Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for April, 2010

The Cap’n traveled to the UK on business last week, and as anyone who has taken a gander at the news for the past several days can surmise, he’s stuck there now.

He missed Shabbat with us, having to make do with the hospitality of strangers in Golders Green.  And he’s due to miss Yom HaAtzma’ut this week (including the spectacle of Beans dancing in the town’s official ceremony) if he doesn’t find a way other than flying to get home.

Stories abound of people rediscovering ground transport.  Ferries are clogged, and John Cleese—undaunted by either the volcano or cash flow—reportedly paid £3000 to return by taxi to Blighty from Norway.

When I spoke to the Cap’n on the phone this morning, he said the company has given its 7 or 8 employees stranded in London the green light to get home by any means within their grasp.  As it stands now, the Cap’n has contacted some of the others and booked a taxi to Madrid (an 18 hour ride), one of the only remaining airports in Europe to which El Al is flying right now, and from which he hopes to be on a plane for home tomorrow morning.  (British Airways, which he flew from Israel to Heathrow, is grounded until further notice.)  His boss suggested they buy enough kosher food in London to last three days in case they have to wait for a flight.  I told him that’s right and noble, but if he runs out of food en route to Israel, just avoid eating anything labeled puerco or jamón.  The rest, I guess, he can be forgiven.

The girls have been on a mope since it became clear their Abba wouldn’t be home for Shabbat.  I’ve tried to be more circumspect.  We know dozens of people in Israel who have family members who travel extensively for work, and in the course of all this travel must meet with delays, cancellations, and other upsets and chaos.  We’re spoiled, having had the Cap’n not only not traveling (well, hardly ever), but not even leaving the house for work for 3½ years.  If looked at through the lens of karma, it’s our turn.  And let’s face it; I’d far rather have the Cap’n delayed for a spectacular naturally-occurring geological event like this than what snarled airline traffic back around September 11, 2001.  Give me a volcano in Iceland any day.

May the remainder of the Cap’n’s journey home be speedy and uneventful.  Amen v’amen.

Read Full Post »

Triumph of hope

Yom HaShoah is over, but part of being a Jew is feeling that the Shoah is never over.  It dogs our steps, reminds us constantly of the depths to which humans can sink in their treatment of other humans, and nowadays is alternately denied and celebrated by the Arabs, Iran, and educated Westerners whose heads are—well, never mind.  While it’s easy to get mired down in the horror of the event, at times it can teach us valuable lessons about the human spirit, and about how we should seek to live our lives.

On Monday night, at the end of Yom HaShoah, I got a sitter for the kids and went out to hear testimony from a 90-year-old survivor of the Shoah.  Mendel Flaster was 19 when the war broke out in 1939, and his story of surviving 14 concentration camps was riveting.  Although he has given the Spielberg Foundation 12 hours worth of his story (available through Yad VaShem) and we only got about 50 minutes, some very clear themes came out of what he chose for his brief capsule that evening.

One theme was that of self-care.  I heard a survivor say once that everything in the camps was engineered for death.  There was little or nothing there to keep people alive—no heat, no soap, insufficient food, inadequate clothing.  Mendel fought against these by doing everything he could to care for himself, physically and spiritually.  He kept himself as clean as possible, washing himself daily if there was water to be found.  One winter, he was in a camp located right next to a lake, so he went to the ice-covered lake every day and punched two holes in the ice—one to dive in, and one to climb out.  When on a work detail with inadequate shoes, he decided to brave the snow barefoot, working as hard as he could to keep up his circulation.  The SS had built a fire for the workers to warm themselves periodically, but Mendel avoided that and advised others to do the same to keep from getting sick.  Those who listened to him stayed healthy (as long as they rubbed their freezing toes with snow to keep up their circulation); those who ignored him all too often contracted pneumonia, and 99% of the time did not come out of the infirmary alive.  But even more important than the physical self-care was the spiritual.  He described two jobs he had that were simply impossible for him to perform: one was measuring the Gestapo for uniforms in a tailor shop, and the other was collecting and sorting the clothing of Jews after they went to the gas chambers.  With his tailoring job, he was afraid of what he might be tempted to do if left alone in a room with a Gestapo officer and a sharp pair of scissors, implementation of which would not only cost him his own life, but those of 10 other Jews.  And after seeing a mother holding her frightened child, assuring the child that they were going to take a shower, he could no longer sort clothing either.  Both times, he was able to transfer to a more savory, less soul-destroying job.  (I would add here that I have read of Jews who survived by walking away from details, or by overcoming their SS officers, both of which may have cost other Jews their lives.  I cannot fault them for what they did; and while other Jews no doubt replaced Mendel at these horrifying jobs, I can say from having heard his account that he would never have agreed to do anything that he knew would have cost another Jew his or her life.)

Another theme of Mendel’s talk was that of luck.  He was often in the right place at the right time to keep himself alive.  It was during the winter when he was working a machine cutting iron bars and accidentally sliced off two fingers.  He had to continue to work from 2 PM to 9 PM with his fingers bleeding before he could get a doctor to stitch them closed.  He says that the cold was his friend after this accident, since his hands were nearly frozen and his circulation much slower than it would have been in summer when he might have bled to death.  Near the end of the war, he was given a choice to stay with a small group of men to dismantle their camp, or be transferred with the other 5000 prisoners—including women and children—to Auschwitz, most likely to be murdered.  For him there was no choice; he chose to go with the people he believed needed him more.  In the end, he was selected to continue working, escaping the gas, but found out later that the men who had stayed behind at the camp had all been murdered.

A third theme was that of helping others.  He had contacts with the underground and found out the date that his family’s village was due to be liquidated.  There were a few dozen boys from his village whose families were all scheduled to be rounded up.  At the time, Mendel was in a private labor camp owned and operated by German war profiteers rather than under the direction of the SS.  Mendel went to the camp commander and begged him to allow the boys to visit their families one last time.  In the end, the commander agreed to allow groups of 5 boys to hitch a ride with a truck that would make rounds for supplies.  The boys would be dropped off at their village, then picked up an hour later and returned to the camp.  Mendel scheduled himself last, but after only a few trips out, the truck had no further errands, and Mendel and about a dozen other boys were left without having visited their families.  (In the end, he sneaked out of the camp by night, had a cup of coffee with his extended family for an hour, then returned before sunrise.)  When he found himself in a camp (and this happened several times) where there was inadequate food, he would take it upon himself to find work or trade with Poles to bring back enough to feed the other prisoners, especially the children and the sick.  In one camp, he got a job in a restaurant in the nearby village where he could take the leftovers back to the camp at the end of his shift.  His selflessness and resourcefulness earned him the love and devotion of his fellow prisoners who in turn saved his life when he was caught by an SS officer smuggling socks out of the camp to trade to Poles for food.  He was sentenced to be tortured to death, but a delegation of the other prisoners went to the camp commander.  The commander asked why suddenly these Jews cared about THIS prisoner?  They told him Mendel was the best worker in the camp, and pleaded for his life.  He was let off with 25 lashes instead.

A fourth theme to emerge from his talk was that of hope and faith.  I once read a book by a survivor who managed to make it through the war with her sister, who claimed that being with family—or knowing that they had family alive somewhere—was a great help in surviving since it gave someone something to live for.  But Mendel had already told us that he had absolutely no surviving family at all.  When I asked him what he was living for, and why he didn’t give up, Mendel said he was a young man, he had hope, he believed in God, and he had a strong will to live.  He had hope, but what he would be the first to admit was only a fool’s hope; he said that if someone had told him while he was in the camps that he would live to be 90 years old, he’d have said they were crazy.  And yet the subtext of everything he said was that he believed this could not be the end for him—there had to be more life to come.  And if not that, that he had to continue to live AS IF there was more life to come.

At the end of Mendel’s talk, I was struck not only by how stubborn had been his will to live, but how stubborn he had been about helping others to live too.  In those conditions, I imagine some would struggle to save themselves in the knowledge that others may pay the price for their life; others will struggle to save themselves and as many others as they can take with them.

I was told long ago that if there is something we want badly (a child, for example) the best thing we can do is to pray for someone else who wants the same thing.  I prayed for all of my children, but for Bill I prayed for a friend who also wanted a baby.  Now I have Bill, and she has twins.  I don’t know how much Mendel prayed during the war, but hearing his story, I concluded that his actions were louder than any prayers, and perhaps his actions to save others were what enabled him to save himself.  I know this didn’t happen to everyone who fought for others—we have plenty of dead heroes to sing about—but for whatever reason, Hashem saved Mendel.

At the end of the talk, someone asked Mendel what he thought of Jews who went back to Germany to live after the war.  Mendel said that many went back and made a fortune on the black market.  He himself went back to Germany when he was liberated, but for a different reason: to help round up criminals for the war crimes tribunals.  There have been celebrated hunts for some of the big operators of the Final Solution, but Mendel, in his own quiet, determined way, helped bring 60 Nazi war criminals to justice.

I have no idea what I would have done had I been in Mendel’s shoes.  I can only hope that I would have shown the savvy, the moxie, and the will to live that he did.  I’m lucky that I didn’t have to live through what he did; but I can say that hearing his story has helped me recalibrate my moral and spiritual compass.

For more about Mendel’s talk and other Yom HaShoah commemorations in Efrat, see the Voices Magazine blog.

Read Full Post »

Welcome to the 53rd Kosher Cooking Carnival!  The brainchild of Batya from Shiloh, it is a monthly compendium of blog posts on kashrut in Jewish law, reviews of kosher restaurants and cookbooks, Shabbat and holiday menus, and kosher recipes.  (To submit a post for the next blog carnival, click on the Blog Carnival link here.)

To view previous editions, click on any of the following links: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, KCC Meta Carnival, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, and 52.

The next edition will be on Rosh Chodesh Sivan (May 13), hosted by Leora.

And off we go!

Recipes and menu suggestions

Pesach may be over but for those with leftover matzah, Blog d’Elisson offers a new twist on matzo brei, bourmalikas, which he says can be eaten either sweet or savory, and which he says he would welcome any time of year.  (I definitely like the look of the grape tomato-mozarella ball-basil salad he eats with his!)

Esser Agaroth shares two refreshing, Latin-flavored spring salads: salsa and guacamole.

Ilana-Davita has a flavorful version of shakshuka, with a link to an eggless version too.

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner‘s Individual Chocolate Fondue looks like a double-dipping delight for Shabbat dinner.

Batya at Me-Ander suggests a Simple Sliced Fruit Plate for dessert: easy, nutritious, and suitable for diabetics (and, I would add, the gluten-averse and vegans).  She also points out that consuming enough fruit can satisfy her cravings for sweets—a good health tip.

She also has a recipe for Easy and Tasty Tofu and Vegetables which looks healthful and delicious, and insists that even festive Shabbat meals should be easy to prepare, providing photos but refusing to list ingredients.  YOU decide what goes into these scrumptious-looking meals.

Mottel at Letters of Thought has a recipe for Sweet Mustard Chicken and Quinoa.  Not only does the dish have serious appeal, but Mottel includes an interesting discussion of the ingredients that go into it.

Mrs. S. of Our Shiputzim is a self-proclaimed charoset snob, and while Pesach 5770 is over, I’m taking note of her recipe for charoset (which she dubs “The Chumus of Pesach“) for next year.

For those still struggling to make gefilte fish, Batya trouble-shoots crumbly gefilte fish in Cooking Questions, Just Ask and offers her own recipe suggestions for this most Jewish of dishes.

Leora at Here in HP offers a recipe for mushroom paté, suitable for Pesach and all year.

For anyone who is fed up with the price of bagels at the bakery or supermarket and wants to try making them at home, Ilana Epstein at Kosher shows you how in Bagel Revolution.

Mother In Israel’s Cooking Manager blog provides a recipe for pot roast, a great way to dress up an inexpensive cut of beef to make a delicious festive meal.

Ilana-Davita‘s salmon and fennel looks light, nutritious, and absolutely delicious.

Mimi of Israeli Kitchen has a recipe for stewed chicken and gravy with a decidedly Middle Eastern flair, good for colds (a solid alternative to chicken soup), Shabbat dinner, and anytime one needs to raise one’s spirits.

And in honor of Yom HaAtzma’ut next week, Ilana Epstein offers us the Mish-kebab, a dainty sampler of grilled meats for the holiday.

Restaurant and cookbook reviews

Batya rates Jerusalem’s Best Bar and Grill, The Lion’s Den.

While I love browsing cookbooks, the best cookbook I own is the one I compiled myself.

Essays and photo-essays

Batya dreads cleaning in general, and Pesach cleaning particularly, and shares her memories of why in Traffic Will Only Get Worse Until… and Unpleasant Memories.

I, on the other hand, find cleaning a satisfying, rewarding experience, especially when I think about what happens in the kitchens of people who DON’T clean every year, and the food relics that turn up in their pantries, refrigerators, and freezers.

Yoav B at Israeli Soldier muses about the meaning of Pesach—freedom—and writes about paying the price for others’ freedom.

The Real Jerusalem Streets provides a wonderful photo essay on the bustling holiday week in Jerusalem.

And on to post-Pesach thoughts, Devo K. at  In the Middle, On the Right shares some wisdom about the segulah of baking shlissel (key) challah.

Soccer Dad photographed the fruits of his post-Pesach baking binge.  (Is that Silpat underneath those cookies?  This is a SERIOUS baker.)

Jamie at Kosher.Com writes about honoring her culinary grandparents who were also Shoah survivors.

Esser Agaroth discusses the old-new Middle Eastern delicacy, locusts.  (Which a chef who prepared them recently claims taste like Bissli.  Uh huh.)

Read Full Post »

As I mentioned the other day, Iyar has arrived, bringing with it all the Israeli national holidays.  When my friend Ilana Epstein thinks of holidays, she thinks of the special foods that accompany them.  And if there isn’t a standard fare for a given holiday—think matzo ball soup, hamantashen, honey cake—she makes one up herself.  The following is a guest post by her accompanied by her own special version of Yom HaAtzma’ut barbecue fare.

Recently we went to the Music Box Museum in Ein Hod just outside Zichron Yaakov.  Nissan Cohen, a New Yorker who moved to Israel twenty years ago, had a museum dedicated to his favorite hobby: collecting music boxes.   It was fascinating, truly, and not just the boxes themselves.   What fascinated me most was the image I conjured in my head of Nisco (his preferred name), sitting in his living room with his newest acquisition, turning it one way and then the other, looking at it from every side, finding something new with each viewing, hearing something different each time.   I’m like that with cookbooks and my Dad is like that with theories.

My dad collects theories—about thoughts, places, people.   He mulls them over, asks others for feedback on his thoughts, expands on them until he is satisfied that they are complete.   And his latest theory is that culture in Israeli society is not relegated to the secular alone.   That theory states as follows: in Israel, even before the state became an entity, there had always been a struggle between religious Judaism and cultural Judaism.   What was more important for the survival of a Jewish people in a Jewish homeland?   What would keep this country on track?   What was it that we would need to survive our chosen location and our fight?

You had every intellectual, every poet and every writer fighting it out.  And I think as Israel celebrates its 62nd year, the truth is that we need both culture and religion.   They go hand in hand, and while segments of the population may lean more heavily on one or the other, there are those of us in the middle who get to enjoy both.   It is not lost on me what a unique position I am in.   While popular sentiment would have you choose one or the other, I think those of us in the Modern Orthodox camp are able to enjoy the best of both worlds in Israel.   After keeping a strictly traditional Pesach, we get to enjoy the cultural holidays that pop up every week in Iyar, from Holocaust Memorial Day, Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers, Jerusalem Liberation Day, and my favorite day, Independence Day.

I’m glad that cultural Judaism—read Zionism—at this point (like my father’s theory) is not relegated just to the secular.   Because in a country where the fight is never finished, it is important to celebrate our victories.

Yom HaAtzma’ut is all about the barbecue.   (For those of you who still remember your SAT analogies, barbecue is to Yom HaAtzma’ut what Christmas trees are to Christmas.)   In that vein, a few years ago I created my own specialty for the holiday: the mish-kebab.  This is not so much a recipe as a ‘good thing’ – though I think Martha Stewart would be appalled.   (All the better.)

Mish-kebab

1 package big American hot dogs

1 package pre-made kebabs (I like the Tirat Tzvi ones)

2 boneless chicken breasts

Salt

Pepper

Paprika

Turmeric

Garlic powder

Olive oil

Bamboo skewers

Soak the skewers in cold water for at least half an hour before putting meat on them, as this will prevent them burning.  Cut the chicken breast into two-inch squares and marinate with the olive oil and spices for half an hour.  Now cut up the hot dogs into three pieces each, so you have three stubby, thick pieces.  Cut the kebabs in half.  On each skewer thread one piece of chicken, one piece of kebab, and one piece of hot dog.  Grill until cooked.

Read Full Post »

I once knew a girl in school named Susan Smith.  While I didn’t envy her the ordinariness of her name, I did envy the fact that anyone could pronounce it.

Not mine.  While I think Schnitzengruben is pronounced exactly like it’s spelled, not everyone can manage it.

And since I got married, I have tripled the confusion the public encounters with my name.  People still struggle a bit with Schnitzengruben but living in Israel, I’ve found that Jews do better with Germanic last names than most white-bread Americans.

I have also kept my maiden name (though clearly Crunch is easier to pronounce) which confuses traditional people who believe every married woman carries her husband’s name, and stymies computer systems like that of the Benjamin Library in Beit Shemesh, where I used to live.  Here was the conversation between me and the librarian who was registering my family’s membership in the computer’s system:

“Name?”

“Shimshonit Schnitzengruben.”

“Husband’s name?”

“The Cap’n.  His last name’s Crunch.”

“Huh?”

“My last name is Schnitzengruben.  My husband’s is Crunch.”

“But you can’t do that.”

“I already did.”

“No, I mean that doesn’t work in our system.  You have to have one last name per family.”

“Are you telling me I have to change my name legally in order to have a membership at the Benjamin Library?”

“Well,…”

“I’ll tell you what.  Put us all down as Schnitzengruben.”

The librarian’s eyes bugged out at this point.

“You heard me.  Put my husband down as Cap’n Schnitzengruben.  Your computer can handle THAT, can’t it?”

The librarian sucked her breath in through her teeth but did as she was told.  (GOOD girl.)

So not only are people confused by my gorgeously mellifluous last name, they cock up the honorific too.  While any woman chutzpahdik enough to keep her own last name after marriage should automatically be called “Ms.,” I understand that people meeting me for the first time don’t necessarily know that I’m going by my maiden name.  So when they call me “Mrs. Schnitzengruben,” I sometimes smile sweetly and say, “That’s my mother.  Call me Ms. Schnitzengruben.”  Or when they REALLY don’t know me and call me “Mrs. Crunch,” I have to go back a generation and tell people that’s my husband’s grandmother.  (His mother is a physician and didn’t go to medical school for four years to be called MRS. Crunch, thank you very much.)

But all this salad of names and honorifics quite frankly tires me out.  Feminism made some inroads here and there, but where names are concerned, I think it has only served to confuse people.  I know people are doing their best, and once they get to know me they USUALLY get it right.  Because once they get to know me, they are allowed to call me Shimshonit, which simplifies things immeasurably.

Read Full Post »

The Shoah in film

With Pesach over, a month of national holidays is upon us in Israel.  Tonight begins the Memorial Day for the Shoah (Holocaust) and Heroism.

I have had a number of difficulties with this holiday over the years.  The addition of “heroism” to the observance in Israel seems to me emblematic of Israeli Jews’ troubled relationship with the Shoah and its survivors, whom they have traditionally neglected and derided, rather than treating as the traumatized, precious remnants of a genocide.  Despite the bite that the Germans and their helpers took out of world Jewry (one-third), I have sometimes thought that it should be observed on Tisha B’Av along with the other holidays, since other than the scale and industrialized quality it took on, the Shoah didn’t actually distinguish itself in barbarity from other pogroms in the past.  (I think that as long as there are survivors in the world, however, the day should stay as it is, a separate commemoration.)  There are so many days and periods of mourning in the Jewish calendar, including the Omer, the Three Weeks, and several of the fast days, that while the Shoah is much more recent and immediate—especially with some survivors still living to tell their stories—in other ways it feels like just another day of mourning.

Another problem I’ve had with the Shoah has been the movies made about it.  The mini-series “Holocaust” and the Academy award-winning “Schindler’s List” both represent the sweeping epic-style Shoah films that seek to educate the masses about the barbarity and destruction that took place.  In talking to friends about those films, one friend pointed out that most European Jews’ experience of the Shoah was about six months in duration, from invasion to extermination.  I agree with this point, and also with the fact that it can be very difficult to sit through yet another exposition of German-sponsored barbarity with each new film that comes out.  “Victory” and “Sobibor” showed camp revolts, but these were similarly grueling to watch and predictably feel-good at the end.  “Life Is Beautiful” and “The Pianist” were interesting to see, but “The Pianist” was horrific enough that I would not want to see it again, and “Life Is Beautiful”—Roberto Benigni’s attempt to laugh at the unlaughable—had a laudable goal, but not one I took terribly seriously.

That’s why I was interested this year to see some movies that depart from the past formulas.  “Defiance” is the story of the Bielski brothers who hid themselves and dozens of other Jews in the forest, while “Die Fälscher” (“The Counterfeiters”) is about Jews who worked in a secret counterfeiting operation inside Sachsenhausen.  Both of these movies are snapshots of small operations, focused on a couple of characters with complicated relationships and difficult choices.  The Bielski brothers contend with dissension in their ranks and rivalry with the partisans, but the film also shows them being helped by Gentiles, something I’ve rarely seen in a Shoah movie (other than “Schindler’s List” obviously).  “Die Fälscher” was particularly interesting to me because the main character was a counterfeiter (read: criminal) to begin with, and by continuing his work reproducing first the British pound, then the American dollar, he is merely pursuing an uninterrupted career in crime while saving his own skin.  At the same time, he finds himself helping an enemy that is exterminating his own people, and clashing with a colleague who is deeply troubled by their assignment and threatens the entire enterprise with his misgivings.  I would see either of these movies again without hesitation.

The last movie I saw recently that caught my attention was “Inglourious Basterds,” Quentin Tarantino’s Shoah revenge fantasy.  Less gory than “Pulp Fiction,” it was—at least for this Jew—entertaining, at times hilariously funny, and unusually therapeutic.  Rather than being one of the harrowing displays of the “Schindler’s List” variety, it is a brief glimpse of what might have been, had the right people (on both sides of the conflict) been in the right place at the right time.  It’s not educational, it’s not realistic, but when it comes to the Shoah, there is no way to portray accurately or comprehensively the enormity of the event.  And after all the movies that have been made about it (some with greater success than others), we might as well imagine the perpetrators getting their just deserts for a change.

Read Full Post »

The personal cookbook

When I was slogging through my first year of parenting and was bombarded by unsolicited advice from every quarter, I found myself unloading my frustrations on my OB/GYN at one of my appointments.  He said something to me that I’ve never forgotten: “The best parenting book you could ever read is the one you write yourself.”

That advice has stood me in good stead over the years.  But oddly enough, I think it goes for cooking too.  Ever since I learned to cook, people have given me cookbooks as gifts, or passed their own unused cookbooks on to me.  One of the most amazing bookstores I used to enjoy going into was the Brookline Booksmith’s cookbook store, filled from top to bottom with nothing but cookbooks.  I could sit and browse through them all day and never get bored.

But when it comes down to it, I enjoy reading cookbooks (and my friend Ilana’s stacks of cooking magazines), but rarely use them for more than inspiration.  Like most home cooks, I have a fixed repertoire that is rarely disturbed by novelty.  Over the years, that repertoire has expanded to a nice breadth of weekday, Shabbat, and holiday meals, but nonetheless, while I love seeing what professional foodies do to make food new and exciting, I rarely feel the impulse to imitate them.

My doctor’s advice takes shape in my cooking life with a copy of a cookbook my mother gave me years ago, full of recipes from family and friends stretching back a couple of generations.  She began it when she first learned to use a wordprocessor, and has added to it over the years.  My first copy, B.C. (Before Conversion), contained all the chapters including Pork and Shellfish.  When I phased those out of my life, I created my own kosher edition, dividing the recipes within each category by meat, dairy, and parve.  In addition to all the standards like Eggs & Breakfast, Soups & Stews, Salads, Vegetarian & Side Dishes, Poultry, Beef, and Fish, I have created new chapters like Pasta & Sauces (which includes my extremely yummy, don’t-ask-how-fattening Tricolor Lasagna) and Shabbos un Yuntif with all my holiday recipes gleaned from friends.  Among my desserts section are Cakes (including my New Ruins Cake), Tarts & Cobblers (here’s where to find my What a Tart! tart), Muffins & Sweet Breads (with my banana chocolate chip muffins), Candy (including Ilana Epstein’s homemade chocolate peanut butter cups), etc.  I have a section called Fruity Delights with fruit relishes, molds, and other side dishes.  I have a category for Drinks, Punches & Spirits which includes my recipe for etrog liqueur, Treppenwitz‘s ersatz Kahlua, and haymaker iced tea (hands-down THE most refreshing drink on a hot day ever).

And like my life, the cookbook is a constant work in progress.  Just as I continue to add to it recipes from friends and cooking magazines, over time I have trained a critical eye on the recipes contained in the book and thought, “That’s too fatty–I’d never eat that” or “‘Refrigerator Clean-Out’?  I don’t think so.”  Those recipes either get the boot or end up in the recipe Limbo I call “Addendum.”  That’s got the recipes I don’t make anymore but am reluctant to delete, either because I might go back and find them appetizing one day, or because they’ve been in the family for generations and don’t take up too much room in a computer file, or because someday the kids might want to know how to make Cousin Janice’s Claremont Diner Salad (thought I seriously doubt it).  Recipes that don’t turn out the first time may get tinkered with a few times, like my grandmother’s chocolate applesauce cake, but if they burn or fail no matter what I do, they’re deleted or exiled.

My next phase is to get the Cap’n to make them accessible to the laptop so I can access everything from the kitchen.  I no longer have the time or patience to print out an updated edition every year, and it would be nice not to have to copy the recipe by hand at the desktop computer in the basement and take it upstairs to the kitchen every time I make a newer recipe that’s not in the latest print edition.

I still have a few cookbooks I love to look at, especially Linda McCartney’s Linda’s Kitchen and Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking.  But when I am seriously planning a menu, it’s my battered three-ring notebook (that my mother thoughtfully covered in William Morris wrapping paper) that I take down for true inspiration.  That’s the low-risk, tried-and-true compendium of culinary knowledge that also somehow reads like my life.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »