Summer. Yes, it’s hot out there. Summer in the Middle East, really hot out there. Summer in Ra’anana, hot, muggy and uncomfortably hot out there. So what are the two things that relax me the most in the summer? I like to slave over a hot stove, I like to bake things in the oven, and I like to knit and crochet. Granted, the AC needs to be working. Without the AC my favorite thing to do in the summer is to lie supine in bed, in a coma. Wake me in November.
Last week was my high school reunion, the first time we all formally got together as a school unit in 31 years. I was a bit cautious about seeing everyone again. In my mind we were all still 17 years old. Did I want to see my old friends as middle-aged women? It turns out not a single one of us has aged a day since we all graduated back in January 1980 and set out to conquer the world.
It’s Mother’s Day today, and I miss my mom. Just thought you should know…
When Ju-Boy and I were dating we played the “Where Is Your Family From?” game. My father was Hungarian, my mother Lithuanian. His mother was Irish, and his father was Viennese. Not Austrian, Viennese. He was very exact about that.
Grandpa was a true gem. I only came to know him late in his life and I could see that I missed out on years of entertainment. He had a true love of life, music, wine, women and song. He left Vienna as a child and moved to London, but despite his many years in England he had a certain Viennese flavor, a je n’ai sais quoi, or rather, an ich habe irgendetwas. He was never without a twinkle in his eye. He spoke softly and carried a big stick, and was full of humor, the same dry humor he passed on to his son. Being in the room with the two of them could be painful, you had to constantly be on your toes because you were never sure if they were being serious or not.
Like his sons and his grandsons, the man loved fruit. When he came to visit the house was filled with fruit. Actually, the house is always filled with fruit. But when Grandpa came to visit we made sure there was even more fruit than usual. Another thing we always made sure to have for Grandpa’s visit was a jar of store-bought marmalde. He loved marmalade. It used to irk me a bit, I make a mean jar of the stuff, but Grandpa usually came to visit in the warmer months of the year, and oranges are a winter fruit in Israel. I never did manage to have a jar of the homemade stuff available when he came through the door.
Three years ago Grandpa came out to Israel during the winter. He came specifically for Optimus Prime’s wedding to the Rani. With all the insanity of the festivities, the Shabbat chatan, the oofroof and the sheva brachot, I didn’t even think to make him some marmalade. There was always next year.
But next year never came. Grandpa was fortunate enough to see his first grandchild married. He went home to London and based on some pretty racy photos, celebrated Purim, big time. He celebrated his English 81st birthday on a Sunday, his Hebrew 81st birthday on Monday night, and died on Tuesday.
It’s been almost three years since Grandpa died, and he is missed. These days, every time I make some orange marmalade I get a bittersweet feeling in my heart. I wish I had made him a jar.
Enter Aussie Elie. If Grandpa’s passing saddens me whenever I make a batch of marmalade, Elie manages to put a smile on my face. He loves the stuff. I can’t even make a batch anymore without putting aside some for what has come to be known as Ma’aser Elie (Elie’s tithe). This winter alone I’ve made two or three batches, and no matter what time of night it’s done and jarred, Elie is at my door, ready for his dosage of sticky, orange goop.
One of the rules in my house is that you are not allowed to eat anything unless I’ve taken a picture of it. Ju-Boy knows this, the kids know this, but Aussie Elie sweeps in and swoops down and absconds with my marmalade before I can even photograph it. Enter Better-Half Hindy to save the day. The girl can be quite handy with a camera. And she’s quick, too, since I understand Elie can eat the stuff pretty fast and it’s gone before you know it.
Yeah, why not name it after Elie?
- 6 large oranges
- 1 kilogram sugar (2.2 pounds, 5 cups)
- Wash the fruit well. Really well. Cut away any blemishes.
- Cut into quarters, and then cut those quarters into half. Remove any pits.
- Place the orange pieces, skin and all, in the food processor and zhuzz around until finely chopped. You can leave in a few larger pieces for artistic interpretation. Depending on the size of your food processor, you may have to do this in two or three batches.
- You can add some crystallized ginger while zhuzzing, but I never have. I adore the stuff, but not everyone does.
- Dump the zhuzzed oranges into a heavy pot, and then dump the whole kilo of sugar on top.
- Bring to the boil, then lower the flame to medium. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon. It can splatter, so be careful.
Do not double the ingredients. Rather, make two batches.
This never goes dark and can last for six months in the fridge without any need to sterilize the jars. Six months, or one Elie.
I once read somewhere, back when blogdom was in its infancy, that one kitchen diva’s nightmare was that guests would arrive and there wouldn’t be anything on the table they were willing to eat. Haven’t most of us had that nightmare? You know what I mean… you invite guests over for Shabbat lunch and it turns out they are macrobiotic raw foodists who don’t want to go near your cholent, or snaggle-toothed carnivores who turn up their noses at your tofu curry. You just can’t win with some people.
I used to be one of those guests, once. I was a vegan for 5 years back in the mid-90s, eschewing meat, eggs, dairy, any kinds of animal product. I totally freaked my friends out. It’s not that I was being kind to animals, it was that animals weren’t kind to me, I had problems digesting animal protein and a vegan diet was the only one that worked for me back then. These days I’m my old carnivorous self again, although I love catering for veggie guests. When veggie friends come over I can whip some tofu curry as good as any card-carrying PETA member. Ju-Boy gets a bit miffed, though, when they reciprocate but don’t sacrifice a cow for his dietary preferences.
Once upon a time, before my vegan days, I had a friend from back in the hood, Goldie From The Block. Goldie and her very own SugarBear had recently made aliya and I invited them over for dinner. “You know we’re vegan,” announced Goldie. My first reaction? Oy! I spent two weeks researching a vegan menu worthy of Goldie and SugarBear. After all, I wanted that meal to be perfect! I had invited another couple over for dinner as well, and the X (I was married to the X then) said, “This other couple are not used to this alien food, you should make something dairy as well, just as a backup.”
So our guests showed up for dinner, and I started to bring food out on to the table. Potato and leek soup, lentil pie, tofu and sweet potato curry, couscous and salad. I had a fruit salad chilling in the fridge for dessert, to be topped with a forest fruits sorbet. Not a single animal had been harmed or taken advantage of for this meal. Except for when I brought out the quiche. If I was going to cater to the vegans, I’d cater to the non-vegans as well, and I had made a small tomato and onion quiche with lots of cheddar cheese, eggs and cream. As I placed this dairy masterpiece on the table I said, “Everything here is vegan, except for the quiche.”
“Quiche!” exclaimed Goldieblox and her Bear. “Quiche, we love quiche!” and they helped themselves to giant portions of enslaved animal products. “B-b-b-b-b-but,” I blubbered, “you guys are vegans!” “Yes,” said Goldie, “but we don’t expect people to cater for us when we go out!” Goldie may have been married to a Bear, but I was the one who growled then.
But what’s a little oppressed animal cuisine among friends? Although Goldie from the Block and SugarBear have given up their vegan ways, they still are very kind to animals and other living things in the guise of lacto-ovo vegetarians. They live on the other side of town with their three cubs. Goldie had a birthday the other day, and her friends all got together to throw her a party. We all brought something to eat, and in memory of those vegan days I brought along a dish of edamame hummous. No animals were harmed, exploited or taken advantage of in that dish of green. As Goldie tried some on a cracker she told me that it was “juuuuuuust right!”
Don’t let the fact that this is healthy or vegan deter you, it’s yummy, and a nice alternative to chickpea hummous.
- 1 bag (400 grams, about 13 ounces) frozen, shelled edamame
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoon tahini
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- Bring the edamame to boil in a pot of water for about 3 minutes. You can also nuke them in the microwave for about 5-7 minutes, until hot. Drain them in a colander and rinse under running water.
- Place the beans in the food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients and give it all a good zhuzz until the mixture is the consistency of guacamole. If it’s too thick add a teaspoon of water, one at a time, until the right consistency.
- Taste and correct seasonings.
- Cover and refrigerate until party time!
Famous Israeli saying:
אמא יש רק אחת
You only have one mother
True, or false?
Most people go through life with only one mother. I feel sorry for them, in a way. It’s wonderful to have a loving mother who nurtures you, loves you, spoils you… But what’s even better is two women who would do this for you.
I’m fortunate to have been blessed with two mothers. Okay, we’re not even going to go into the whole adoption issue, that’s doesn’t even enter into the equation here. First, there’s my mom. She may not have carried me under her heart for nine months, but she brought me home from the hospital, and that’s my mom.
When I was seven we spent a considerable time in Norway, and my Aunt Zipora, my father’s baby sister, came up from Israel to visit us. My father had told me stories about all his brothers and sisters back in Hungary, and I was thrilled to meet the aunt he spoke of so fondly. She brought me a book in Hebrew and we spent a lot of time reading the stories together.
When I was 16 we came out to Israel for the summer, for my brother’s Bar Mitzvah. I was a rebellious teen, and you could have imagine just how embarrassed I was by my mom. She kept trying to get me to pose for pictures, she kept trying to buy me dorky clothes, she kept trying to keep me safe. How embarrassing! My Aunt Zipora, on the other hand, convinced my mom to let me go off to the beach by myself. She bought me the sandals that were the “in thing” back in 1979 Tel Aviv, and she taught me curse words in Hungarian!
Throughout the years, while I was in Israel as a kibbutz volunteer, a university student, a new immigrant, a new mom, a new divorcee, my Aunt Zipora was always there to support me in any decision. She became like a second mother to me. Since my girls didn’t have grandmothers who lived nearby — my mother lived in New York, their other grandmother in London — Zipora became a grandmother to them. When my father died in 2002 I went to the States for the funeral, and after my mother and I comforted each other I flew back to Israel and my aunt and I had another good cry together. When my mother died in 2009 my aunt was there to tell me stories of my parents’ early life together, pre-Miriyummy.
In 2005 I married for the second time. My mother couldn’t come out for the wedding, so I had the oddest pleasure in being walked down the aisle to the chuppah by my oldest daughter Sassy and my Aunt Zipora.
I grew up eating Hungarian food, but my Lithuanian mother used to drive me insane giving me recipes. You put in a bit of this, a bit of that. There were no measurements in my mother’s cooking style. With the help of my Aunt Zipora, who actually writes things down, I was able to approximate one of my favorite dishes:
This dish went by the name of káposztás tészta. I never managed to pronounce the second word correctly, and it all got shortened to Capostash when I put it into our Shabbat rotation. No one else seems to want to call it that, so Hungarian Noodles it is. Purists will rise up in outrage when they read what I’ve done to the recipe, but this is my blog, and my bastardized recipe, and I’m serving it at my table, so this is my Capostash!
Leave out the shmaltz and the kabanas to make this dish vegetarian/vegan.
- 500 grams bow-tie noodles, cooked until al dente
- 2 huge onions, coarsly shredded
- a few glugs of olive oil, or a chlop of shmaltz
- 1/2 head of green cabbage, coarsely shredded
- salt, pepper and paprika to taste
- 2 heaping tablespoons poppy seeds
- Optional: 3 kabanas, preferably by Tirat Zvi, cut up (thin, dried sausage)
- Caramelize the onions in the olive oil or shmaltz until darkly golden and soft.
- Add the cabbage and toss together with the onions until softened.
- Add the noodles and mix. You may need to add 1/4 – 1/3 cup of water to get it mixable. Add the salt, pepper and paprika and taste. When you have it juuuuuust right, add the poppy seeds and mix together. (Add the kabanas.) Serve hot.
- If you add the cut up kabanas it takes this dish to a whole new level. It’s not authentically Hungarian, but it’s authentically delicious!