Archive | August, 2016

The Kauneonga Lake Temple BethEl Recipe Book

12 Aug

I found a treat today. I decided to clean out my cookbooks. My daughter is getting married in a few weeks, and I am in a nesting mode. Sort like when I was pregnant. Now I am cleaning out my house and getting ready for hordes of guests.

I decided to clean out my cookbooks. There are many I have not used in years. I offered some to my daughter, but she informed me that she gets her recipes off the Internet. Fine. She does not want my cookbooks! I will give them to someone who wants them. And will appreciate them. But there are a few I will keep!

I like cookbooks, especially because some have much meaning and memories. I have my mother’s Settlement Cookbook. Probably the best cookbook ever made.   I have kosher cookbooks, healthy cookbooks, vegetarian cookbooks, light meal cookbooks, as well as a variety of cookbooks put together as fundraisers by various charitable organizations.

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It was in the midst of these spiral notebook style cookbooks that I discovered a tiny treasure, “Cooking Favorites of Bethel,” put together by the Sisterhood of Temple Bethel, Bethel, New York. This is the congregation I belonged to throughout my childhood when we spent our summers and High Holidays in the Catskills. My grandparents lived in Kauneonga Lake throughout the year and davened at this small shul. I rejoined many years later as an adult to help support it.

I know this book is at least 35 years old, because my grandmother died in 1981. But it has to be older, based on the names of some of the women who contributed recipes. They passed away before my Grandma Thelma, like Clara Wagner. I close my eyes and I see Clara. She was Grandma’s best friend.   They spent many hours sitting and visiting. My Grandma was heartbroken when she passed away.

Then there is Nan Dasher, besides cooking, she would embroider tablecloths. Which she did constantly. I have two tablecloths she made. One specifically for me when I married, and one I took from my mother’s stash after Mom passed away. Nan lived in the White Lake Estates, not far from my grandparents.

So many other names of women I knew when I was a child submitted recipes: Lenore Liff, Yetta Gruber, Mrs. Elfenbaum, Goldie Lerner, Rebecca Rosenberg and more.

But the most exciting and enjoyable for me was finding my grandmother’s name in the book. Thelma Amsterdam contributed four recipes. HA! These recipes are a sort of lie! Grandma did not cook. Okay she cooked but not very well.

I still remember the trauma over this cookbook. Grandma had to submit recipes. She was an important member of the Sisterhood and needed to show she cared. I remember her coming to my Mom to get recipes. There they were sitting in the kitchen and writing down recipes that Mom gave her. The recipes that have my Grandma’s name, every one of them is from my mother. There is my Mom’s simple baked macaroni recipe. I still make it!!!! Even though I cannot eat dairy I have made it for Yom Kippur break the fast, and for shivas. It was so easy! However, Grandma NEVER made this meal.

 

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So when I saw the four recipes she submitted I was filled with the laughter of remembering Mom giving her the recipes. I was filled with memories of my Grandma’s horrible cooking, although she could make the best mushroom barley soup and Pesach noodles. And I remember this book being put together and then published.

I should also tell you that this book is in perfect condition. I don’t think my Grandma ever opened it after she purchase in the effort to support the congregation and its sisterhood.

I honestly do not know when I got it. But I have a vague memory of Grandma giving it to me when I got married. Okay, I never used it either. It is so small it got hidden among my other cookbooks.

I am glad in a way, because now I have this tiny memory in such pristine condition. With it are many memories of Kauneonga Lake and going to shul!

Forks in the Flower Pots; Or Why I Keep Plants By My Kitchen Sink

10 Aug
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My kitchen window with my grandmother’s planter is the green one in the middle.

Above my grandparents’ kitchen sink in New Jersey were a variety of flower pots filled with plants.  But often interspersed among the plants, were utensils.  Usually forks, but sometimes knives and spoons.

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I own one of my Grandparents’ goupls.

When I was very young I remember thinking that my Grandma was special as she could grow metal in her pots. I especially wanted her to grow more of the special forks we called goupls, that we used in her home.  They had really thick and interesting handles. I thought goupl was a special name for this fork. We did not call the other forks, goupls, just these forks.  I found out when I was older that goupl is Yiddish for fork.

Usually standing upright, prongs in the dirt, were two or three forks each day. Amidst the plants the glow of silver.  Why?  My grandparents kept kosher. Meat and dairy is kept separate. My grandparents had utensils for milk meals and another set for meat meals. If they touched when they were wet, they had to be rekashered….made clean to use again.  One way, according to my Grandma,  is to bury it for 24 hours.  Grandma buried it by sticking the unclean item in a flower pot.

In reality, I think this was my grandmother’s interpretation of ne’itzah, a type of koshering for knives when you push them in dirt several times. Grandma just kept any utensil buried and unused.

My mother also kept plants in her kitchen. But she did not keep kosher so there were never forks in the flowerpots. However having the plants was important to both my parents.  My Dad was always potting and repotting plants.  Plants freshen the air of your house according to my Dad. So besides helping to keep kosher, plants keep you healthy!

When I married, my husband and I decided to keep a kosher home. When we purchased our house a big draw for me was the window ledge above the sink.  A wonderful place for plants. But to be honest, I very rarely have put a fork or spoon or knife in a flower pot. However, they are there in case I need them.

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My mother-in-law’s aloe plant.

Besides my kitchen sink plants, I have other plants including an aloe plant that is over 50 years old.  I have had it for 31 years. But before that it was my mother-in-law’s kitchen aloe plant.  I inherited when she passed away at only 59.  Aloe plants are important in the kitchen. My parents also had one.  If you burn yourself, you can quickly go to you aloe plant and break off a piece of a leaf. The thick goo is a healing source for burns.

Plants in my kitchen remind me of my grandparents, parents and in-laws.  Although I might not have forks in my flowerpots, I do have one of my grandmother’s flowerpots on my sink window.  My daughter is getting married in a month.  She has a window above her kitchen sink.  I plan to buy her a plant as a housewarming gift so she too can have flower pots in her kitchen.

A Chair, A Baby Grand Piano and Yiddish Songs

2 Aug

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As the oldest granddaughter, my grandmother made it clear that I would inherit my grandparents’ cherry mahogany bedroom set. The most important pieces of furniture that came with it were my grandmother’s vanity and the small chair that goes with it.

The swivel chair is covered in a gold silk fabric. It is now a bit tattered, but I will not change it. In this chair my grandmother held me at night and sang Yiddish songs to me before I went to sleep.

She usually sang “Oif’n Pripetshik,” a song about children learning in their alef beiss, the alphabet. Even now, over 50 years later, listening to this song calms me. I feel my grandma’s arms around me; I smelled her scent; I feel the softness of her hair and her breath in my ear as she sings and slowly spins in the chair.

If one song did not get me ready to sleep, she would start singing, “Rozhinke Mit Mandlen.” I tried to stay awake so she would have to sing me both songs before I got into bed. When I was very young I slept with my grandmother.   I loved being with her in the winter under the big feather bed! I still have the one pillow left that was made from that giant duvet over 50 years ago. (See link to blog below.)

My grandparents kept the traditions they grew up with in Europe: Two twin beds, always. Grandpa would get up very early in the morning to go to their bakery and make the fresh bread and pastries.  Their apartment was on the top floor of the building that housed their bakery in West New York, New Jersey, right on Palisades Avenue.

Grandma would stay in bed with me a bit longer. Before she left she always whispered, “Remember, when you get up, get dressed and come down to the bakery.” Then a soft “Geh shluffen.” And she would be gone as well.

My grandfather also sang to us in Yiddish. He had a beautiful voice. Among his favorites to sing were “Tumbalalaika,” “Eli, Eli,” “Die Greene Koseene,” “Belz, Mine Shetele,” and “Wus Geven is Geven Un Nitu.”

Sometimes we would sit with him and sing together. Other times we would just listen. Occasionally, at a synagogue dinner in the Catskills, he would sing his Yiddish songs for the congregation. I remember once for my parent’s anniversary he sang several songs. But my Mom got very upset when he say, “Wus Geven is Geven un Nitu.”  I honestly do not think he meant to hurt her feelings.  He just loved to sing that song.

My grandparents had a beautiful carved walnut baby grand piano. The keys made of ebony and ivory. It was my Mom’s piano. She studied as a special student at Julliard when she was in high school. And even though she loved to play the piano, she went to college to learn to be a teacher instead of continuing at Julliard.   My grandparents felt teaching was a much better professional for a young woman in 1947.

I also learned music on this piano: years of lessons. I was never as good as my mother. But I did learn to love it. My teacher was kind. He let me chose the songs I wanted to learn. It was obvious that I would never be a concert pianist.

When I married, the piano and the bedroom set moved to my home. When I was pregnant with my daughter I would play the piano every day. I often played from a book of Yiddish music: “Jewish Nostalgia For Piano/Guitar/Organ/Accordian” published by the J & J Kammen Music Co. Sometimes I could feel my daughter kick within me as I played her favorite songs.

I know that she heard the music! After she was born, when she was fussy, I would bring her into the music room and play “Oif’n Pripetshik” for her. Within minutes she would be calm listening to the music.

My grandfather, Papa, lived until she was 3 ½.   He would sing to her in Yiddish as well. She does not remember much about him. But he would hold her close to his face while he sang.   What she remembers is that “Papa had a scratchy face.” He did not shave as often when he was in his late 80s.

When she was old enough, my daughter also took her first piano lessons on our family’s baby grand piano. Like me, she was not meant to be a concert pianist. But we both learned to love and read music while learning to play piano. I would often play music for my children when they were little. I often would play the Yiddish music of my childhood.

Over the years, many people have come to visit and would play the piano.   One childhood friend came to visit several years ago.   She asked what happened to my Mom’s piano.   I took her into my living room to see it.  She cried as she stood in front of it.  There was so much love invested in my piano.

I am so fortunate.  I have a chair to sit in to remember when my grandmother sang to me; a piano to play the music that my grandparents taught me.  I have the  Yiddish songs that I continue to hear in my mind and sometimes still play on my piano. Amazing memories and sounds of Yiddish songs from just looking at a chair and a piano.

 

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/06/08/why-i-love-my-pillow/