Age Old Friends
Sometimes the most unlikely people make the best roommates.
I made aliya (immigrated to Israel) in 1983 with relative ease. I was single, no household possessions to ship across the Atlantic, no children in tow and zero commitments. I was “engaged to be engaged” (eventually marrying the guy, subsequently divorcing him 21 years later, but that’s another blog post, maybe). Due to my unencumbered status the Powers That Be decided not to send me to a family-oriented absorpton center, but to a hostel for single olim (immigrants).
The hostel decided to place me with a religious roommate. I was religious, she was religious, we should have gotten along beautifully, no? No. Anna was desperately Romanian, desperately incommunicative, desperately wanting to get married. She had placed a singles ad in some Romanian newspaper and the phone calls were coming in fast and furious. This would not have been a problem except for the fact that the only phone was three long flights down. A bell would ring in our room and one would have to run downstairs. Sometimes one would have to get dressed first. Sometimes one was already asleep. Can one see a pattern emerging?
Anna was a nurse who worked odd hours, usually evenings and nights. The bell would ring, I would trudge down three flights of stairs, only to find that the call was for the ever-hopeful yet always absent Anna. I always took a message, even the ones in garbled Romanian (no, I don’t speak Romanian). One message from a Bucharesti lothario made it into Anna’s heart and she eventually went off to live happily ever after with the newfound love of her life.
So now I was roommate free and due for another one. Age lived next door, and she had just had a huge fight with her roommate (also expertly chosen by the hostel staff for their ability to cohabit peacefully). Rather then each of us wait for the next unsuitable roomie, we told the hostel we wanted to move in together. We were told it was impossible, I was religious, Age was secular, we would never get along. After all, they knew better. So the next day we presented them with a fait accompli, and I moved my stuff in with her stuff. We were two people who were total opposites and never should have been roommates. Age was secular, I was religious. Age was neat and tidy, I was a slob (still am). Age liked the folk rock of the Sixties, I liked the hard rock of the Seventies. And yet it worked. Except in the kitchen…
I keep kosher, Age doesn’t. On paper and in practice it worked, 99.99% of the time. I had my dishes, Age had hers. We each had our own food on our own shelves in the fridge. Everything was copacetic, until Age decided to make one of her favorite dishes, chicken with Parmesan cheese. Those of you who know the rules of kashrut can hear the alarm bells ringing, can’t you. Yes, she made this in her own pan. Yes, she ate this off her own plate. But the smell of it cooking… a lifetime of kosher conditioning had me running from the room at the smell! Yes, we were a wonderful example of religious/secular harmony, until Age made her chicken.
In spite of this heinous chicken (sorry, Age), our friendship flourished. Unfortunately, when Age immigrated to Israel she neglected to bring with her one of the most important things in her life, her family. After a few years in Israel she returned to the States. Even across the water we stayed friends (probably better friends now that I couldn’t smell her chicken cooking). First we wrote chatty letters, then we started emailing. Everytime I go back to the States for a visit Age will meet up with me, take my daughters shopping in Target, and we’ll share a meal at one of the many kosher restaurants in Queens. When my mother died last fall Age was there at my side, helping me check into my hotel room, taking me into Queens for some stress-busting hot dog eating and junk food shopping. She drove Ju-boy and me back to the airport, but not before stopping for a slice of pizza. Age always did know how to relax me. One day she’ll come back to Israel to visit and I hope I can give her a good a time as she always makes sure to give me.
I’ve been low-carbing it lately (prepare yourselves for a plethora of recipes in the coming weeks), and as I prepared some chicken breasts for the grill the other day I couldn’t help but think of Age and her Parmy chicken. I can assure you this recipe has no Parmesan cheese. In fact, it doesn’t have many ingredients at all, but it’s a good dish if you’re on a low-carb diet, and a good dish even if you’re not. I like to make up a huge batch, place single servings in little sandwich bags, and freeze the lot of them, taking out a bag or two (or three) at a time for grilling, either stove-top or out on the charcoal.
Miriyummy’s Marinated Chicken Fillets
1 kilo (2.2. pounds) chicken fillets
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tablespoon granulated garlic powder
1 tablespoon sumac
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Place the chicken fillets in a large bowl.
- Add the rest of the ingredients. Massage the marinade into the fillets.
- Let the fillets rest in the marinade for 15 minutes, or overnight in the fridge.
- Grill on the stovetop with one of those special lined pans or barbeque outdoors. You only need to grill these babies for two or three minutes on each side. If your fillets are thick, or you are using a big piece of shnitzel, cook for longer until no longer raw and pink in the middle.