Lovely and vivacious Jeanne has graciously invited me to be a guest on her terrific blog. She even called me a Chef – how could I refuse?
The Secret of Happiness: Chicken Pastrami
The famous Maggid (Storyteller) of Mezeritch had an unusual visitor. An elegantly dressed man who had arrived in a splendid carriage, confided, “I am rich as Croesus, I have a wonderful wife and healthy, smart, beautiful children, yet I am profoundly unhappy, overcome with sadness. Please help me, Rabbi!”
A hundred years before Dr Freud invented psychotherapy and almost two hundred years before psychiatrists started prescribing Wellbutrin, the Maggid did the next best thing; he advised his distressed visitor to go to Anipoli (Hannopil), find the happiest man in town, and wear his coat. By evening, driven by fast horses, the fancy carriage reached Anipoli. Anxiously, the driver stopped every passerby and enquired about the happiest man until he was directed to a dilapidated shack on the outskirts of the town, the home of Reb Zushe. Approaching the door, the wealthy gentleman heard joyful singing. Upon entering, he saw Reb Zushe dancing and singing with abandon.
“This is certainly not only the happiest man in this little town, but also the happiest man I have ever seen! – he exclaimed – Can I borrow your coat for just a moment, dear sir?”
“But I don’t have a coat,” – apologized Reb Zushe and continued dancing.
Contrary to a poor, miserable rich man in this parable, the ancient Greek king Croesus, the protagonist of this delightful Baroque opera, who lived in sixth century BCE, did consider himself the happiest man on earth. According to historian Herodotus’ Histories, he once showed his incredible riches to philosopher Solon and asked the sage who the happiest man in the world was, looking, like many people, for validation of his own beliefs. Great was his disappointment when Solon calmly replied that three people are much happier than the king whose name has become proverbial as a symbol of immense wealth: a young man who died fighting for his country and two brothers who have demonstrated exceptional filial devotion to their mother. To Croesus’ outraged, “But why?!” Solon explained that wealth cannot be a measure of happiness because of fickleness of fortune, thus the happiness of any person could be judged only after his death. To prove the point, Croesus’ fortune plays a cruel game with him when his son dies in a tragic accident, his wife commits suicide, and finally, he is burned alive, having lost his country and his treasures to Persian king Cyrus.
I don’t know about you, Beautiful People, but my vote goes to Reb Zushe!
Both Reb Zushe with his brother, the famed Reb Elimelech, and King Croesus traveled extensively, yet the poor, but happy brothers traveled throughout Eastern European towns and villages on foot, sharing their wisdom wherever they went, while the gravely mistaken king, obviously, thundered across his land in an elaborate bronze chariot. Yet they could have, probably, carried the same kind of traveling food, pastirma, which in Greek meant “dried meat,” and in Yiddish morphed into pastroma.
Of course, since ancient Anatolia, where Croesus had reigned, has become part of Ottoman empire about a millennia after his fiery death, the same delectable dried or pressed meat, marinated in wine, became known as bastirma, and in 19th century New York, with the influx of Rumanian Jewish immigration, it has gained popularity under the anglicized name pastrami. In this lively Yiddish song two man are nostalgically reminiscing about their sweet Rumania and its delicious pastroma. In Rumania and Bessarabia, however, pastramă was most frequently made of goose or turkey breast, rather than beef, since it was considerably cheaper. For dietary, rather than economical reasons, I have used skinless and deboned chicken breasts. This easy and delicious recipe was inspired by lovely Nadya who blogs in Russian at https://for-healths.com. I hope it makes you as happy as Reb Zushe and his brother, Beautiful People, albeit not as poor!
To continue with the recipe, please jump over to https://ajeanneinthekitchen.com/2021/03/10/we-have-a-new-guest-chef-dolly-aizeman.
It has been quite awhile since our last Guest Chef. No one has been sending anything in, and I miss that. I love seeing what’s cooking in your kitchens. But all that has changed, and now, we have a new Guest Chef, my friend, Dolly Aizenman.
You all might know Dolly from her blog, Kool Kosher Kitchen at https://koolkosherkitchen.wordpress.com/. Dolly always cooks with love. All her recipes look and sound amazing. Not only does she cook with love, but she also gives you a great history lesson with just about all of her recipes as well, which I love. Here is a little bit about this amazing lady in her own words.
Dolly submitted a recipe, and its history lesson, for chicken pastrami, which apparently, according to both history and legend, is the secret of happiness. I am not going to give you Dolly’s history behind chicken pastrami because…
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