Hi, my name is Dolly. Actually, I am Devorah Yentl, but when I was born, clerks in communist Russia were not allowed to record names like that on a birth certificate. So the woman said to my mother, “Little girl, go and come back with a good Russian name.” My mother was little, that much was true, and at 4’11” she did look like a teenager. She wasn’t timid, though, and she did come back with a good Russian name, Dolly. As you can see, it starts with a D and ends with an L. To the clerk’s exasperated whisper, “But it’s still foreign!” she calmly opened a book she brought with her. Leo Tolstoy, the Russian classic, had Princess Dolly among his main characters in Anna Karenina. You couldn’t argue with Tolstoy, and thus it was duly recorded, in memory of my two great-grandmothers. Lest you think it only happened to Jews, I will refer you to a documentary about a famous Russian actress Lyudmila Gurchenko whose father wanted to name her Lucy. The clerk flatly refused to record a foreign name, suggesting “modern soviet names” Lenina, Stalina, Lelud (Lenin Loves Kids), or Dazdraperma (Long Live May 1st). They finally settled on an old Russian Lyudmila, but throughout her long and eventful life she was known as Lucy.
It wasn’t easy to keep kosher in communist Russia. You couldn’t go to a kosher store and buy anything, from soup to nuts, with a Hecksher, the way it is in the US. Here, chicken is already shechted for you, and cows conveniently label their own parts as “beef for stew.” As Yakov Smirnov used to say in the eponymous TV sitcom, “What a country!” For us, Cholov Israel meant my Zeide actually watching the milking process. And when the shoichet was retired because his hands were shaking, Zeide would buy live chickens and shecht them himself. Since childhood, I was taught how to salt a chicken to drain all blood out of it, to make it kosher. When I bought my first kosher chicken in a Jewish store in America, I brought it home, cut it open, and to my horror, found a small clot of blood! I salted it and left it to drain as I had been taught. For quite a few years after that, I kept “kashering” kosher meat, just in case.
I am semi-retired, I love to cook, and I now have time on my hands to share my recipes and exchange new food ideas. My recipes are different from traditional American Jewish food. I invite you to explore, to experiment, and by all means, to get your kids involved in the magical fun of transforming this-that-and the other into something delicious to grace your table. This is truly better than I-pad, so what’s a little mess made by little hands, when there is lots of love and laughter!
This blog is dedicated to my children who have been incredibly supportive throughout an ordeal of my father’s illness and – Acharon, acharon… – to the memory of my father, a beautiful person loved by all.