We cook because we must eat. Others, like me, cook because it’s a passion, a creative outlet, a constant inspiration of everything viewed in the world. I once saw a child playing with multihued marbles and a platter of colorful roasted vegetables popped into my head!
Last winter while running in from a rain storm, I noticed a creek of rushing water with green leaves, some orange peels, white pieces of paper and could almost smell the aroma of a pot of vegetable soup filled with green beans, carrots and potatoes!
One sunny spring day, I was in awe of continues rows of red geraniums and suddenly pictured a platter of chocolate-dipped strawberries lined up waiting to be plucked for dessert!
The world is a palette of endless artistic and original ideas to paint in whatever medium inspires us!
For many, Food is Love. It’s how we express our most adoring emotions and affection for those who surround our world.
My Bubbe taught me that.
She once woke up on a Tuesday morning and said, “Sandala, what do you want for dinner next Thursday?”
Incredulously, I’d look at her and responded, “Bubbe! I haven’t had breakfast today! How do I know what I want for dinner next week?”
With a punim filled with rejection, she’d humbly walk away while I chased her, hugged her and told her, “Whatever you surprise me with, I know I will love it! Thank you for asking!”
I could see her eyes light up with anticipation filled with love for planning next Thursday’s meal! It didn’t take much to please my little Russian Bubbe! Especially if it involved planning and cooking a meal. It’s how she shared her greatest talent and love with us.
And here’s is a story to confirm her importance in sharing food: A long lost relative suddenly came back into our lives. We had no word from or about this person for over 20 years so the first thing my Bubbe did was to invite her for lunch.
I arrived at Bubbe’s house a little early to help, but, of course, everything was cooked and ready the night before. Bubbe had set the table with her finest linens and China, pots and pans were all over the stove as she had cooked up a storm with her tastiest delicacies. I couldn’t wait for this woman to arrive because the smells from the kitchen were calling me.
When the doorbell rang, I went to the door, opened it and felt like I had been punched in the stomach—the woman was wearing a four-inch cross around her neck!
OH! OH! Dishes were going to fly! This was NOT going to be pretty!
The sudden rush in my head was: “Had she converted? Did she not recognize her Jewish roots? Was she that stupid and inconsiderate to come to Bubbe’s house with a cross around her neck? Hmmmm, yeah!
She KNEW this would take all the excitement from my dear Bubbe in this anticipated reunion and all these years later I do believe that was the intension.
As Bubbe came to the door, I moved to the side and I watched as Bubbe’s face faded to bright white, her eyes raged with fire and her teeth clenched!
There was a pregnant moment of silence until I asked the guest to sit down in the living room as Bubbe fluttered into the kitchen like a chicken running from slaughter. We made small talk to fill the time because what I heard coming from the kitchen was not good.
From the corner of my eye I could see my beloved Bubbe clearing the table by whisking the challah away, the dish of compote was no longer to be seen and suddenly dishes, silverware, napkins and glasses were gone!
The table was bare! A sign that the long-lost relative was no longer welcome and would not break bread with us.
Twenty minutes later the reunion was over and we never heard from the woman again.
My Bubbe had the ability to let it go and continued to spread her love by cooking for those she adored.
Of all the definitions of the word “food,” the one I like best is: “Food nourishes, sustains us.” As in most families, especially Jewish/ethnic families, food is an excuse, a reason, to bring people together.
I once heard a non-Jew seated among many Jews at a holiday table, say, “I thought food was just to eat!” All the Jews at the table started to laugh and talk at once on what food was really about!
Food brings people to the table for ritual and religious ceremonial events, in good and bad times. Food has power and that’s why we honor its importance for it gathers us to talk about our day, celebrate, mourn, honor, share and reminisce.
Remember the movie Avalon when the oldest brother arrived late to the Thanksgiving dinner and when he saw the family had already started eating, he screamed with such anger, “You carved the turkey without me! Me! The eldest brother who brought you all to America! You carved the turkey without me! Where is your respect?” Besides food, we need to remember to bring respect, gratitude, tradition, ceremony and love to the table. There is no place-setting for anger!
And consider what Chanukah would be like without latkas? Could you come to a Passover table without matzah or Rosh Hashanah dinner without chicken soup? And all shiva tables have hard boiled eggs to represent life and its continuity.
Do you know the tradition that when someone moves into a new home you bring them a little salt so that’s the only bitterness in the home, lots of sugar so much sweetness comes to them and a piece of bread so they will never be hungry.
These are all customs in our culture with important meaning, waiting to be created with memories that we hope our children and grandchildren will smell, savor and pass on and on.
And can you imagine a Jewish gathering with NO food? The concept is laughable!
For me, besides the coming together to share stories, tears, laughter and community is the gathering for the food preparation when division of labor is taken for granted and we share in the tasks. It makes the taste of the meal that much sweeter knowing it was a shared experience.
And a great way to get the grandchildren involved in learning the family rituals, ceremonies and most important, the recipes that must be handed down.
And such an important element of food: It takes us home! The smells, the cooking, setting of the table, bringing out the candlesticks, linens and old family serving pieces, these all take us to places we often long to be, with the people who gave us memories of our heritage, culture and the-good-old-days. I urge you to make those moments for the younger generations so that someday they can revel in those recollections and learn to pass then down.
Wishing everyone a Healthy, Peaceful, Love-filled and Happy 5779!
-1 cup sugar–plus 2 tablespoons (for topping)
-3 cups flour
-2 t baking powder
-1/2 stick butter
-2 teaspoons vanilla
-4 eggs, reserve one egg white for brushing the top
-6oz chocolate chips
-1/2 cup nuts
Combine all the ingredients and mix well, not with a mixer. The dough should be very sticky. Grease a cookie sheet, flour your hands and roll out the dough into 3 or 4 snake like rolls, about one inch circular. Make a mixture of cinnamon and sugar and after brushing the tops with the egg whites, sprinkle with the mixture. Bake at 350* for about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and slice one inch in length. Now toast under the broiler for a few minutes until the tops are lightly browned. These will take you home!
Quick and Easy Apple Crisp Cake
-1 box yellow cake mix
-2 cans Comstock apples
-1 stick butter
-Pyrex dish sprayed with Pam
Empty the cake mix in the Pyrex dish and spread out evenly. Empty the two cans of apples and FOLD, do not mix, into the cake mix. Sprinkle cinnamon all over, can add pecans, then drop dollops of the butter all over, DO NOT MIX IN. Bake at 325* for one hour until the mixture becomes crispy. Wonderful to bake while eating dinner as the aroma is heavenly! Serve with vanilla ice cream or Cool Whip! A winner!
We still love Jello!
-1 package red Jello—any flavor
-2 cans crushed pineapple
-15oz can cranberry sauce
-2 ¼ cups liquid including the juice from the pineapple
Drain the can of pineapple and add boiling water to liquid to make 2 ¼ cups
Smash up the cranberry sauce with a fork and add Jello mix, add pineapple and pour into a mold, refrigerate for 5 hours. Oldie but goodie!
-1/2 cup olive oil
-1 chopped onion
-1 cup celery pieces
-1 8oz can of tomato puree
-1/2 chopped black olives
-1/3 cup red wine vinegar
-2 T sugar
-Touch of garlic
-Salt and pepper to taste
-Cut eggplant in ½ and let sit on a paper towel to drain the moisture
-Cut unpeeled eggplant into small cubes
Heat olive oil and sauté eggplant for 10 minutes. Add the onions, celery and the seasonings and stir until eggplant turns lighter color, might need to add more olive oil. Add puree, olives and vinegar, simmer for about 15-20 minutes on low till all tastes yummy! Can serve hot or cold.
Cauliflower Rice Patties
-2 packages of Cauliflower Rice (makes about 2 dozen patties)
-3-4 eggs (hold one egg if needed)
-1 small yellow squash, diced very small
-2 shallots, diced small
-1 red pepper, diced small
-1/2 cup breadcrumbs
Combine cauliflower rice, squash, pepper and shallots. Season with salt and pepper, basil and garlic salt. Add the eggs and breadcrumbs and mix thoroughly. Taste to check if it needs more seasonings. Prep a greased cookie sheet, set oven to 350*. Make patties from the mixture and set on the cookie sheet. If the patties are not sticking together, add more breadcrumbs as they should remain stuck together. If it feels too dry add the 4th egg. Sprinkle a little paprika on each patty. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until bottoms are browned and no moisture is seeping out of the patties. Great to freeze and heat up!
Moroccan Roasted Chicken and Veggies
-1 whole chicken
-Bag of baby carrots
-2 sweet potatoes, cubes
-2 parsnips, cubed
-1 onion, sliced
-Moroccan Seasoning (Shilling)
-1 can of chicken broth
-1 large roasting pan
Season chicken with a drizzle of oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, Moroccan seasoning and paprika. Make sure the chicken appears it’s wearing a red coat with all the seasoned colors! Add the veggies to the pan, pour the broth on the veggies (not the chicken) along with the seasonings and roast for 2-21/2 hours or until chicken is done. Can remove veggies if they appear sooner. A Sephardic flavor!