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Sep 16 2014

My Husband’s Grandmother Cooked in Yiddish

By at 10:02 am

grandmas-cheesecake

A few years before my husband Adam’s grandma passed away, we started asking for some of her recipes so we could record them and continue to enjoy them on holidays. Grandma Jean was the quintessential old world Jewish grandmother. Tiny, with a thick Polish accent, her world centered around food and family. She cooked mostly old-world Ashkenazi dishes, and was very serious about them.

The first Rosh Hashanah Adam and I spent together was in Rio Grande City, in south Texas near the Mexico border. Since none of our friends had ever attended a Jewish holiday celebration, we decided to cook some traditional recipes for them. And since no Rosh Hashanah would be complete without apple cake, Adam called up his grandma to get her recipe. The conversation went like this:

Adam: “Hi grandma, can I get your apple cake recipe from you? We want to cook it for Rosh Hashanah.” Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 13 2014

There Will Always Be Kugel

By at 10:06 am

kugel

I buy egg noodles like they’re going out of style. Inside my pantry are bags of noodles– some full, some half empty–and some with the last handful sitting in the bottom of the bag. I wasn’t always such an egg noodle fanatic. In fact, it wasn’t until I started cooking for the Jewish holidays that my love of egg noodles began.

A few years ago, as my husband and I discussed the menu for Rosh Hashanah, we decided on brisket (his mom’s recipe), matzah ball soup (made by his mom), and a veggie dish. But we got stuck on the kugel.

“I want you to make my family’s recipe,” he told me.  Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 28 2014

Seven Amusing Things That Happened During My Daughter’s Scary Hospital Stay

By at 4:15 pm

Baby-hospital

My 8-month-old daughter Billie was recently hospitalized for a UTI. It was scary, exhausting, and emotional. She refused to nurse for four excruciating days (don’t worry, I pumped). She was lethargic and had a high fever. But after four long days and nights at an amazing children’s hospital, I’m happy to report my little girlie is back home and 100 percent herself.

My dad (who was with us at the hospital frequently) always taught me to find the humor in life. After reflecting on our scary experience, I’d like to share the top seven things that amused me at the hospital:

1. In the playroom at the hospital there was an old-school Casio-type keyboard with very funny typos. “Fly Me to the Moom” and “Capton Races” were our faves. Read the rest of this entry →

Jul 7 2014

Filling in the Gaps of My Grandparents’ Jewish Past

By at 10:43 am

Grandparents vintage photo

I remember my grandfather reading The Forward (in Yiddish) on the back porch. I remember my grandmother in the kitchen cooking all the wonderful Eastern European foods from her childhood for me and my brothers and sisters.

I loved my grandparents, but they were foreign to me. I knew they weren’t born in the U.S. and came from somewhere else. I knew they had to leave their childhood home suddenly and it had something to do with them being Jewish, but the details and the reasons were fuzzy to me. I had a vague sense of something heavy and intense, but couldn’t quite sort it all out. Nobody really talked about it much.

Even though I was just a little girl, I knew my father loved his parents, but also felt ashamed of them. He would avoid driving through the Bronx and Queens where he grew up. He hardly ever spoke about his parents at home with us and rarely said the word “Jewish.” I used to eat my grandmother’s chopped liver by the spoonful when I was younger–it was so delicious. My father, on the other hand, gravitated to more refined food. Read the rest of this entry →

May 29 2014

When it Comes to Jewish Holidays, Is It Wrong to Focus on the Food?

By at 3:55 pm

cheesecake

It’s no secret that Jewish holidays tend to be very food-focused. So while my toddler is only just starting to learn about the rules, back stories, and traditions of the various holidays we celebrate, he already knows that on Purim we eat hamentashen, on Passover we eat matzah, and on Rosh Hashanah we eat apples and honey.

As I started teaching him about Shavuot this week, I realized I spent more time explaining that we’re all going to get together at Savta’s house for cheesecake than I did explaining that during this holiday, the Jewish people received the Torah.

It got me thinking: When you’re teaching a child about Jewish holidays, is it necessarily a bad thing to focus on the food? Read the rest of this entry →

May 9 2014

Though I Left Hasidic Life, I Kept My Mother’s Rice Pudding & Stories

By at 2:14 pm

rice-pudding

For Mother’s Day, I do something unconventional. I make rice kugel for my small family of two: myself and my son. My mother, a Hasidic woman who raised more than a dozen children in the Village of Kiryas Joel, taught me a special rice pudding recipe. The recipe calls for a slice–and a story.

She made her kugel and told her story on Rosh Chodesh, the women’s holiday of my youth. In the Hasidic community we did not celebrate Mother’s Day, but Rosh Chodesh–the first day of the month of the Jewish calendar–was a minor holiday for women. We honored the women in biblical times who had been more pious than the men. According to tradition, Moses left for heaven and the men lost faith, made an idol. The women didn’t. They stayed strong and refused to throw their jewelry into the crafting fire for the idolatrous bull. To commemorate their strength and resolve, we always had something special to eat for dinner on Rosh Chodesh. Often, it was rice pudding and the story.

I have a warm image in my mind of my mother sitting at the dinner table in our kitchen on Satmar drive, her chair turned out to face the highchair. She began to tell and as she did, she fed pieces of chicken and potatoes to some baby–which of my siblings it was must have been of no consequence to me because I don’t remember. In that memory she puts the spoon in his mouth and tells the story in Yiddish: “There was a king that came to visit a town of not such smart people.” Read the rest of this entry →

May 8 2014

Which Foods Best Represent American Jews?

By at 12:06 pm

rugelach

My first job was in Brooklyn, in a school building where the students were mostly from the Caribbean. The neighborhood restaurants reflected the community. It was there that I was introduced to beef patties and Pepper Pot. Strangers on the street were probably surprised to see a petite Jewish woman snacking on rice and peas with a side of fried plantains, but I never cared. I love all kinds of food.

It started with my father. He tried to get all of his children to try different dishes. When one of us looked at him, eyebrow cocked, unwilling to try what he offered, he always responded the same way: “How bad could it possibly be?” We took bites to appease him. I realized that my father was right, and learned that everything had the potential to be delicious.

With the notable exception of skydiving at 19, I’m not the adventurous type. I drive the speed limit. When my husband took me hiking on Camelback Mountain in Phoneix, I had a small panic attack. But food is different. I will try almost anything once. It was always my way to experiment and to learn about people. Food is easy. Food is fun. Food always tells a story. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 18 2013

Free Stuff Alert: New Cookbook, Entree to Judaism for Families

By at 10:00 am

entree to judaism for families tina wasserman cookbook giveaway

Want to raise kids who love to cook? Tina Wasserman’s new cookbook Entree to Judaism for Families: Jewish Cooking and Kitchen Conversations with Children not only offers easy recipes to do with kids, but conversation starters and activities to help them connect to Jewish history and traditions. From Shabbat specialties like challah and chickens to twists on classic dishes like savory challah bread kugel with dried fruits and sun-dried tomatoes, there’s something for everyone, big and small, to love about this great new cookbook.

The good news? We’ve got three copies of Entree to Judaism for Families to giveaway to our hungriest readers. To enter, fill out the form below and we’ll choose our winners on this Thursday, November 21st. And if you’re in NYC, come meet Tina at her book signing at the Upper West Side Barnes & Noble on Tuesday, November 19th!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Apr 9 2012

Help! I Need Passover Kid-Friendly Snacks

By at 9:37 am

Because if your kids eat this much matzah you're going to have some serious bathroom issues.

Now that my kids are old enough to refuse food—the elder, with her words, the younger, by throwing it at me or on the floor—I’m going to need some kid-friendly Passover food.

The meals they actually sit and finish during the rest of the year are tortellini, mac and cheese, grilled cheese sandwiches, falafel, and PB&J. That is their palettes’ limit. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 17 2012

My Daughters Hate Matzah Ball Soup

By at 3:38 pm

chicken soupThe air is crisp, this kitchen is warm, and our space within both… is tight. My girls and I maneuver around each other. Arms and legs, fingers and elbows, tops and bottoms. Our dance is not yet perfected.

Soup boils and I breathe it in–chicken and broth, carrots and celery, dill and freshly cracked pepper–they are part of my story. What I make by heart, and am humbled to know that generations of Jewish women make in the same way, I am about to share with my young daughters.

I made matzo ball soup in my safta‘s kitchen.

Open windows inhaled bright Jerusalem air and exhaled my Grandmother’s recipes. Her round frame and full personality filled the galley kitchen from cold white tile to low beamed ceiling.

My saba stood by her side. His knobby fingers finely shredding, mincing, and dicing a whole chicken, vegetables from the shuk (market), and spices still muddied at the roots. The matted greens from parsley and dill passed from his fingers onto hers and only then into the soup.

I’d dice carrots at the small plastic table behind them, trying to mirror their technique, staying within the shadows of their duet. Read the rest of this entry →

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