Hello, Beautiful People!

That’s how I greet my students when I walk into a classroom. I teach college. I am now teaching only a couple of courses every semester because last year I retired in order to take care of my father who had started having various infirmities that come with advanced age. To my great sorrow, my father has just passed away, three days before Pesach. I am now in the middle of Shloshim, and I am faced with great gaping emptiness staring at me from every corner. Nowhere to run, nobody to call, nothing to arrange, get, bring, or fix.

I have always found solace in the kitchen. There is a concept in psychology: Food is comfort. For me, it’s not eating it that provides comfort, but cooking, planning, experimenting, even reading about food. My grandmother, who, with her equivalent of 4th grade education, had all the skills of a great educational psychologist, managed to make household chores not a burden for us kids, but rather a reward for good behavior. Helping in the kitchen was a higher reward, and baking – Oh! Baking! – that was the most special prize of all. One had to be extra careful, too, because in Russia, under the communist regime, in a tiny kitchen without running water, my grandmother was vigilant about keeping things kosher. Yes, I am that rarity: a Russian Jewish girl who is what in America is called Frum from Birth. Always hated labels, though, and this one is no exception. But it is from my grandmother that I learned how to be a true Balabuste.

When my grandmother passed away, I felt that emptiness for the first time. However, I was young, making a new  life for myself in a new country, raising a child, keeping busy with a myriad of new and exciting experiences. All of a sudden, it dawned on me that I was the only one who knew most of my grandmother’s recipes, and she was a phenomenal cook. I decided to write them down. I thought I would organize them by holidays, starting, obviously, in the beginning – with Rosh haShana. Nechtiker Tog! As I started writing, I went off on such a distant tangent that not one single actual recipe found its way into a short novel about the post-war life of Odessa Jews. I kept the title My Grandmother’s Recipes, but you shouldn’t be fooled by it.

Now, this was the first Pesach in my life without my father sitting at the Seder with me. My husband and I spent it with our son and his wonderful wife who is an exceptional Balabuste in her own right and who has rearranged the entire Pesach plan for her extended family in order to accommodate me on a moment’s notice. And trust me, having a bunch of Eineklach around is the best grief therapy! Then I came home, un-foiled the kitchen, and was hit with a new wave: my father’s birthday is on the second day of Shvuos, and ever since my mother, Oleve Sholom, passed away, I’ve always made a special dairy lunch for him, with all his favorite Yom Tov dishes that my grandmother used to make. From what I have seen in my almost 40 years in this country, our Shvuosdike menu is just as different from American Jewish tradition as our menus for all other Yomim Tovim.

So this is my way of celebrating my father’s birthday on Shvuos. I will cook and bake, and take pictures, and post recipes, and try to share with you, beautiful people, some of those delicious white and green and golden creations that had originated in my grandmother’s miniature kosher kitchen. And if I tempt you to try any of them – and most of them are ridiculously easy! – think for a moment of Shimon ben Dov Ber, a beautiful person who was loved and respected by everyone, who was one of the kindest people I have ever met, a true son of his mother, my beloved grandmother.

 

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25 Comments Add yours

  1. What an interesting blog 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Cassie. The interest is mutual. I like your travel stories and your poems. Keep on traveling and writing!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jack says:

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  3. Jason says:

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  4. What a beautiful and wonderful story about your family! I wanted to start my blog for similar reasons. My mother learned to cook from her grandmothers, and as the oldest grandchild, she is the only one who grew up in her grandmothers’ kitchens.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you – I am sure we have a lot in common! Did you see my Shavuos Menu post? Is it anything like what you do on Shavuos?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have to check. I usually like to read posts in order. I will look.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. In order going forward or going back?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Good question! I go backwards because I use my cellphone and otherwise I am afraid I will lose continuity. We moved erev Shavuot, so since then I have fallen behind.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Moving Erev Yom Tov – what an undertaking!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. It was a bit crazy but the people who sold us the house wanted to move before the end of the month. We went out for the day meals and I made the bare minimum, and cooked on yom tov as needed. The bright side was that we had 3 days of rest and relaxation, after all our hard work.🌈

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I know what you mean. Once in a my life, I had a brand new kitchen that was finished a couple of days before Pesach. I thinks I was the happiest yiddene in the community!

        Liked by 1 person

      7. At least you didn’t have to kasher it for pesach!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Exactly! That’s why I was the happiest!

    Like

  6. oldpoet56 says:

    This my friend is a very sweet article, I could feel your heart and Soul as I was reading it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart!

      Like

  7. atkokosplace says:

    I know I will enjoy following your blog. This story is so wonderful and heartfelt. What amazing memories you have of your family. You are lucky to have them. I know there is sadness that comes with the memories, but I know there are way more joyful ones. Thank you for sharing these stories with us all. Koko 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words, dear!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. calmkate says:

    This is so sincere and heart felt Dolly, thanks.
    Am just checking the links from your Meet the Bloggers interview and the one to ‘about’ isn’t functioning so I will try to link it myself.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, dear Kate! I will be “off the air” starting tonight until Monday morning, as we are traveling up North for the unveiling. Have a nice weekend!

      Liked by 1 person

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