Study Guide

The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story Food

By Diane Ackerman

Food

Please Feed the Animals

Certain foods remind us of home. People from India might love a delicious samosa. Japanese people might love some nice sashimi. And people from Mississippi get all misty eyed over a plate of Spam with Velveeta melted all over it. Just like Mom used to make.

Early on in The Zookeeper's Wife, Diane Ackerman lists some traditional Polish and Jewish foods. She tells us that "housewives used the honey to sweeten iced coffee, make krupnik, hot vodka with honey, and bake piernik, a semisweet honey-spice cake, or pierniczki, honey-spice cookies" (1.12).

Yes, please invite us over for breakfast.

And in the Jewish Quarter, "one could also find a special kind of pierogi, large chewy kreplach: fist-sized dumplings filled with seasoned stew meat and onions before being boiled, baked, then fried, the last step glazing and toughening them like bagels" (1.14).

Okay, we'll take two breakfasts.

But these descriptions soon disappear. Is Ackerman no longer hungry?

Nope. Ackerman can't describe the food from here on out, because the food itself is impossible to find. As World War II intensifies, everyone goes hungry. Their homes are destroyed, and so are their comfort foods. The only food people can get sometimes is stale bread and dry oatmeal.

No one will be nostalgic for that.

We imagine that as soon as the war was over and food was available again, the first thing Antonina did was to cook a huge delicious dinner and dig in.

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