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The Way Meat Loves Salt

The Way Meat Loves Salt

by Nina Jaffe, Louise August (Illustrator)

Many years ago in Poland, there lived a rabbi who had a wife and three daughters. One day, the rabbi asks his children a powerful question: "How much do you love me?" His older daughters profess their love in gold and diamonds, but his youngest daughter, Mireleh, declares she loves her father the way meat loves salt. For this remark, she is banished from her


Many years ago in Poland, there lived a rabbi who had a wife and three daughters. One day, the rabbi asks his children a powerful question: "How much do you love me?" His older daughters profess their love in gold and diamonds, but his youngest daughter, Mireleh, declares she loves her father the way meat loves salt. For this remark, she is banished from her father's home.

In this flavorful Jewish Cinderella tale, Mireleh's courageous journey is peppered with a perfect blend of magic and romance, leading to a reconciliation with her beloved father. Lavishly illustrated in Louise August's bold linocuts, The Way Meat Loves Salt will make a wonderful gift for the Jewish holidays.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Despite the subtitle, this is not strictly a Cinderella tale so much as a patchwork of two or three fairy tales, including Cinderella, brought to a Polish-Jewish setting. It begins as a variant on the tale in which a father asks each of his three daughters to declare how much she loves him; the older two answer in obvious ways ("as much as diamonds"; "as much as gold and silver"), but the third says, "I love you the way meat loves salt." The father here, a rabbi, misunderstands and exiles the youngest daughter, who, in this case, receives a magic stick from a stranger (he turns out to be the prophet Elijah). She takes refuge in the house of a faraway rabbi with a handsome son. Add in a wedding (in place of a ball) and the story becomes Cinderella-ish, with the girl using the magic stick to conjure up a pretty dress, shoes and transportation. A missing slipper soon leads to the girl's own wedding with aforesaid handsome son. The wedding supper is prepared without salt, prompting sudden understanding from the bride's father. August endows the story with gorgeously colored linocuts as intimate and attractively homespun as for In the Month of Kislev (written by Jaffe); like Jaffe, she can convey a warm ethnic tradition with her own sophisticated touches and discreet flair. But even with Jaffe's supple, classically cadenced prose, the seams show--the story is best for readers who want the Jewish backdrop. Ages 4-7. (Sept.)
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
When Mireleh, the youngest daughter, tells her father she loves him as meat loves salt, she is banished from her father's home. This begins her journey that tests her courage and resiliency. Eventually her father learns that she paid him a great compliment.
Children's Literature - Judy Katsh
A rabbi, asking his children to quantify their love for him, sets this Cinderella tale in motion. When his youngest daughter compares her love for her father to meat's love of salt, the learned man angers and banishes her. Her travels and troubles recall the familiar Cinderella tale complete with magical transformations, lost shoes, and royal suitors. The themes are universal; the characters' names and the ethnicity of the illustrations set this story firmly in the Old Country. In source notes, Ms. Jaffe gives credit to old Yiddish folktales, her seamstress great-grandmother, and all the storytellers and story listeners who have each added their unique flavors to the tale.
School Library Journal
K-Gr 4-Young readers will recognize Cinderella while adults will see the story of King Lear in this Yiddish tale. When a rabbi asks his three daughters how much they love him, the first two name diamonds and gold and silver and he is content. However, when Mireleh tells her father that she loves him "the way meat loves salt," he is horrified and banishes her from his home. Much like the protagonist in Charlotte Huck's Princess Furball (Greenwillow, 1989), she makes her own way in the world, with the help of Elijah the Prophet, marrying a rabbi's son and inviting her family to the wedding banquet where the food is made tasteless from lack of salt. At last, the rabbi realizes how much his daughter loves him and the families are reunited to live happily ever after. This retelling is enriched by a clear introduction that shows the place of the story in literary tradition; by flowing language that will make it a fine read-aloud; and by linocut illustrations done in oil on rice paper, showing simple faces, embroidered clothing, and rustic homes. The words and music to the traditional Eastern European wedding song, "Mazel Tov," are appended. A fine addition to folktale collections, especially those where Cinderella variants or Eastern-European and Jewish tales are in demand.-Barbara Chatton, College of Education, University of Wyoming, Laramie
Horn Book
In this Yiddish variant of "Cinderella," which incorporates other tale-types as well, Mireleh, the youngest of three daughters, is dismissed by her father .a la King Lear when she declares she loves him "the way meat loves salt." This analogy sits unfavorably with her rabbi father, who likes his elder daughters' diamonds and gold better. Mireleh meets a kindly old man-Elijah, in fact-who gives her a magic stick. Tapping on the stick, she receives her first wish, and is transformed into a lovely maiden so that she may attend a wedding feast in Krakow. When the eligible young rabbi's son falls in love with Mireleh herself and they marry, she warns the cooks to put no salt in any of the food prepared for the feast. Her attending father exclaims that the food tastes terrible and, recognizing his daughter, understands her love for him. Illustrator Louise August renders the homey quality suggested in the title in the energetic peasant-like feel of her linocuts, whose bold black outlines furnish vitality. Vibrant oils of reds, yellows, and blues set off the inky black, which defines the trees and rocks, and the sashes on the women's provincial gowns. Both the writing and the art contribute to the abundant good spirit, captured in a final Mazel Tov!, the musical score for which is provided at the end.

Product Details

Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
8.58(w) x 10.34(h) x 0.41(d)
580L (what's this?)
Age Range:
4 - 9 Years

Read an Excerpt

The Way Meat Loves Salt

A Cinderella Tale from the Jewish Tradition

By Nina Jaffe, Louise August

Henry Holt and Company

Copyright © 1998 Nina Jaffe
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8050-4384-6


Once upon a time in Poland, in a small town near the city of Lublin, there lived a rabbi who had a wife and three young daughters. The eldest daughter's name was Reyzeleh. The middle daughter's name was Khaveleh. And the youngest daughter's name was Mireleh.

The children grew up watching their mother in all she did. Once a week, they would help her carry sacks of flour and baskets of vegetables back from the marketplace. In time, Reyzeleh became an expert seamstress. She could sew and embroider elegant hallah covers and the most delicate tablecloths.

Khaveleh loved to sing. From morning till night, her voice could be heard echoing through the halls of the house as she hummed a fiddler's tune or a Sabbath melody. Only Mireleh had no special gift. She spent her time daydreaming by the window. Whenever she saw her father walking up the path, she ran to greet him. The rabbi loved all his children, but he had a special place in his heart for Mireleh.

One day the rabbi found himself beset by a problem — a question he could not find the answer to. It was not written in any of his holy books. It was not discussed in the pages of the Talmud, the books of Jewish law. Still, the question kept appearing in his mind. "I know that I love my children," the rabbi said to himself, "but how much do they love me? I must discover the answer."

That evening, as Reyzeleh sat in her chair, sewing a new hallah cover, the rabbi stopped and asked her, "Reyzeleh, how much do you love me?" She replied, "Oh, Father, I love you as much as diamonds!" And he was content. Then he went to Khaveleh and asked her, "Khaveleh, my little turtledove, how much do you love me?" And she replied, "Father, I love you as much as gold and silver!" And he was happy. Finally he went to Mireleh and asked her, "Mireleh, my youngest child, my precious one, how much do you love me?" Mireleh looked straight at him and replied, "Father, I love you the way meat loves salt."

The rabbi was horrified. "What? You love me no more than salt?"

At that moment all the laws and commandments of loving-kindness flew from his head. He was so angry and hurt by her words that he drove her from the house and told her never to return.

Mireleh ran down the road, past the synagogue and the marketplace, past the walls of the town, out into the countryside. The tears ran down her cheeks like summer rain. "Where am I to go?" she wept to herself. "What am I to do?"

As she stood there, not knowing which way to turn, a stranger appeared before her. He was an old man with a long, flowing beard — yet he had the shining eyes of a gentle young man. A golden glow seemed to surround him. In one hand he carried a tall silver staff, and in the other, a small wooden stick.

The stranger spoke to Mireleh and said, "Mireleh, I know why you are running down this road, but do not fear. Dry your eyes. I am here to help you, for you have always been a kind and loving child. Now listen carefully to my words. Take the path that goes to the east, over a wooden bridge and past a grove of birch trees, until you see a large stone house. It is the home of Rabbi Yitskhok ben Levi, the renowned scholar of Lublin. He lives there with his wife and son.

"Before you leave, you must take this. It is a magic stick. All you have to do is tap it on the ground three times and anything you wish for will appear. It may help you in times of trouble. You have heard my words and you have my blessings. Now go!" And before Mireleh had time to thank him, a puff of wind blew through the air, and he disappeared.

Many hours later, when Mireleh reached the large stone house, she walked up to the window and looked inside. There was a rabbi, his wife, and their son, a tall young man. Rabbi Yitskhok was reciting the blessing over the loaves of hallah bread. Mireleh knocked softly and the rabbi came to the door. Once inside, she rushed to the kitchen, sat down by the stove, and began to cry. Her clothes were torn and her face was covered with dust and ashes. Rabbi Yitskhok and his wife and son stood around her, wondering what to do.

"Why are you crying?" the rabbi's wife asked, but Mireleh did not reply. The good woman went to the table and brought Mireleh a bowl of chicken soup. But Mireleh couldn't eat or speak; she could only sit in the corner by the stove and weep. "Well," the rabbi said, "she is poor and homeless. We must help those in need. Let her stay here. She can sleep in the attic."


Excerpted from The Way Meat Loves Salt by Nina Jaffe, Louise August. Copyright © 1998 Nina Jaffe. Excerpted by permission of Henry Holt and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Nina Jaffe is the award-winning author of While Standing on One Foot: Puzzle Stories and Wisdom Tales from the Jewish Tradition, co-authored with Steve Zeitlin, as well as A Voice for the People: A Biography of Harold Courlander (both Holt). She lives in New York City with her family.

Louise August illustrated In the Month of Kislev: A Story of Hanukkah by Nina Jaffe, which was a Book-of-the-Month Club selection. A painter, printmaker, and muralist, Ms. August lives in New York City.

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