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Apr 11 2014

My Mother Was a Master of Passover Cooking & I Still Don’t Know How She Did It

By at 1:59 pm

My mother was a master of Passover cooking and I still don't know how she did it.

Of all the Jewish holidays, Passover was the one my mother really owned. It gave her the perfect excuse to commit entirely to two of her most beloved occupations: cooking elaborate dishes and listening to Beethoven, preferably simultaneously and definitely the violin concerto. In my memory she cooked for two weeks in advance of the seders, for over 20 guests on each of the two nights.

While my grandmother set me and my sisters to work polishing the silver and the cleaning lady labored mightily, heaving the vacuum cleaner up and down the stairs, my mother reigned in the kitchen. She made everything from scratch–richly concentrated chicken broth that she simmered and skimmed until there wasn’t a speck of fat, fluffy kneidlach, gefilte fish from three types of white fish purchased at the most expensive fish shop in town and then ground by hand at home, roasted chickens, tzimmes, three different green vegetable dishes (including steamed asparagus with lemon sauce), brisket cooked in a mustard-garlic paste, individual meringues that she served with sweetened fruit for dessert, and sponge cakes. And I am pretty sure I missed a few things. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 1 2014

Each Passover, I Celebrate The Miracle of My Growing Family

By at 12:02 pm

matza-balls

Every spring I remember; every Passover I celebrate.

I have mostly forgotten the Passover that fell right before my wedding. I don’t remember who led those seders. I don’t recall what was served for dinner. I was too busy thinking of the last minute wedding details (Did we need programs? When would the yarmulkes be ready? How did I go about changing my name?) And then I realized that I’d miss the whole holiday. I ceased thinking about my impending departure from the single world. I sipped my wine and tried to relax, and focused on what was important.

Two years later, I sat at my husband’s aunt’s table. We had been trying for a baby for a few months, without results. I wanted to take my mind off my disappointment, and enjoy the evening with my family. I poured a glass of wine in anticipation of the start of the seder. My husband’s little cousins were wrestling under the table. The older one hit his head, and the whole table shook like a California earthquake. My wine glass wobbled, tipped, and splashed all over me. The stain would stubbornly cling to my blouse after several washings. By the time I threw it out a week later, I didn’t mind. It wouldn’t have fit for long, anyway. I was pregnant. 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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