Kosher butcher’s son compiles cookbook of Kaplan Bros. recipes from archived Jewish News ads.
Sukiyaki, Viennese Beef Goulash and Lamb Curry, just like your kosher mama or bubbie maybe used to make for dinner.
Nostalgia was one motivating factor when Richard J. Kaplan, a former Detroiter, decided to compile a fleischig (meat) cookbook from his father Seymour Kaplan’s family recipes. “It was just as a fun thing to do,” said Richard Kaplan, 67, a retired tax and estate-planning attorney living in Estero, Florida, and Manchester Village, Vermont.
Kaplan pays tribute to his dad in The Kaplan Bros. Kosher Meat Market Cookbook by Seymour Kaplan. Seymour and his younger brother, Saul Kaplan, were co-owners of a kosher butcher shop in Detroit that “was very well known in its day,” Richard said.
The first butcher in their family was Rabbi Joseph “Joe” Kaplan, born in 1892 in Bielsk, Poland. After Joe passed away in 1945, his wife Rose (Levenburg) Kaplan, originally from Grodno in Poland, maintained their butcher shop around 12th Street (Richard wasn’t sure) for a couple more years.
In deciding to become butchers, American-born Seymour and Saul were in a sense restarting their father’s business. Richard said the brothers first rented space next to the Dexter-Davison Market at 18211 Wyoming, near Curtis, before purchasing their own building in 1961, next door at 18229 Wyoming. The business hours were long, as much as 70-75 hours a week, but Seymour told his son that he “loved the people he came into contact with.”
In the cookbook, Richard described his dad and uncle as being “the closest of brothers, not only working together most every day, but spending much of their free time together as well. No one can recall them ever having an argument.”
Richard’s main job at the butcher shop was packing the hamburger meat some Sundays. As the business expanded, Richard’s older brothers and future doctors, David and Robert Kaplan, used a company car to make local deliveries. Boys from the neighborhood took over later.
“And if people heard we were already going somewhere (such as to visit relatives in Grand Rapids),” Richard said, “Dad would deliver meat to them packed in dry ice in his car trunk.”
Their family belonged to Ahavas Achim Synagogue on Schaefer near Seven Mile in Detroit, and then Congregation Shaarey Zedek on Bell Road after moving to Southfield. Richard is a 1973 graduate of Southfield High School.
The end of “Kaplan Bros. Strictly Kosher Meats-Poultry,” as its ads called the business, came about after Seymour developed a bad heart condition. When he was unable to lift anything heavy at work, Richard said Seymour and Saul “closed up the shop without notice that very day, in 1971 or 1972.”
Until very recently, the only trace of the business was a barely recognizable painted Kaplan Brothers sign above the old building.
The Kaplan brothers, now deceased, are survived by their sister, Eileen Letvin of West Bloomfield.
Weekly Ads in the JN
Richard was aware that his father had advertised the butcher shop by placing a series of “Kaplan Bros. Recipe of the Week” ads in the Detroit Jewish News. Recipes contained ingredients sold in the store.
Last year, while researching online, Richard found a link to the ads among the newspaper holdings at Bentley Historical Library in Ann Arbor. Additionally, back copies of the Jewish News may be searched online for free in the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History, maintained by the Detroit Jewish News Foundation, at www.djnfoundation.org.
Intrigued by the recipes, Richard posted a few on targeted Facebook pages, such as “Jewish Detroit.” Readers wrote positive comments: “I used to make these recipes but lost them.” And, “My mother made these, and I’m glad to see them again.” Other people told Kaplan they remembered his dad.
Richard was sufficiently encouraged to compile a cookbook of the ads from 1959 and early 1960, alongside the recipes printed for greater readability.
Seymour’s recipes listed some products seldom used today, such as oleo. “Someone 30 years old would not remember it,” Richard said, also noting that his parents referred to margarine as “Mar-Parv” — the brand name of a kosher margarine used at one time that had no dairy. “Beef suet, a type of shortening, is another ingredient that is not well known or used anymore,” he said.
Retyping the recipes, Richard added commentary about ingredients that might not be recognized and helpfully offered substitutions. For example, he suggested olive oil, regular margarine or butter (not kosher) could be used instead of Mar-Parv in Seymour’s Stuffed Cabbage Leaves and Chicken Cacciatore and Noodles.
“They’re all interesting, old-style cooking recipes, like Chop Suey,” Kaplan said. “My mom made some and said they were very good.”
He enjoyed finding the recipe for a warm borscht, less familiar to him than the cold variety.
“Another recipe I’ve been dying to try is the Barbecue Spareribs, using lamb ribs. I recently found a butcher in Vermont that can cut the meat that way,” he said.
“I figured there would be an audience to buy the book, and I’ve sold more copies [50 and counting] than I thought I would.”
The Kaplan Bros. Kosher Meat Market Cookbook by Seymour Kaplan ($7.99 in paperback, also on Kindle) is available at Amazon.com.
Getting to Know Richard Kaplan
• Graduate of University of Michigan (BGS —Bachelor of General Studies), Cleveland State University (JD) and University of Miami (LLM-Tax).
• Moved to Hallandale, Florida, after finishing law school in 1980.
• Married 33 years to the former Lynn Kressman with a son Andrew, 31, of Denver.
• Mayor of Lauderhill, Fla., for 21 years, and commissioner for the prior 10 years.
• Helped build the first officially accredited cricket stadium in North America.
• Member of the Cricket Hall of Fame in Hartfield, Connecticut.
• Author of a political memoir (In Politics There are No Friends); a historical fiction book based on Joseph Ross, his maternal grandfather (The Russian Escape); and a history of cricket in the U.S. (Cricket, Lovely Cricket).