCC for the past eight years.
Both Joe and Bobbie Lewis find joy in the kitchen, but Bobbie Lewis said her favorite part of cooking is watching a meal foster community.
“Food is integral to anything. It’s a very special thing. I think most people like joining with other people over a meal and sharing friendship as well as food.”
–Bobbie Lewis, Host, Everett Jewish Life Center in Chautauqua