Mixed Berry Pie

Yesterday I attended the most beautiful funeral. My cousin Minda died Saturday, and the rest of this week has been a blur.

Did I mention that we’re celebrating her niece’s bat mitzvah this weekend, and that there will be 70 people at my house Saturday night in her honor? The occasion was moved to a synagogue here in Detroit from Southern California a few months ago because Marcia, the bat mitzvah’s mom, knew her sister would likely be too ill to travel, and might even die. Continue reading

Chef Josh

Yesterday Josh asked for a mini fridge of his own so he can age meats in the basement. This is what you get when you give your sixth grader Kenji Lopez-Alt’s The Food Lab for Chanukah.

IMG_6640

So far my boy has made mac and cheese (gluey), a French omelet (delicious, but requires some work on technique) and buttermilk pancakes (heavenly.) He flips through the giant book over breakfast, recites tidbits while I make dinner, and has explained in great detail the best way to boil an egg. He is also intent on scoring some copper pots as soon as he can afford them (bar mitzvah money, perhaps?)

I love to cook, and thanks to Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, have learned to make most of my favorites without a recipe. I remember reading from my mom’s vast cookbook collection over bowls of cereal and grilled cheese sandwiches at the kitchen table all through middle school and high school – The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, Maida Heater’s Chocolate Desserts, and Still Fiddling in the Kitchen, a fundraiser for the National Council of Jewish Women. I once spent months copying every recipe from her collection of recipe cards and mimeograph sheets onto pastel 3 x 5’s, then filing them by category. It made a great, labor-intensive birthday gift.

FullSizeRenderMy mom handed me a paper bag of mini jello molds yesterday – a little something for Josh to play around with. She found them in the basement with some old suitcases and other useless things. We are going to fill them with water and make fancy ice shapes for a punch bowl tomorrow night.

Right now, Josh is in the kitchen with my sister making banana pancakes. The house smells like butter.

Soup

 

Portobello-Mushroom-Barley-Soup

Jeannette: Mushroom Barley

I can hardly
keep my eyes open
the day she brings soup
in a jar — recycled; no obligation.
The baby is crying. I nurse her
over that first bowl.

Wendy: Butternut Squash

The house
is fragrant with onions
and cinnamon. I scoop
roasted flesh
from its shell, puree it
with vegetable stock. This
is the soup I will bring
when your new baby arrives.

Sandra: Matzo Ball

Thigh bones disintegrate
between my fingers
like you taught me —
pressure cooked to a pulp,
chicken concentrate
steaming up the windows. Strain it
then heat again Friday afternoon.
Add carrot slices,
matzo balls, bits of chicken.

Ellen: Split Pea

All I want
is soup for my freezer.
A gift
from my sister.

 

The Great Hamantaschen/Latke Debate Comes to Detroit

Instead of a sermon, we made the congregation laugh.

Last Shabbat morning, I participated in a mock debate on the relative merits of latkes versus hamantaschen.

Hamantaschen Recipe
I skip the prune filling. The notes reflect many years of experimentation.

I proudly defended the cookie, while our rabbi argued in favor of potato pancakes. In our small congregation, the debate was well-received – a dose of fun at the end of a long week.

If you’re wondering who won… Of course it was the hamantaschen. I mean, is there even any real contest?

Want to see what we both had to say?  Here is the text of the debate.

Chag Sameach!

Welcome to Chateau Delicieux

The finger guard is my new favorite kitchen tool; it keeps you from cutting off your fingertips while chopping carrots.

knifeUnfortunately, my fingers are too big for this stroke of genius, which arrived with the child-size chef’s knife and peeler from Opinel.

When your ten-year-old starts debating the relative merits of opening a bakery or a full-service restaurant, you know it’s time to buy him a serious knife. But first, he had to promise to learn to chop onions (which he has since learned to do, wearing swim goggles.)

A few weeks ago, we had a serious talk about the realities of the food world. “You know that you have to love food and business to make it as a restaurant owner, don’t you?” Continue reading

Swings

The problem with being a writing teacher is that sometimes you forget to write.

Or maybe that’s my problem with being a writing teacher. I like to believe my colleagues find time for their poems and essays, carving out precious minutes at 6 a.m. or after everyone else goes to bed.

At 6 a.m. I’m running through my dark neighborhood.  At night, I sleep. In between I work and shop for groceries and make sure everyone gets to music lessons on time. Except for a few lines in my journal before bed, writing moves to the back of the line – behind the dog, behind camp registration forms, behind laundry and doctor appointments and scrubbing tomato sauce off the stove. Continue reading

Late Night Surgery

I just completed stealth emergency surgery on my son’s stuffed cocker spaniel. The eye is a little off kilter, and the stitches show more than I would like, but the stuffing has been returned to the little brown head. If I’m lucky, my boy will have no idea of what really happened to his puppy.

“Guess what!” I’ll say at breakfast, cheerful as can be. “Onyx was chewing on Fiddler. Can you believe that silly dog?” Then I’ll show off my clumsy needle work and go back to pouring cereal.

For a moment, I was horrified when I walked into the bedroom. Onyx, the real life black lab, likes to sleep on Josh’s bed, which is usually no problem. He also likes to chew stuffed animals and shoes, but that’s generally only when he wants attention. The bed is a sea of stuffed animals. I should have known that one day I would find a half-deflated puppy between the dog’s paws and a pile of polyester stuffing on the floor.

They are not a predictable bunch, dogs and children. We love the dog, except when he grabs a friend’s eyeglasses from the table or mangles the housekeeper’s cell phone. We love the children too, regardless of tantrums, misplaced soccer cleats and the general confusion of adolescence.

Often, I’m winging it, glossing over stuffed animal disasters, acting like I know how to mend a bruised ego or make mushroom soup without a recipe. Most of my improvisation proves both convincing and effective. That’s motherhood for you.

The house is noisy and often messy. The kitchen smells like roasted peppers and lasagna. Everyone is sleeping now. I will return the stuffed dog to his owner’s bed, and all will be well … at least until tomorrow.