Archive for November, 2009

Surviving Chanukah

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Raising three sons is not unlike living on the Galapagos Islands–you know–where Darwin’s Survival of the Fittest is demonstrated best? Those finches with the really sharp beaks are a whole lot better at cracking open nuts than their round-beaked cousins.

Sometimes the competition to survive in our household was akin to that. Instead of beaks, picture head locks and other wrestling games that required the weakest to scream “uncle” repeatedly.

So I wasn’t all that surprised–even on the day after Thanksgiving –that the usual competitive urges were being demonstrated for my benefit. Now, instead of head locks, there was a bit of verbal jousting going on as we sat around the table eating delicious leftovers. My youngest son Mike rubbed it in to my oldest son Sam that he, Sam wouldn’t be home for the first night of Hanukkah. Sam, Mike explained, would miss out on the following:

1. Mom’s challah stuffing
2. Harry’s crispy Golden Latkes complete with home-made apple sauce and cold, delicious sour cream.
3. Roasted Chicken
4.blue and white cookies.
5. Gelt
6. The first night gift.

“Too bad for you,” Mike said through a mouthful of leftover Thanksgiving turkey. “Aren’t you going to be taking finals that week?”

Sam nodded glumly.

“All the more for me,” Harry chimed in. “Mmmm, I can’t wait to hog down some latkes. Last year I think I set a record.”

My husband Josh said, “I think you made it to 12. It was kind of horrifying to watch.”

“I can’t help it if I appreciate my own cooking,” Harry protested, helping himself to more cranberry sauce.  It was true; Harry had become an expert latke maker, cooking golden brown latkes to perfection in an enormous frying pan given to our family by none other than my mom, Becky Mark.

Sam, 19 years old and usually high up there on the whole Survival of The Fittest thing, was looking pretty upset.

It was time for an intervention.

“Actually, Mike, Harry…I happen to have a lot of great Hanukkah presents for college students. And I’m pretty sure Sam will be getting something in the mail. Cookies to keep his energy up while he studies, plus lots of other goodies to help him celebrate.”

Sam instantly brightened.

“Thanks, Mom.”

I still hadn’t delivered my coup de grace. “And Sam, remember you mentioned your hillel was having a Chanukah party? We’re actually sending blue and white cookies for it. And challah.”

“Cool!”

Mike looked up from his plate. “Mom! There’s not going to be enough left for us.”

I smiled sweetly at him, my round-beaked finch. “Well, Sam is out there on his own. We have to make sure he’s taken care of.”

It was Mike’s turn to look sad.

I relented. “But there are plenty of Chanukah goodies for everyone.”  han56mirlg

It was Westport, after all, not The Galapagos Islands. We could do more than survive Chanukah. We could share the celebration, even hundreds of miles apart.

Happy Chanukah!

Jane

p.s. And sure enough, Sam headed back to college with a carload of challah and blue and white cookies!

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The Original “Green” Mom

Going green is the buzzword of the day.
But I hate to break the news to you. My mother was green long ago…and she didn’t even know it. She called it “cooking.” She’s Old School, where nothing but nothing goes to waste. To understand, you’d need to peek into my mother’s freezer. I once did. Then never again. In there, Mom had orange peels, egg shells, fish heads, chicken…things, bananas beyond the deep brown suitable for banana bread.

Don’t get me wrong. My mother is an intuitive, fabulous cook. Her all American name, Becky Mark, is in contrast to her Sephardic (Mediterranean) roots–half Greek and half Turkish–but her knowledge of spices is proof. Her kitchen is fragrant with spices–turmeric, garlic and onion mingle with cinnamon and mint in heavenly combinations. Invitations to dine at her table are coveted and fiercely lied about among my four siblings.

“What are you doing for dinner on Sunday night?” my sister might ask me on the phone.

“Oh, nothing, maybe some Chinese,” I might reply evasively, trying to cover up the fact that I plan to be gorging myself on one of my Mom’s luscious eggplant lasagna.

I love her cooking now, and I loved in when I was growing up in the 1960s. Every single night my mother served a delicious meal. She went through phases, too. One of my favorite’s was her chicken phase. Just saying the phrase Chicken Marbella (yes, the famous Silver Palate recipe) makes my mouth water, and I will cancel plans if she tells me she’s making Chicken Veronique. She also had a delicious beef phase (Julia Child’s Beef Bourgignon as translated by Mom was to die for) as well as an Italian phase (fresh tomato sauce, herbed meatballs).

I’m grateful to my mother for not just feeding me but teaching my sisters and me how to cook. Of course, none of us approach her mastery, and when she’s cooking, clear out of the kitchen (you wouldn’t ask Einstein to share his chalkboard or Elvis to move off the stage, right?).

Even though one time Josh and I cleaned out her freezer (shudder) when my parents were away, I’m proud of Mom for being able to transform orange peels into duck a la orange, potato peels into steaming broth, and me, a hungry child, into a Mom who can nourish her own family with good food.

Below, Mom has graciously allowed me to share the recipe for her Easy and Delicious Fruit Tart. Enjoy!

Best,

Jane Moritz, Challah Connection Owner

Becky’s Easy and Delicious Fruit Tart

Becky is my Mom, who is a truly excellent baker and cook. Her challah, brisket, bourekas, spanikotopica (she is Sephardic), apple pie and this tart are some of my favorites.

Prepare a 10″ (11″ ok too) pan with removable rim by buttering bottom and sides. Preheat oven to 350.

Peel 4 large apples [about 4 cups or so] or pears or peaches or combination of any fruit you’d normally want to bake. If it’s more than 4 cups it’s okay…

Put in the bowl of a cuisinart:

1/2 stick of unsalted butter

1 cup sugar + 1 cup flour

1 ts baking powder + 1/2 tsp salt

Pulse a few times until it has an oatmeal consistency, then add 1 large egg and pulse to mix.

Dump the entire mixture into the prepared pan and push it around until it covers the bottom of the pan. Now put the fruit on top (if you have the patience you can do a concentric circle, but this is not necessary) and push some of the fruit into the mix.

Place in the preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes

For the topping, which is put on after the tart has baked for 45 minutes, mix in the food processor:

1 egg

1/2 stick of butter

1/3 cup of sugar

1 rounded tsp cinnamon

Bake and additional 1/2 hour.

If you use wet fruit, such as blueberries and peachs, bake a bit longer, especially on the second round.

Copyright 2009, Challah Connection

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Challah Against Hunger

Last week I went to a friend’s essay reading. My friend wrote about her hardscrabble childhood in Idaho. One of the images I couldn’t get out of my head (and written here with her permission):
“Hunger was always with my sister and me. We snuck into the neighbor’s shed and stole canned fruit. We carried it into the sagebrush and ate the sweet peaches and drank the juice. When we were very hungry, we stole dog food, too, and ate it.”

Now, I don’t about you, but my childhood was a little different than that. I always had plenty to eat. And here at Challah Connection I am surrounded by food. I’m constantly sampling new products, as well as sampling my own holiday cooking.

My friend’s essay reminded me that other people are not as fortunate as I am, and my company has made a big commitment to donating unused food to our local food pantry, as well as monetary donations to Jewish charities.

And my friend’s experience is not unusual. I was shocked to open up Tuesday’s New York Times and read the headline, “49 Million Americans Report a Lack of Food.” From the article: “The number of Americans who lived in households that lacked consistent access to adequate food soared last year to 49 million, the highest since the government began tracking what it calls “food insecurity” 14 years ago,” the Department of Agriculture reported Monday.

49 mIllion!? I was shocked to see that number. It’s outrageous in a country as wealthy as ours, where 10-year-olds carry cell phones and 18-year-olds drive BMWs.

I know what you’re thinking. It’s a terrible problem, so huge that nothing can possibly be done about it. But I’ve decided to act, to make a difference, and I’m inviting you to join me.

challah  med
For every challah you order, we’ll match it. We will send it to our homeless shelter. Or, if you prefer, we will include it in your shipment, for you to deliver to a food shelter of your choice.  To participate in this offer, be sure to add the code HUNGER at checkout.  Our pledge will continue until December 4.

I know we can make a difference, one loaf at a time.

Best,

Jane

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Eight Stress Free Nights of Hanukkah

My friend Erica was babbling into the phone.  Something about evil and December and a plot to drive people crazy.

“Erica,” I said. “How many cups of coffee have you had today?”

“Four, but that’s not the point.”

“Okay…well, why did you just say that you loathe the month of December?”

“Because…between my family, and my in-laws, and my office, and my husband’s office, and my kids’ and their friends, and my friends…I just got out a calculator and realized that I have to purchase 64 gifts for Hanukkah this year.”

“Wow.  Well, you don’t have to get really expensive stuff.”

“That’s only one issue.  It’s the combing of websites, it’s the clicking through order forms.  And then I finally order it, and the company wraps it in Christmas paper.  That’s why I’m calling you.  I thought, well, maybe I’ll just ask Challah Connection to send out 64 chocolate babkas.  Or 64 blue and white cookies.”

“Erica, we could do 64 babkas, 64 Hanukkah Candy Platters, whatever you want,” I said. “But don’t you want your gifts to be…you know…unique as the people you’re giving them to?”

“That’s too much to hope for.  Isn’t it?”

“What if I told you that I could send 8 nights of wrapped Chanukah gifts to one address for you and you’d only pay one shipping charge?”
GIFTS1lg

“You have such a service?”

“Yes!”

“It’s a Chanukah miracle.”

“It’s just something Sherry and I thought of to help busy people–like us.”

“But I really only need to do 3 nights for my sister’s kids.”

“No problem.”


“You mean, I don’t have to run out and buy tape and wrapping paper and Hanukkah gelt and a menorah and something nice for my Aunt Betsy like maybe…oh, God, what can I get Aunt Betsy?”

“How about “A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking” wrapped and shipped for the first night?”Jewish Holiday Baking

“She’ll love that.”

It was music to my ears.

Here’s to a stress-free Hanukkah!

Best,

Jane

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Giving thanks–to Gail and her turkey

I have a little Thanksgiving confession to make. Growing up, I never really “got” the appeal of our national bird, turkey. Even though my mother is a gifted kosher cook, I always found turkey meat to be a bit bland, even our kosher bird.  My mother did her best to bring out the juices in our store-bought Empire turkey, but it paled in comparison to her other wonderful and kosher Thanksgiving dishes, like challah stuffing, homemade cranberry relish and her unbelievably delicious apple pie (we were not a pumpkin pie family).

vermont seal of qualityAll that changed when we shared Thanksgiving with my friend Gail at her home in Vermont. At her table, I first tasted the true delights of turkey from Stonewood Farm. Three generations of the Stone family currently operate Stonewood Farm, a one thousand acre farm located in Orwell, Vermont. Gail even knows the owners, Paul and Frances Stone. “These are great people,” she says of the couple. The parents of four grown children, Paul and Frances are involved not just in turkey farming, but in community life as well. In fact, Paul is the Democratic Representative from Vermont!

When I first put a forkful of her Thanksgiving bird and Cranberry and Turkey Sausage Stuffing in my mouth, all my preconceptions of what turkey should taste like…well…melted away. The bird was juicy and flavorful. It also doesn’t hurt that Gail, like my mother, is a fabulous cook. But starting with a fresh bird gives a cook a head start out of the gate. These turkeys are not fed antibiotics or growth hormones.

Rum Pumpkin Tart
This Thanksgiving, Gail is coming to our house for Thanksgiving and bringing the turkey with her. It will be a passenger in her car, travelling in a special cooler that she has designated for the 5 hour trip to Connecticut. I will prepare some of the side dishes, of course, serving challah stuffing but also serving some of my favorites, such as green beans, corn bread, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes and of course, a lot of desserts, including–but not limited to!– carrot cake baked by my sister, chocolate pecan tart, pumpkin tart and a berry tart.

Chocolate Pecan Tart

As I sit around the table with Gail, and our entire family, I will be thankful for their presence in my life.

And Gail’s delicious turkey!

Looking forward to a wonderful Thanksgiving and wishing the same for you,

Jane

P.S. I’ve included Challah Connection’s very own challah stuffing recipe below. (It and many other delicious Jewish recipes can be found on our website). Enjoy!

Caramelized Onion and Mushroom Stuffing

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. plain challah cut into ½ cubes

  • 6 tablespoons butter (or margarine)

  • 2 large yellow onions, chopped

  • 1 lb fresh cultivated white mushrooms, brushed clean and sliced

  • 3 celery stalks, chopped

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon or 2 teaspoons dried tarragon

  • ½ cup chopped fresh parsley

  • ¾ cup chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth

  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

  • 2 eggs, beaten until blended

  • Preheat over to 400.

    Spread challah cubes in single layer in a large baking pan. Bake, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

    In a large, heavy frying pan over medium high heat, melt the butter. When hot,
    add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally until golden brown, about
    20 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Add mushrooms and celery and cook,
    stirring frequently until tender, about 8 minutes. Add to the challah cubes, along with the tarragon and parsley. Add stock or broth to the same pan and bring
    to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Add to the bread and season to taste
    with salt and pepper. Mix in the eggs.

    To bake the stuffing in a turkey, fill the cavities with the stuffing and truss. Increase the roasting time of the turkey by 30 minutes.

    Butter (can use margarine) a baking dish large enough to hold the remaining stuffing. Cover with foil and bake alongside the turkey for 30 minutes. Uncover
    and bake until top is golden brown, about 30 minutes longer.

    To bake all the stuffing in a baking dish, preheat oven to 325.

    Butter a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking dish and spoon stuffing into it. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until the top is golden brown, about
    30 minutes longer.

    Makes about 12 cups stuffing; enough for 16lb. turkey

    Copyright, 2009, Challah Connection

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    The Year of the Pickle

    It’s a famous Jewish tradition: Chinese food and a movie on Christmas. Who knows how it all got started? Years ago, some enterprising Jewish family must have ventured out into the empty streets–with all the stores shuttered- on Christmas Day and discovered a light glowing in the distance. Hurrying closer, that Jewish family stood under the light and saw that it said “Sakura.” After stuffing their faces, the family headed out into the empty street and saw another light. “Cineplex” it said.

    Thus a tradition was born (reversing the order is optional) and my family has certainly partaken of that tradition. But my love of Chinese food isn’t limited to Christmas alone. During any season, but especially during cooler weather, my family has been known to happily decamp to our favorite Chinese restaurants in Connecticut and New York and enjoy all of the savory delights. While shoveling in all this delicious food, I’ve noticed and been fascinated by the Chinese Zodiac imprinted on the placemat. You know–Year of the Dragon, Year of The Rat, etc. I’ve thought: Why not a Jewish tradition like it?

    Imagine, then, my excitement, when I came across some wonderful new products that playfully combine Jewish food and Chinese culture–Seth Front’s The Jewish Zodiac.

    Of course it’s not “The Year of the Ox” but “The Year of The Lox” I’m talking about! I love anyone who can make me laugh–and Seth’s products are just hilarious.

    Here at Challah Connection, we’re proud to offer these fun, new products like The Year of the Pickle t-shirts and Year of The Black & White t-shirt. (My husband is sporting one now, but has yet to fess up to whether he is on the black side of the cookie or the white). I chatted with Seth at the recent Kosherfest where I asked him which of the amazingly creative shirts is the most popular. It’s the Year of the Pickle–that must be a new way to refer to our current economic problem. (Maybe I’ll send a shirt to President Obama and his speechwriters.)

    While I love the shirts, since I am really kitchen person, I also love the Jewish Zodiac Placemats. Jewish Zodiac Placements

    Last night, we set the table with these fun placemats and I could have sworn that my salad pizza had a distinct taste of broccolli with garlic sauce.

    Instead of being born in the Year of the Rat or Year of the Sheep, find your Jewish zodiac sign. Were you born under the Year of the Egg Cream, Year of Pastrami, or Year of the Schmear?

    Happy Shopping!

    Best,

    Jane

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    A Recipe for World Peace

    Call it fate. Kismet. Serendipity. Divine Intervention. The day I met Elaine, I had just about given up on making new friends in my new town, Westport, Connecticut.

    My husband, three sons, and I had just moved here from New York City, drawn by the good schools, numerous amenities, and the reputation Westport had as a town with a strong arts community. My sons were certainly thrilled with their schools and the friends they had made. My husband Josh liked living in a house, where he could retreat to his home office for a few moments of sanity–impossible with apartment living.

    I was the only stick in the mud. I was friendly, outgoing, interested in other people. But I was used to the casual interactions of the city, meeting other working Moms on the playground, grabbing a quick cup of coffee. Westport was different. Playdates were planned weeks in advance, and conversations revolved around the intense sports culture. I was out of the loop for the first time in my life.

    All that changed one day on the playground of of our preschool, Learning Community. My son Mike was climbing up the slide, closely followed by a strong, athetic looking, light-haired girl. They were chatting away.

    “Is that your son?” I heard a woman say. “My daughter loves him,” she said. “I hate this whole planned playdate thing, but…”

    To paraphrase a famous movie line, Elaine had me at “I hate playdates.” We talked and talked that day, discovering that our 5th grade boys, Sam and Misha were also good friends. Soon, Josh and I had dinner with Elaine and her husband George. We were a United Nations of backgrounds and interests and religions. A melting pot of Italian Catholic, Russian Orthodox, and Judaism; between the four of us, we had every Eastern European country covered, along with Italy.

    Our friendship was cemented by a calendar of holidays. We were introduced to their wonderful traditions:the midnight Easter mass of George’s Russian Orthodox religion, the festivity of their Christmas, and the sheer pagan decadence of their New Years’ Eve party.

    They, in turn, delighted in our holiday rituals. They came to my 3 sons’ Bar Mitzvahs, where they danced the hora. They came to our Erev Yom Kippur dinner, and our Break Fast. They have come to our seders, where Elaine’s mother delighted in my mother’s brisket, while George ate at least two bowls of piping hot matzo ball soup. That alone cemented my mother’s love for George.

    Food has been a way to celebrate our differences and our similarities. Recently, friends hosted a 25th wedding anniversary for George and Elaine. I made stuffed cabbage and pierogi to honor Elaine’s Polish roots, and beet salad to honor George’s Russian tradition. Elaine’s 90-year old Polish mother pronounced my stuffed cabbage superior to her own! Whether or not this is true, I’m deeply honored by her compliment, and thrilled that in this shared recipe, Jews and Poles come together. Can–dare I ask–stuffed cabbage begin to heal the scars of history? I don’t need an answer for now, just Elaine’s mother enjoying it.

    A deep and abiding friendship with our Catholic and Russian Orthodox friends has, I believe, taught my children a valuable lesson. From an early age, my Jewish children learned not mere tolerance, which is a good starting place for everyone, but a deep appreciation of others’ cultures and religions. They learned we’re all not so different. We all like stuffed cabbage.

    It’s not just a family or personal message, but the message of my business, Challah Connection. Here at Challah Connection, I strongly believe that my customers are not just people like me. No, they’re Catholic and Buddhist and Russian Orthodox. They are in Idaho and Florida, California and Canada. They–we–come from all different places and beliefs. That’s what has made my company something I am deeply proud of. We’re not just a company that provides goods for nice Jewish people like ourselves. We’re a company that provides for the richly diverse world in which we are so lucky to live.

    As we approach the holiday season of Hannukkah and Christmas, I look forward to lighting the candles of the menorah. I know that on at least one of those nights, Elaine and George will be by my side, spinning a dreidel, sampling a latke, learning a few Yiddish words.

    Soon after, I will marvel at the star on the very top of their Christmas tree.

    Best,

    Jane

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    A Community of Entrepreneurs

    When I left the corporate world 20 years ago, I didn’t know what to expect.  After successfully launching and running my own marketing firm (first client: American Express), I wanted my next career step  to combine my passion for baking challah with the business acumen I had acquired.   Because I grew up with the aromas of my own mother’s wonderful baking (usually old world Jewish recipes, for the Jewish holidays), it was only natural that I would come to love baking myself, and my family knew they could always count on the smell of home-baked challah every Friday afternoon.

    In 2002, I saw the opportunity to marry my interests by purchasing Challah Connection, then a small challah delivery service. The decision to expand and revitalize Challah Connection was a big commitment, both professional and personal.  Knowing my almost obsessive need to give 150 % to any work venture, I wondered: would I ever allow myself to relax?

    Seven fun, sometimes difficult, but always interesting years later, I know the answer to that question: no!  There’s no time to relax.

    But I have the genuine satisfaction of knowing that each and every gift that Challah Connection ships out is of the highest quality.  It may sound corny, but it’s like that credit card commercial.  Offering a truly thoughtful shiva basket or Hanukkah gift to a very-missed college student on behalf of his loving parents is priceless…to me.

    But enough about me!

    One of the great things about launching my own business was discovering a community of like-minded entrepreneurs in Westport and the surrounding towns.  Through networking and through daily life, I’ve come across a truly amazing group of people who have also had the courage to go out on their own and launch serious, profitable  businesses. Once a month, I meet with these women to discuss each others business issues, always with the goal of business growth. The community of these fellow women entrepreneurs has been so helpful and satisfying.  We are proof that it is possible to do what you love and be successful.

    Jessica Bram, Author, Happily Ever Divorced

    Jessica Bram, Author, Happily Ever After Divorce

    Jessica Bram is the author of Happily Ever After Divorce. It’s funny and hopeful a book as you would ever want to read –reading her essays on her divorce is like eating potato chips…you get the point).  She also runs the Westport Writers’ Workshop and offers all kinds of classes on writing, from memoir writing to short story writing  (I’ve heard they fill up fast).

    Barbara Ross, Evocateur

    Barbara Ross, Evocateur

    Barbara Ross is the owner of Evocateur. After a long career in corporate finance, she is fulfilling her dream of gorgeous jewelry and accessories. Handcrafted in Connecticut, her pieces are droolworthy.  I especially love her 22 K gold cuffs.  Although I wouldn’t say no to the sterling silver leaf pieces either…  Her line also includes  bangles, pendants, earrings and belts.

    Donna Jackson launched  Saraswati’s Yoga Joint in Norwalk–a yoga studio that must be seen and experienced to be believed. Think walls painted the color of sorbet and a yoga practice that is challenging without being demoralizing and spiritual without being sappy. I must admit to be totally addicted to twice and sometimes thrice weekly doses of Donna’s down dogs.

    Lyn Girdler, Not Another Guide

    Lyn Girdler, Not Another Guide

    Lyn Girdler’s website Not Another Guide offers travel guides written by locals. Even though I grew up in the New York environs, I have actually used her guide to New York City because its loaded with tidbits about food and shopping that make me feel like a native…again.   And quite honestly, without her eclectic guides, I never would have discovered Alphabet City’s amazing array of vintage shops.

    nancycollamer

    Nancy Collamer, Collamer Career Consulting, Jobs & Moms

    Last but certainly not least, Nancy Collamer’s very helpful website Jobs and Moms.  Nancy is a career coach who founded The Jobs and Moms Career Center.  She advised women online as the “Jobs and Mom Pro” for Oprah Winfrey’s Oxygen Media. Nancy has the knowledge and compassion to guide women in careers that work for their families, often outside the rigid 9 to 5 parameters.  I highly recommend checking out her website if you are thinking about making some kind of a career move. Nancy and I had lunch yesterday and I found out that she counsels clients nationwide–thanks to Skype!

    Kudos to those of you out there who had the courage to go for it!  Good luck to those of you about to try something new.

    And may today we all take a risk…a leap of faith in ourselves,

    Jane Moritz, Challah Connection Owner

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    Remembrance of things kosher

    For Proust, it was the taste of madeleines that brought back memories. For me, it was the smell of tzimmes, cooking on my mother’s stove. For a friend of mine, author Cameron Stracher it was the taste of warm jello.

    I had coffee with Cam the other day and he told me about how he used to love visiting his bubbe in Brooklyn. She lived in a walk-up flat and it was three flights up to get to her tiny apartment. But he and his brother and sister didn’t mind, because once they got there, the smells of her cooking filled their noses.

    Chicken Soup & Matzo Balls

    And pretty soon, she would be bringing out dish after dish of her Jewish specialties; Brisket, kasha varnishkes, stuffed cabbage, and always homemade babka; for dessert. So much food!

    She also served a special drink that my friend had never had anywhere else. It wasn’t until years later that he and his sister figured out what it was. Warm jello!

    I laughed at his story, but then I remembered similar strange things growing up. I remember my bubbe soaking fish in the bathtub—can that be?—to make gefilte fish.

    What is about growing up Jewish, Cam asked, that makes so many of your memories be about food?

    Potato Latkes

    I think it’s because so much of our tradition is about nurturing with food, comforting with food, and even remembering that we haven’t always had enough food to eat.

    So many of us, like my warm Jello drinking friend, have stories and memories that belong only to us and to our families. They tell us apart from other people like birthmarks. Maybe it’s a simple memory, like Great-Aunt Rose standing at her soup pot, tasting the chicken soup and adding just a pinch more salt. Maybe it’s more involved, like the time Grandpa hid the afikomen and forgot where he hid it…forever!

    Do you have a story or a memory you’d like to share about food and growing up? I’d love to hear about it and possibly include it on Challah Connection. Please email me your story as a Word document (no more than 500 words please and if you could spell-check it, that would be helpful) for possible publication.

    Best wishes and good memories,

    Jane Moritz, Challah Connection Owner

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    Saying Yes

    I had spent the day weighing the merits of this kosher blue and white cookie over that, this Hanukkah gelt over that, this quality wooden dreidel over that fun plastic pink one. Hanukkah Blue & White Cookies

    I had come up with a really great Hanukkah basket , one that my mother would be proud of. It was eleven p.m., a time for the quiet contemplation of “CSI.” My husband Josh had just plunked down next to me with a bowl of popcorn. Ready, set…relax.
    The phone rang. It was my friend Mark, frantic.
    “Listen,” he said. “I’m in a bind. I’m in charge of a fundraising event.”
    “That’s great.”
    “Can you prepare 12 kosher gift baskets by seven a.m. tomorrow?”
    “Twelve?”
    “Well, some people at a synagogue need to be thanked for great work. By tomorrow.”
    “Seven a.m.?” I said. “You meant p.m., right?”
    “Well, no. Seven a.m. You see…”
    I cleared my throat. “Never mind.”
    Mark is a party planner and a dear friend, but I had been drawn into his mishegas before. For those of you who don’t speak Yiddish, mishegas is a very handy word. It means ‘craziness’ or ‘crazy behavior.’

    Time and time again, Mark had “situations.” He needed 500 rugelach bags for a bris by…tomorrow. He needed twelve fragrant loaves of home-baked babka for a bridal shower by…today.

    “They specifically asked for Challah Connection kosher gift baskets,” he wheedled. And possibly lied. TBHAN-Large

    “Can you pick them up?” I asked him grumpily.

    “I’ll see you at seven.”

    Don’t get me wrong. Mark is very good at what he does. But when he doesn’t know how to say “no.” He wants to give his customers everything they ask for, and then some. It doesn’t matter to him if they just remembered that Aunt Florence adores a good chocolate babka.

    I hung up the phone with Mark and looked longingly at the TV screen for a moment. There was somebody chasing somebody else across the screen, guns drawn.

    Then it hit me. It wasn’t that Mark didn’t know how to say “no.” It wasn’t that 25 gift baskets would make or break Mark’s career.

    It was that saying “yes” to the 12 people who needed to be thanked at the synagogue felt good to Mark. It felt good to be a yes-sayer, to give an affirmative answer to someone who is expecting a “no.” Maybe “yes” was like a chain. Mark said yes to the synagogue, and I said yes to Mark. Who knows? Maybe a “yes” was heading towards me.

    May today contain a yes,

    Jane

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