I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve been asked, “What’s it like to be the child of Holocaust survivors?”
Before I start my discussion of the P word, the good and the bad of it, I just wanted to mention that yesterday was one year since Miriyummy came into being, all because Ju-Boy got trapped in England due to a volcano. So if you love or hate my blog, you can all Blame It On The Volcano.
Okay, the house is clean, you are exhausted, the table is set, the guests are hungry, what are you going to serve?
Even though my mother was secular my father was observant, and I grew up in a kosher home. As a child I watched my fair share of television, and desperately wanted to eat what those of us growing up in the Sixties and Seventies were brainwashed to eat. But I couldn’t. Most of those wonderfully-colored, chemically-enhanced, MSG-laden and gelatin-laced yummies were not kosher and therefore never made it over the threshold of the house or on to my tastebuds.
The other day I was standing in line at the local post office. I was about to do something I hadn’t done in quite a while: buy a stamp and mail a letter. It was a long line, and the Ministry of Communication has generously provided two wide-screen televisions for our entertainment. All they played was an endless and very short loop of commercials touting the postal services now available over the Internet. Usually I do most of the official errands over the net. I used to run around town, from the post office, to the bank, to the National Insurance Institute, but now I do it all online. Instantly. Even writing mail is online and instant. Except for when I need a stamp.
I started thinking about the instant world we now live in. We can do many things over the Internet today that we couldn’t even envision a decade ago. Send a chatty little letter to a far-away friend? No need, just shoot off a quick email and click on send. Or post something to your friends’ wall on Facebook. Just want to say hi? Send them a text on your cell phone. Mail a letter? Who does that anymore?
Amazingly accurate predictions from 1993 — but tell me, what’s a phone booth?
All I find in my mailbox these days are credit card statements and junk mail. Even the credit card companies are imploring me to sign up online, log in and save a tree. Everyone wants to save paper and take up byte space.
As it was almost my turn (remember, I’m still in the post office), a young girl, around 11 years old or so, approached the clerk and told him she needed to send a letter to America, but she didn’t know how. The clerk smiled (as did everyone ever the age of 30 in line). When I was 11 I was writing letters to my friends just because we loved getting mail. I had a good friend in Brooklyn, we didn’t speak on the phone for years, we just sent letters. It was a huge thing to get really cool stationary for your birthday. Getting a letter was the most exciting thing next to the season premiere of Mork and Mindy! And here was this young girl, weaned on cell phones and instant chat screens, needing to send a letter for the first time, and she didn’t even know how. The clerk was patient, sold her a stamp, showed her where to stick it, and took the letter and posted it.
When it was my turn I also asked for a stamp. Again, the clerk smiled. “Not too many kids mail letters these days,” he said to me. “The whole world wants something in an instant.
It’s true. We just want to blink our eyes, wriggle our noses and everything arrives in an instant. Communication, knowledge, the television show you missed last night, even food. I want my calories and I want them now!
We need to slow down, before we burn out. So come travel with me, back to the past, when we were more patient. Remember when food was worth waiting for?
Forest Fruits Sorbet
This refreshing and delicious dessert can take a while to make, especially if you use an ice cream machine and forget to chill the container for 24 hours beforehand (which is what happened to me). Still worth the wait!
- 2/3 cup water
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2 cups pureed forest fruits
- Boil the water and sugar together. The sugar should be dissolved and then let the syrup boil for another two minutes. Cool. Be patient, the stuff has to get to room temperature at least. Feel free to stick the pan in the fridge.
- Mix the sugar syrup together with the fruit puree. Pour into your ice cream machine and process according to the machine’s instructions.
- Alternatively, you can just place the stuff in a big Tupperware bowl and bung it in the freezer. Every two hours take it out and mix the stuff around to combine and get nice and slushy. Do this two or three times. By this time tomorrow you should have a wonderful sorbet, patiently refreshing.
I have a confession to make. I am an addict. Not just a food addict, this one is a much more serious addiction, and in order to get my drug into my system I need to use needles. Family and friends (and bank managers) have tried intervention, but to no avail. I need to use those needles on a daily basis.
You see that bag up there in the picture. I made it myself. I couldn’t help myself. One day I wandered into The Gourmet Yarn Shop and Orly, the owner, became my pusher. She enables me. She takes my money and I walk out of there with my stash. My needles. I need to get that stuff into my system.
This bag has magical properties, it’s a Mary Poppins bag, but it works in the opposite manner. Instead of all sorts of amazing objects coming out of it, things go in there and never come out. I buy a few things at the supermarket, put them in my bag (to save the planet and not use the plastic stuff), and they are never seen again. Knitting needles, crochet hooks, notebooks, chocolate bars, stuff goes in there and never comes out. I’ll bet Jimmy Hoffa is in there…
The other day I downloaded and printed out a recipe for what looked like a really great cream soup. It would be perfect to serve right before Tisha B’Av, full of carbs and filling and just right to have before a 25 hour fast. My mistake? I put it in my bag, never to be seen again. This is the Little Shop of Horrors bag (feed me, Miriyummy, feed me all night long).
What to do? We have a fast coming up and need to load up on the carbs. Ju-Boy claims that if you give him half an onion, he can have supper ready in half an hour. I’m the same way with soup, just as long as I have my handy dandy immersion blender, I can make soup out of anything.
Zhuzzed Potato and Leek Soup
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 2 medium potatoes, unpeeled and well scrubbed
- 1 large zucchini, unpeeled and well scrubbed
- 1 medium leek (including the green)
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 packed cup parsley (just the leaves, no stems)
- 1 liter (4 cups) water
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the onions and start sautéeing until golden.
- Cut up the potatoes into smallish dice and add them to the pan, let them get some good color as well. Chop up the zucchini and the leek, toss them into the pan, keep sautéeing. Do the same with the garlic, but throw them in whole. Now add the parsley and give it one final stir.
- Add the water, bring it to the boil, turn the heat down, cover the pot, and let simmer for about 20 minutes.
- Now comes the fun part. Get out your immersion blender. Take the pot off the flame, stick your stick in the soup, and start zhuzzing. You don’t know what zhuzz means? Neither does dictionary.com. But it’s simple onomatopoeia, you just stick your stick in the soup, and start zhuzzing. What is so difficult about this? Need a picture?
- Add the brown sugar, the salt and freshly ground black pepper and zhuzz one more time. If you want to add some soup powder, I won’t tell anyone you did.
I served this soup up with a drizzle of cream, and then added a handful of grated cheddar cheese, which then totally obscured the cream in the picture, so we got the flavor and calories without the visual enjoyment.
The soup heats up well in the microwave. You could take some to work with you and it would taste even better. If I tried it, however, it would probably just get lost in my bag.
Thumbelina, Thumbelina, tiny little thing
Thumbelina dance, Thumbelina sing,
Thumbelina, what’s the difference if you’re very small?
When your heart is full of love, you’re nine feet tall!
featured in the biographical movie Hans Christian Anderson (1952)
Once upon a time there was a little girl. A very little girl. When she was born, even though she was full term, she weighed so little that they kept her in the preemie ward. I’d like to say that she grew, but she didn’t. Well, she did, but slowly, s-l-o-w-l-y! By the time she was two years old the local Tipat Chalav (well baby clinic) was threatening to call a social worker and charge me with abuse because they thought I wasn’t feeding her. When she was three years old our family doctor became concerned because she wasn’t really gaining any weight. By the time she was four she was the size of a two and a half year old. Tiny little thing. I didn’t even need a stroller for her, I would just carry her around in my pocket.
We actually had a wonderful family doctor, who suspected that she might have a growth hormone deficiency (she did). The winter she was four he sent us off to get a bone age x-ray taken, and then on to an endocrinologist. The x-ray clinic was in the same neighborhood as Machaneh Yehuda, Jerusalem’s outdoor market. It was early in the morning and as we got off the bus I thought it would be fun to walk through the market just as it was waking up for the day. Man plans, God laughs.
I held Sassy’s hand as we walked through the market. At one point we passed a fish stall. The vendor stuck this huge net into a pool of live fish, scooped up a few, and tossed them on to a stall of ice, the freshest fish of the day. One of the fish did not take too kindly to being removed from his pleasant bath and tossed on to a freezing tableau, and literally leaped (do fish leap?) off the ice and straight on to Sassy. I don’t know what kind of fish it was, but it was HUGE, bigger than my little girl for sure. It hit her full on, and knocked her over on to the cobblestones. To add insult to injury, it lay there on top of her, floundering around, rubbing it’s fishiness all over my tiny baby. She lay on the ground screaming, the fish lay on her, flopping, and I was in so much shock I just watched it all happen in slow motion. Mr. Fish Vendor came out of his shop and removed the insulted fish, hurling it back on the ice. And my Sassy, she just screamed and screamed and screamed. Tiny she was, but she had the lung capacity of an opera diva.
Since then, if she knew there was fish on her plate, she never ate it again.
Fast-forward 19 years. Sassy has just become engaged to her superhero, Sabraman. It was time for The Dinner. You know, the two sets of parents get together and strategize about the wedding. Sabraman is half Yemenite, half Turkish. Did I cook a meal that was familiar to his parents (something they see on their table everyday)? Or do I showcase my own ethnic background (Hungarian/Lithuanian)? I came up with a third solution. Sabraman, in spite of his boureka-eating, hilbeh-dipping, meaty upbringing, had a thing for lasagne. So I’d make him lasagne. But I thought that would be too outre for his parents, so I made some fish as well. Yes, I know Sassy was going to have a fishy fit at the table, but she behaved herself well, since she’s a fan of my lasagne.
So there we sat around the table, the six of us: Mr. and Mrs. Sabraman, the future Mr. and Mrs. Sabraman, and me with my Ju-boy. I proudly served dinner: lasagne, a green salad, a chilled bottle of white wine, and my fishy creation — Hungarian/Thai Salmon. The elder Sabraman couple just sat there and stared. What is this stuff? Is she going to poison us with her Ashkenazi food? It was a tense two minutes or so. Sassy was trying not to stare at the fish, Sabraman was dying to dig in to the lasagne but was waiting for his father to help himself first. Finally, in the awkward, cricket-chirping silence, Sabraman stands up, serves his parents and then his bride-to-be and says in his superhero voice, “It’s good, eat!” And eat they did, they even had seconds. That night, Sabraman was also my hero.
Before I post the recipe, just a tiny post-script: Sabraman and Sassy are now living in London, and when I spoke to my daughter last week she said to me, “Here’s an update for your blog, I eat tuna now!” I know this is Sabraman’s doing, he’s my superhero too!
I originally posted the recipe on Recipezaar back in 2001, but it’s undergone a change or two since then. Below is as I make it now.
- 1 (3 lb) salmon fillet
- 1/4 cup Hungarian paprika
- 1 large lemon, washed and dried
- salt and pepper to taste
While the salmon is still partially frozen, cut into serving pieces. I usually serve this as an appetizer so the pieces are smallish squares.
Place the salmon in a large pot and cover with water.
Toss in the paprika.
Zest the lemon with a Microplane zester and toss the zest into the pot. Cut up the balded lemon into approximately 6 slices and toss that into the pot as well. Add the salt and pepper.
Bring the whole thing to a rolling boil and let cook for 20 minutes. Yes, I know you are supposed to gently poach salmon, but listen to Miriyummy. Don’t treat the fish delicately, it can take it, don’t worry.
Turn off the heat, let sit for about 10 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon.
Chill for at least two hours and serve.