Chatting with Miriyummy: Jean Roth

Meet Jean Roth.

One of my oldest friends once told me that I could be Martha Stewart.  But aside from the cooking (and a little bit of knitting and crocheting), I’m totally useless at crafts.  I’ve never met Jean in person, and to tell you the truth, I can’t even remember where I met her on the Net, but it’s a good thing I did, because Jean is so good at crafts, she even sells them online, and for real money!

I’ve often heard that people hate being born on the “present-giving” holidays.  Most of the time they end up getting a combined birthday/Chanuka or birthday/Christmas present.  There’s an Israeli slang word that classifies how these people might feel:  bassa!  (What a disappointment!)  Ju-Boy’s Hebrew birthday is the second night of Chanuka, and I always try to get him a separate Chanuka present.  The year he first became a grandfather I found him the perfect tee-shirt, at Jean’s Rotem Gear.  Ju-Boy is a fantastic grandfather, or a sababa saba in Hebrew, and Jean had the most brilliant idea!

My relationship with Jean’s Rotem Gear didn’t just end at that tee-shirt.  I use a lot of her graphics (always with a link) in my blog posts, and have a wish list a mile long of some of her funky designs.  She even has a baby line and I plan on doing a lot of shopping there soon!

So come and meet Jean!

Introduce yourself.  Who are you, what are you, why are you?

I’m Jean, a graphic designer and “creative alchemist.” (What?) I had to add that second title because when I deal with clients I find often myself bringing marketing into project, copy writing, social media, promotion into the conversation, all of which I have experience in.

Where do you live, and why?

I’m a native New Yorker living in Los Angeles. When I came back to the US after 8 years in Israel I considered various places but returned to where I had left from. I had supportive friends here and I knew there was a huge, active Israeli community, so I could feel “at home.”

What is your relationship with food?  Do you like to cook?

Once upon a time I was an enthusiastic cook. Some life changes along the way changed that for me, although I still enjoy whipping up tasty dishes for myself, my way. One of those changes was coming back to America, where it seems so much harder than in Israel to effortlessly have dinners with friends without scheduling hassles. However, my relationship with food has taken another form besides cooking and eating; I currently do graphic design work for a network of food-related magazines!

What is your first food-related memory?

Not really MY memory but I like the story: my mom says she used to put newspaper all around my high chair and gave me a spoon and let me enjoy feeding myself, even if I wanted the pudding first. Actual early memories of my own include eating Bonomo Turkish Taffy, which pulled out a dental filling and resulted in my having to get a tooth pulled. Creamsicles were the ice cream I preferred as a young child. I also remember the awful smell of hot cereal on rainy days at Jewish Federation summer camps. And how my grandmother would always — always — offer my brother and me chicken soup with those short thin egg noodles when we visited. She kept a crystal bowl with those Vienna fruit-filled hard candies too. (Didn’t yours?)

How would you describe yourself in the kitchen?

Kind of fast, influenced by working in a Japanese restaurant after college. I prefer a Japanese “hocho” knife for chopping, and I dislike having to stop and think about stuff. Usually, at least when cooking for myself, I don’t follow recipes or cook with specific things in mind; I cook instinctually, mainly quick meals according to what I have on hand, adjust with spices and seasonings, and I usually make myself very happy. I feel far more constrained when I have to plan ahead or cook for others, however.

As a host/hostess?

I put way too much pressure on myself. I like things to look “just so,” even if they are meant to appear artless. I don’t care if things are matchy-matchy or are formal but I do like creating a look that is mine, and using items that have meaning for me. This might mean dishes from Japan, or Armenian pottery from Israel, or vintage Stangl dishes which all my mom’s family had back in the day.  I also care about the appearance of food. Once someone watched me at a potluck and commented on how I placed food to alternate colors and textures and I hadn’t realized I was doing that.

What is your favorite comfort food and why?

Celery sticks. Haha! Not. Pasta, rice or maybe really good, warm bread. However, when I am under the weather, no chicken soup for me (I am a vegetarian); instead Asian style rice porridge hits the spot like nothing else. For me it’s so homey.

Desert island picks, name three foods you could not live without:

Luckily for me, I love mangoes and coconut so I might just get by on a desert island. Can’t live without good olive oil, tofu, and Japanese shoyu.

Is there any food you hate?  Why?

Like Jean, I’m not a mayo lover myself, but have found that adding wasabi to the mayo in a tuna salad makes is so much more yummy!

I have a visceral reaction to mayonnaise. Why? I don’t know! But I can’t even look at it, even in the jar. I used to visit a friend on a kibbutz in the north on many weekends. She loves mayo and would fill a bowl with it so there’d be plenty on the table. I still remember its hideous gloppiness in the turquoise plastic kibbutz-issue bowl. I quietly would place the water pitcher between the offending bowl and my line of sight. Don’t tell.

What is your favorite Miriyummy post and why?

What, I have to choose? I enjoy reading them all — the luscious food, the hilarious commentary and the wonderful off-the-beaten track insights into Israel… I used to love finding those hidden jewels — the pundakim, the lesser known nature reserves and historical areas.  Makes me nostalgic. But of course I was touched when you posted  my “I’m in ur kitchen eating ur latkes” and other greeting cards — what an awesome surprise!

Do you have a food-related story you would like to share?

Before I was a Japanese major, I had intended to be a Chinese major. My first teacher in college was a substitute for the professor on sabbatical, and she used to take us to Chinese movies and arts events. But the most fun was when she’d invite the class to her home to cook together — the caveat being that we had to speak only Chinese. Such a fun learning experience and we got to enjoy the results of our cooking!

I just had to post a few of my most favorite Rotem Gear designs:

“Pride” in Hebrew plus a star of David motif makes this a perfect Jewish gift.

Vegetarian, environmental, sustainable, pro-animal and other good-vibey designs.

Robust coffee tee

About Miriyummy

All I want to do is live happily ever after.

Posted on 15 May 2012, in Chatting with Miriyummy and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Wonderful interview – nice to meet you, Jean!


  2. Crystal bowl with Vienna fruit/filled candies? Of course!! My grandma was from NY, too. She liked to serve us hot cream of wheat cereal with milk poured on top. I did not appreciate that as a kid!
    It was great fun to read more about Jean. Thanks for sharing even more of her wit and designs! 🙂


    • My mom used to make me cream of wheat, add a pat of butter on top and then add the milk. I just wanted it slathered in sugar, but could only do that when she wasn’t looking.


  3. Thank you for this, Mirjam. It was so much fun! So you had butter on hot cereal to? With the exception of oatmeal, our hot cereal was always savory, with butter and salt. I suspect there is an Eastern European reason for this, maybe. At any rate, I still don’t care for sweet breakfasts and on the rare occasion I have hot cereal (these days steel-cut oatmeal or mixed grains) I add a drizzle of flax seed oil and salt.

    Toby, nice to meet you!

    Heidi, were these the ones?


  4. Bonomo taffy, chicken soup and Vienna candies….was it a NY thing because I grew up with that as well? Jean’s work is wonderful and it’s great to learn more about her in the kitchen!


  5. WOW!!!!


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