Today is the 22nd Annual Ra’anana Marathon, which was meant to be two weeks ago but was canceled due to rain. Lots of rain. In the last week the weather has warmed up considerably. Granted, winters in Ra’anana are not exactly Siberian, but you can get cold, especially indoors. In fact, sometimes I walk the dog just to get outside and warm up a bit.
While I hate the hot and muggy sauna that Ra’anana becomes in the summer months, the springtime can be quite enjoyable.
I may have mentioned once or twice, or twenty times, that Ju-Boy and I are the parental units of a blended family. Sometimes we can be one big happy Brady Bunch, and at other times we resemble the Manson family. With a large cast of characters, we all have our ways of dealing with the situation. Ju-Boy and I prefer to deal with our reality by running away from it. Every now and again we will find someone to watch the dog and just disappear…
Once upon a time, not that long ago, but long ago enough that it happened in Chapter One, I was in the mall one evening and there was some kind of a New Age fair being held in the middle. There was a woman sitting at a table with a pile of Tarot cards and a few pretty pebbles, and she told me that if I would cross her palm with silver (or a 20 shekel note) she would read mine (palm, not the money). I’m not even sure if I believe in palm readings, but, why not? I sat down and she took my hand in hers.
“You are going to have many children,” she told me.
Once upon a time About three months ago I had a birthday. I woke up to presents, birthday cards, and even baked my own cake. But way off yonder, in the Frozen North (London), my daughter Sassy and her Sabraman had their own idea for a present. In the most clandestine of operations, money was transferred into Ju-Boy’s bank account, and he was supposed to take me out for dinner. It was meant to be a surprise. And… it was meant to be for my birthday.
As is the case of most of my life, man plans and God laughs. Dinner plans were made. First I canceled, then Ju-Boy canceled, then I canceled again. At one point Ju-Boy decided to almost fly over the handlebars of his bicycle, and instead of going out to dinner I watched him get a few stitches in his leg (he asked the nurse for a lollipop for being such a brave boy). What I didn’t know was that all this time Sassy was waiting for a report as to how I enjoyed her birthday present. Ju-Boy finally confessed, and plans were made again, and canceled, and made again. And canceled…
Do you have a wish list? I do. Spending a few days at the Carmel Forest Spa was at the top of the list. That’s been checked off. I’d been wanting for years to go to Stonehenge. Ju-Boy made that dream come true in 2005. One of my mini-holy grails has been to eat at MC², a gourmet vegetarian restaurant in Bitan Aharon, just north of Netanya. Reservations were made, and canceled, made again, canceled again. Finally, this past Monday, which just happened to be Valentine’s Day, it looked like this was going to get checked off my list as well. We don’t normally celebrate Valentine’s Day, Jews have their own lovers’ holiday, Tu Be’Av, and we celebrated that back in August. But I wasn’t going to let a little kid in diapers carrying a bow and arrow ruin my birthday evening, no matter how many months after my birthday it was.
The restarant was offering a special chef’s tasting menu that night in honor of Valentine’s Day — 15 courses. We thought we were going to be in for a night of gluttinous gorging, but the courses were small, tiny, even miniscule, and yet by the end we were stuffed. And so it began:
Each table had a menu printed out specifying each of the courses. At this point, consulting the list, we realized that the restaurant had skipped a course, the almond pate. We asked the waitress and she said she would bring it immediately.
It seems that we thought immediately meant right now. The waitress wasn’t using our dictionary, it seems.
Did I mention that each course, each tiny course, was brought to us and then cleared away before they brought the next course? It started out as cute. By the time the goat cheese dish had arrived we were losing patience.
Um… we’ve just had our palettes cleared by the sorbet, we’re ready for the main part of the meal, but where’s that almond pate? Once again, we asked a passing waiter. He promised to bring it out…. immediately.
At this point Ju-Boy decided to excuse himself (you know what that euphemism is for). He came back and told me I just had to check out the restroom, so I went to freshen up (yet another euphemism).
I returned to our table to find that the soup had been cleared away and that Ju-Boy had inquired yet again about the almond pate. It was coming… immediately.
It was just about now that a very large and beautiful beetle crawled across our table. It was very colorful and looked like a piece of Egyptian scarab jewelry. It was quickly whisked off our table by our waiter who apologized and said, “That’s what happens when you are right in the middle of a nature preserve.” I was fascinated, but unfortunately, our unexpected dinner guest was gone before I could take a picture.
Dessert was not listed as a course on the menu, but we knew it was coming, and we were ready!
We had started our meal with a nice glass of shiraz each, which I didn’t photograph. Ju-Boy ended his meal with an “upside-down” coffee. We well-fed and ready to go home.
On the way home, cozy and warm in the car which was lightly pelted with rain, I called Sassy and Sabraman to thank them for my birthday present. It’s nice to still celebrate your birthday three months after the fact. Do you think I can drag the event out for the whole year?
Once upon time, about 26 and a bit years ago, the X told me we were having a guest for Shabbat. “He’s Irish, he’s funny, you’ll like him.” He was, he was, and I did. He busted up my bathroom door, he practically flashed my neighbors (not on purpose) and spoke to me in that Lucky Charms leprechaun voice. Shabbat was magically delicious! I was eight months pregnant with Sassy at the time, and I laughed so hard that Shabbat I thought I would go into early labor.
Irish Jonny went on to marry Aussie Vicki and over the years the family grew to include Awesome Eytan, Famous Seamus, Lambie Leah and the ever mischievous Bambi (their baby deer who’s growing some serious antlers, watch out girls).
I met Jonny back in Chapter One, and now we flash forward to Chapter Two. I’ve been firmly ensconced in Ra’anana for several years now. Sassy and Nomush are grown and live elsewhere, Sassy with her Sabraman in London, Nomush in Jerusalem. My baby, Didi, has found her niche here in Ra’anana, but my Tinky was at loose ends. She lives in Jerusalem with the X, but tried to make it under my roof for a while. When I first moved into the Ju-Boy household Tinky was in boarding school, so she never really lived with me here in R-Town. After her year of National Service she moved in. She fitted seamlessly into the family, found a job, but was unhappy. Tinky is my party girl, a real social butterfly, and she missed her gaggle of friends in Jerusalem. In my effort to rev up her Ra’anana social life I tried to find her some friends. Bad move. Sad move. How embarrassing is it for your mother to find you some friends? If my mom had tried that when I was 20 I would have left the country (wait a minute, I did that anyway…). So Tinky returned to the hills of Jerusalem and her father’s house, where her favorite hang-outs are all within walking distance.
One Shabbat, when she came to visit us here in R-Town we invited Irish Jonny, Aussie Vicki and their hybrid crew over for a meal. Famous Seamus is Tinky’s age, so I said, “He’s (part) Irish, he’s funny, you’ll like him.” Much rolling of the eyes ensued, but this time Miriyummy planned and also got to laugh. Tinky and Famous Seamus hit it off, and even though she no longer lives with us, she has a friend in Ra’anana. They meet up every time she comes to visit and the house is filled with their laughter.
Famous Seamus is fond of my desserts, which I find very flattering since his mom is such an amazing cook. I would sell my soul to the Devil for her Pavlova. She’s Carine Goren with an Aussie accent. A few weeks ago I was playing around with my usual brownie recipe, adding a bit of this and tossing in a bit of that.They were a hit with everyone, but they had no name. How sad for them to be stuck in Brownie Limbo. Then Famous Seamus came over one Shabbat to hang with Tinky, and the smile on his face and the disgusting sounds he made while inhaling these babies gave me the idea to name them after him. See people, make my kids smile and you too can be immortalized in chocolate!
Famous Seamus Brownies
They’re more-ish, they’re funny, you’ll like them.
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter or margarine, room temperature
- 300 grams (10 1/2 ounces) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, broken into bits
- 2 large eggs, room temperature
- 1 large egg yolk, room temperature (I usually just use 3 eggs)
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- 2/3 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup shelled pistachios
- 1 cup craisins (or raisins)
- 2 cups (or 300 grams) white chocolate chips
- Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C (350 degrees F). Position the rack in the lower third of the oven. Grease or line with parchment paper (my preference) a 13 X 9 inch (32 x 23 cm) pan, set aside.
- Melt the butter with the chocolate, either in a double boiler or in the microwave. Stir to a melded, yummy mixture. Allow to cool for 10 minutes so you don’t scramble the eggs when you add them in.
- In a large bowl, beats the eggs and the egg yolk (if using) together with the sugar. Beat for about 5 minutes until the mixture is thick and a pale yellow. Then beat in the vanilla and the chocolate mixture until smooth.
- With a wooden spoon or a spatula stir in the flour and the salt, until just incorporated. Do not beat (or I will call the Brownie Police for aggravated assault of brownie batter).
- Add the pistachios, craisins and white chocolate chips. Stir until just evenly combined.
- Pour (more like cajole) the thick batter into the prepare pan. Bake for 35 minutes. The middle of the cake will be soft, but the brownies will set up as they cool. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least two hours.
- If you have used the parchment paper, just lift the brownies out of the pan and cut into squares. At this point they can be frozen, or just served to the hungry hoards who have come drifting in while smelling the amazing chocolate aroma drifting out of the house.
I have just lit the yahrzeit candle for my father. Tonight and tomorrow is his yahrzeit, 8 years since he passed away, according to the Jewish calendar. He had had problems with his heart his whole life. First it was broken in the Holocaust. His family was wiped away, most of them taken off to Auschwitz. In the late 40s he patched it together and found, loved and married my mother. In the 60s my parents adopted first me, and then my brother, and each time my father’s heart grew stronger, strengthened by family, the one thing that made life worth living for him.
It was in the late Seventies that he had his first heart attack. Another two followed in the 80s, and an “incident” in the 90s. In 2002 he had a quadruple bypass. He survived the surgery, but complications set in, hindered his recuperation, and he died six weeks later.
My father always said that he felt he was given a second chance at life. He loved life, and taught me and my brother that it was precious and not to be wasted. He so desperately wanted to live in Israel, but my mother had had enough wandering and he settled down with her in New York, and lived vicariously through me and my life in Israel. He once told me that it made him so happy that my children were the first members of our family in two thousand years to be born in the Jewish homeland.
So because my father loved life, revered it, I have chosen to celebrate his life on his yahrzeit, not to mourn him. Every year I cook up a big Hungarian feast, making all the foods he loved, and we invite friends and sit down at the table and raise a glass to a life almost extinguished, but brought back into the light.
Last year my father’s yahrzeit fell on the day that I was traveling to the States to clean out my mother’s apartment after she died. I didn’t have the time, and being deep in mourning for my mother, the inclination to put on a festive meal. So I went to a Hungarian bakery and bought some cakes and we celebrated the sweetness in life with the sweetness of Hungarian pastry. This year, this week, on this day my life, both vocational and personal, has taken a turn for the busy. Very busy. So on my way home from work I stopped off at that bakery once more and brought home some kyortosh, which isn’t really a Hungarian pastry, but is making a splash here in Israel as one. My father, who enjoyed a sweet nosh just as much as a savory bowl of my mother’s gulyas, would have enjoyed a bit with a hot cup of coffee, I know it.
Something else my father used to enjoy was singing songs in Hebrew, any song. Badly. My father so could not sing, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying him serenading me with a little Numi Numi each night as he put me to bed. And later on, after we had traveled to Israel for my brother’s Bar Mitzvah, the song Rak B’Yisrael got stuck in his head and we all had to listen to him singing that as he sat reading the paper. And davka today my attention was brought to something that my father would have loved. I have a collection of photos on Facebook, and album called Only in Israel, filled with pictures that are unique to our sometimes odd but always wonderful and country. My friend Judi sent me an email to congratulate me, my Facebook album has been set to music and has been turned into a YouTube video. Here’s the link. My father would have loved it!
Welcome to the 61st Kosher Cooking Carnival — the Tevet 5771 issue! As I’m putting together this issue it is still Kislev. We are in the midst of Chanuka and the candles are burning, as is our wonderful land of Israel, both physically and psychologically. The horrific forest fire in the Carmel Forest has claimed 41 lives (edited after posting — 42). The weather continues to be hotter than normal for this time of year. As the sun continues to shine and balmy weather brings warm breezes and banishes all thoughts of a wintry Chanuka, we still continue with our holiday traditions, the frying of latkes, the filling of sufganiyot, the caloric intake as if to bulk up for a winter that has yet to arrive. But rumor has it that with the month of Tevet comes that rain! Inclement weather is predicted for the erev of and the first day of Rosh Chodesh. May the rains come and wash the burning land and perhaps the Carmel Forest can start to regenerate the green we long for.
Just a note — today, as I finish writing this post, erev Rosh Chodesh Tevet, the rain has come, washing the country in its blessing and causing Am Yisrael to smile and breathe a sigh of relief. But still, the showers of last night and today are not enough, so please pray that the weather stays wet and gray!
Over the centuries Israel has been beset by many a tragedy, and how have we always managed to get through it? We eat! So let the Kosher Cooking Carnival begin!
The Kosher Cooking Carnival KCC is a monthly blog carnival, a “round-up” of blog posts about all aspects of kosher food and cooking. It includes Jewish Law, customs, kosher restaurants, cookbooks and kosher recipes, too. Every month it’s on another blog. Next month the KCC is once again going home and will be hosted by Batya at me-ander. If you’d like to host an edition, please contact Batya.
Batya, of me-ander, decided to do something we do almost weekly in our house and did a little Cashing In, Frozen Foods. In our house we always cook twice or three times as much as we need, just to feed the Freezer Gods.
Even though we are in the midst of Chanuka, not too long ago we were celebrating Thanksgiving. Mirj of Miriyummy (hey, that’s me!) didn’t quite make the traditional dinner, but had a little party to give thanks, and served up some unconventional Thanksgiving food.
What do you do when you just don’t know what to call your creation? You do what Mrs. S. over at Our Shiputzim: A Work in Progress did. Curious? Find out what she called her dessert in Freshly Baked Goods Friday: Nameless Edition.
Not that I want to get political or anythings, but… with all this talk about a building freeze, Jennifer and her Adventures in MamaLand is building houses, gingerbread houses, and they look good! Have a peek at Gingerbread Night.
There were no entries this month for Diet Food. Like, duh! This is the Chanuka season! Latkes, sufganiyot, anything fried, oil, oil, oil, get the picture? Just in case you don’t, here’s one…
Jewish Shabbat and Holiday Food
Over at JewishBoston.com we have an interesting take on the usual latke thanks to Dan Brosgol. Check out Hybrid Latkes: Low-Fat, High-Flavor, and Interestingly Textured.
Just because it doesn’t feel like winter yet here in Israel, that doesn’t mean that the rest of the world isn’t freezing its tuchas off and in need of hot and nourishing food to stave off the cold. Beth, the Upper West Side Mom, has a warming recipe for Fassoulyeh b’Lah’meh (Syrian Cholent).
Restaurants and Cookbook Reviews
Okay, so while this doesn’t fall under the issue of kashrut per se, I just couldn’t pass up including this entry from Erin Lenderts from Bachelor’s Degree Online: 40 Beautiful Coffee Table Books for Foodies.
Maybe I should call this the Not Kosher But Interesting Nonetheless category. In any case, Jennifer Lynch submitted an entry which is good for those of you who keep kosher but like to read about weird, non-kosher restaurants. Check out 20 Strangest Restaurants Around The World over at TopOnlineColleges.com.
Everything you wanted to know about the food pyramid but couldn’t be bothered to Google it yourself? You can find the Top 50 Blogs About the Food Pyramid and Macronutrients at ADN to BSN.
So how many of us who regularly read the KCC deep-fry their turkeys for Thanksgiving? Hmmmm, thought so. We’re just not in that demographic, are we… But just in case you ever get the, erm, hankering to try, Susan Howe discusses how Deep-fried turkey fiascos can spoil Thankgiving at Insure.com.
Have a happy holiday full of light!
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