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Ring Jells Addiction Started in The Catskills

21 Apr

Sometimes I read a note on Facebook that just touches my soul.  It happened now.  Someone posted about meeting a woman shopping for Passover food in a grocery store.  She was crying while holding a box of Joyva Ring Jells in her hands.   It seemed her mother passed away, and this would be the first seder without her.  Her mother loved Ring Jells, and the sight of this box made her cry.

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This box is now empty.  But I enjoyed every one.

That should be my children one day.  I love Ring Jells.  While I cook my seder meals and prepare for the long hours ahead, I eat these throughout the day, to me, they are the most delicious chocolate covered sweets.   I am basically addicted to them. The taste of raspberry and chocolate together delights me. Thank goodness I only find them during the holidays.

My addiction started when I was 16 years old working behind the deli and cheese counter at the Daitch Shopwell in Monticello, Sullivan County New York.   It is here that I served the women and men who spent their summers relaxing, cutting their cheese selections and their deli orders.   I worked at this supermarket for three summers, earning spending money and preparing for the costs of college.

But it is also where I learned to love Joyva Ring Jells.  We sold them in the dairy section of the deli, along with all the cheese.  We had a large display of them. Hundreds of ring jells for sale by the pound.  I loved them.  I have to admit it, I would snack on them.  Not eating tons.  But at least two or three each shift I worked.   Eventually the manager told me to stop.  And buy some.  So I did.  I would weigh out 3-5, pay for them, and keep them behind the counter with me.  Snacking as needed.  When the weekends were busy with crazy customers, I really did need them to get me through the day.

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Marshmallow twists live in my freezer.

I did not realize they were a special Passover treat.  In our house, my Mom was a Joyva Marshmallow twist fancier.  She would buy them at Pesach and keep them in the freezer all year to snack on.  Did you ever eat frozen marshmallow twists?  At first you have to be careful not to hurt your teeth, but after a bit they melt just a little and are delicious.  I admit I still have some in my freezer from last year.   Usually you had to get just plain white ones.  However, sometimes we could find the ones with pink insides!

After I learned about jell rings, I had to have those as well.  My sister and I favored them over the Marshmallow twists, which I think made Mom happy.  She would share them with everyone, but now had more for herself.

The ring jells, on the other hand, were the perfect snack.  I would take two  or three at a time, stick them on my fingers,  and get ready to eat.  We do crazy things when we were younger.

When I left the east coast for the middle of the country, I had an issue.  I could not find them in Kansas. But when my parents were alive and visiting, they would bring boxes of Ring Jells and Marshmallow twists with them. So we never suffered during the Pesach holiday.   They also brought Bartons candies, another treat that was nowhere to be found in Kansas City. Eventually these treats came out west, and  I could get them on my own.

Ring Jells are comfort food for my sister and me.  I am going to visit her the end of the week.  I sent her the following text message on the Thursday before Pesach: “So I purchased one box of raspberry jelly rings to bring to you. And one for my home. Cause I have to have some.  But I had three today and I feel better.”

She wrote back: “I bought two boxes for when you are here! LOL”

My response: “LOL I will leave mine at home.  We do not need three.  Great minds think alike.”

A number of years ago we went through a difficult time. We lost our parents and aunt in less than a year.  Five months later, erev Pesach, my sister’s husband also passed. It was a horrible time.   I did not know how we would survive that holiday.  But I have to say, our friends knew of our need and ring jell addiction.  Friends filled the house.

I don’t know how many of them went shopping. But in days we had boxes upon boxes of ring jells.  In the evenings, when most everyone had left, my sister and I ate ring jells and talked.   It was a Pesach that tried our souls.  And I hate to be trite, but the ring jells gave us a small amount of comfort in our first Pesach without these beloved family members.  (And a mighty thank you to all who purchased them for us.  I don’t know if I ever told you how important they were in this horrible time.)

Special foods bring memories and joy.  For me Joyva jell rings helped me through preparing seders and difficult times. They bind me with my sister.   I could see my children crying over them when I leave this world.  But I don’t think they will buy or eat them.  This addiction will probably end with me.

A zissel Pesach to all.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/02/05/my-jobs-behind-a-deli-counter-daitch-shopwell-and-butenskys/

 

Navajo Tacos, Fry Bread, Challah and the Shehechiyanu

26 Mar

Part of the learning that we experienced on our trip to the Hopi and Navajo reservations was eating some of the typical foods, focusing on fry bread, corn mush and hominy, Navajo Tacos and a beef/lamb stew.

I realized that the only bread I was going to find on the reservations was fry bread.  Made of just a few ingredients, the important part of fry bread is that it is fried, traditionally in lard, but when we had it, fried in either olive oil or Crisco.  We were fortunate in that we experienced food prepared by family members of our guides.

The first meal was prepared by our native Hopi guide’s (Raymond) wife.  She made corn hominy, which took hours to prepare, fry bread, and a pepper, as well as a bean and beef mixture that you eat on the fry bread.  After the meal his wife explained how she cooked it, about the four colors/types of corn: blue, red, yellow and white.  It was important that we understand that anyone who shows up at their home is always welcome to join the meal.

Our second home cook meal was made by Azalia’s, (our Navajo guide) mother and aunt.  This included Navajo tacos, which is fry bread, beans and meat mixture, lettuce and tomatoes.  They also had a soup/stew and blue corn mush (sort of looks like cream of wheat).

The best part about this meal, is that they showed us how to make fry bread and several people attempted to make it.  While some tried to make it, I took photos.  I learned that fry bread is made sort of like a little pizza.  The dough is thrown and formed.   Then instead of baking, it is fried.  Before you put the circle of dough in the pan, you have to wait for the oil/Crisco to be steaming.  As the fry bread cooks, it bubbles up.  Then as it turns a bit golden brown, it is ready to come out.  At this point I found the way I like to eat fry bread, dip it in honey. Or pour honey over the bread.  Delicious.  It sort of reminded me of a Louisiana, New Orleans beignet.

I have to admit, we had a small Jewish moment over fry bread.  One of my newly made friends was so excited about her completion of the fry bread, that I told her we needed to make a blessing.  Since she is also Jewish, I thought a Shehechiyanu, the blessing over doing something for the first time would be appropriate. Five of us stood together and blessed her accomplishment.  It made sense, as the Navajo and Hopi are very spiritual people.

The other exciting part is that our guide’s mother gave some of us some blue corn kernels to take home and plant!  I am hoping it will grow in Kansas.

It interesting to see was how she fit so many people into their home.  This is a common occurrence in their culture, where everyone is invited to special events, and like the Hopi, anyone who shows up is feed!.  They took boards and covered them with white paper, and put on stools.  We used that as a small table.  It worked great!

I enjoyed the educational component of the Road Scholar journey.  Often, I am telling others about my cultural foods, especially the ones that we make during Passover like charosets.  Having meals made by experienced members of the Hopi and Navajo tribes was so special to me, that they took the time to give us this experience.  It was a joy to be a part of this group.

However, I will admit, that by the time I got home, I was happy to have a piece of my culture’s favorite carbohydrate, a slice of challah.

Locking Up Candy Saves the Day!

2 Mar
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The locked candy was kept on the bottom left side.

My Dad loved to eat candy.  He absolutely had a sweet tooth.  And he could not stop once he got started!  The only way my mother could stop him was to keep the candy locked up in the breakfront/curio cabinet in the dining room.  The key, which was beautiful and ornate, was kept it hidden from him.

To be honest, I think my brother and I knew where the key was from an early age. But we also knew not to take it or to eat the candy.  Mom had a strong knowledge of what was in the cabinet.  She had been keeping a strict eye on Dad and the candy ever since she had a mah jong game at our home, inviting four friends over to play, and when she went to put out the treats, almost all the candy was gone. She was so annoyed that she started locking up the candy in the bottom part of the breakfront, where you could not see what was inside.

Baked goods were not a problem. Our grandfather was a baker, so there was often cakes and bread in the house.  It was delicious and kept us filled with delights.  But I guess for my Dad it was not enough.  Candy was his downfall.  Thus, my Mom rarely purchased any and when she did, she locked it away.

The locked candy worked for us as well, especially when our home was robbed.  There was a rash of robberies in North Bergen that year along the Boulevard East corridor. The police had even put notices on the front doors of homes in the area.  We had been fine.  We really thought no one would enter our house, because our elderly landlady, who lived on the second floor, was often home.   But eventually the thieves came to our home.

My brother and I were students at North Bergen High School at the time.  Luckily, he arrived home before me and found the giant mess.  The police thought he interrupted the thieves as our stereo and television were left hanging, actually hanging from their wires.. The police also thought the thieves went out one door while my brother came in the other.  My parents  were less concerned about the burglary because the police were so happy that my brother was safe.  They felt we were lucky that my brother was not injured!  This left quite an impression on us.  We were  careful about opening the door and entering the house for years!

But the burglary was intense!  The thieves trampled through our home.  Searching through everything. Emptying out the closets and the drawers.  It was a disaster and took quite awhile to put back into order!  For me the idea that someone had rummaged through my clothes, my underwear,  horrified me.  I had to wash everything before I would wear it again.  What bothered me the most however, is that they stole my moon landing necklace.  I had a lovely round silver disc that showed Tranquility Base and spot where the lunar lander had settled, which my Dad bought me in 1969.  It was one of my prized possessions.  I only wish I had worn it to school that day in 1970, the spring of my sophomore year of high school.

My parents’ closet and dressers were totally emptied.   It was an enlightening moment for my younger sister.  In 1963, at the World’s Fair, my parents had purchased a 45 record of “It’s A Small World After All” for her.  My sister listened to it constantly.  Finally, my Mom could not take it anymore.  She hid the record in the closet and told my sister she accidentally broke it when she was cleaning.  Imagine my sister’s surprise when she spied the record, totally intact, on the floor.  That, at least, gave us all a moment of delight in the middle of cleaning and anguish.  Well maybe my sister was not delighted.  And perhaps my Mom felt a bit guilty.  But my father, brother and I had a great laugh.

However, the best of all was the locked candy, which actually saved the day.  The breakfront had two locked doors.  On one side was the candy.  On the other side was our Mom’s jewelry and some other important items.

The thieves did their best.  They pried open one door. Destroying the locks and damaging the door.  All they found were bags of candy that they emptied out on the floor.  I wish I could be there when they searched and found nothing but candy.  They must have thought we were crazy people locking up candy.

The good news is that they did not even attempt to open the other door. They left it locked.  Leaving all my mom’s valuables behind.  From that point on, locking up candy took on new meaning as it had saved us from losing many more important items.

It took a while to get the breakfront fixed.  No more locked candy.   My parents also found another place to keep the jewelry.   But we never forgot how that the locked up candy saved the day.  To be honest, whenever I go to visit my sister in New Jersey, I look at the breakfront and remember its importance in saving our valuables during a burglary.

 

 

Oy, An Egg Kichel! Delicious!

9 Jan

Amazing how the taste of a freshly baked egg kichel can bring back so many joyful memories!

It started with a Facebook post by a friend.  She posted something from My JewishLearning.com, entitled “Kichels Recipe: Jewish Bow Tie Cookies.    (See link below, it includes the recipe.)

A few of my friends started commenting on the post about how much they loved these cookies, including me.  I commented: “My grandpa made these in his bakery and continued making them for us.  I loved them.  I would glad to be a tester for you!”

Next thing I knew I had committed to meeting a different friend and making them.  What a delight! She had posted that her Bubbie made these treats.  And she wanted to make them again.  I was all in!  (I do feel a bit of guilt that we did not have the person who posted the article with us!)

You do not bake egg kichel, you fry them.  You do not need much, just flour, salt, vinegar, eggs, oil and powdered sugar.    Mixing bowls, a mixer and a frying pan, along with lots of paper towels are required.  I promise you an hour or so of fun, and then a delicious reward.

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One of our early batches.  A bit too thick!

We learned something from our foray into making them.  The dough does have to be paper thin!  It is best to have all the dough rolled out and cut into strips before heating up the oil.  And really, you must make sure the oil is hot, hot, hot before you start putting the dough strips into the frying pan.

My friend was in charge of mixing, then rolling out the dough, and making the paper-thin morsels for us to fry.  The learning experience commence with our first frying. The strips were too thick.  So for the next batch, she started cutting the strips and rolling them out again. SUCCESS!

The excitement once we did it correctly was encompassing.  Each rectangle of dough would almost instantly turn white, bubble up and float to the top of the oil.  In a few moments one side would be golden brown, and I would flip them over.  Watch them a few moments more and then out into the towel to soak up extra oil.  Then I sifted the powdered sugar over them.

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I combined some batches.  But here they are letting the oil soak out!

We had to try one from each batch to taste the difference.  The thinner the dough, the hotter the oil, the crispier the fried kichel, the better it tasted.  We had six batches, so we had to try six. YES!  We really did!

I am so happy my friend not only said that we need to make them one afternoon, she set a date! It was not only the fun of tasting and frying, it brought back the memories of cooking with our grandparents.  We cannot bring them back, but we can in our minds relive happy moments like this!

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 Mine are on the right!

Even after tasting, we had so much left over.  We divided them up relatively evenly.  I suggested she keep extra as she has a grandson living close by to help in the eating.  But I was happy to bring a plate home for my husband and me.

My husband doesn’t have the same memories.  He never tasted egg kichel.  A Shanda!  Can you imagine never eating them?  I cannot.  But then he did not have anyone to bake traditional cookies and treats when he was growing up.  Both of his grandmother’s died very young.

For me, however, each snap of a kichel in my mouth along with the melting of the powder sugar gives me joy.  Oy!  Egg Kichel!  It is so delicious

 

https://www.myjewishlearning.com/the-nosher/kichels-recipe-jewish-bow-tie-cookies/?utm_content=buffer717d6&utm_medium=social&utm_source=thenosher&utm_campaign=buffer

 

Halvah, My Favorite Childhood Treat

26 Dec

Sometimes walking through a store brings back a memory. It happened to me today. One minute I was walking through a grocery store in Holon, Israel, with my daughter. And in an instant I was transported back in time and place. I was in my grandparents’ bakery in West New York, New Jersey.

I am sitting at the counter while my grandparents work. In front of me are three large rectangles of a most delicious treat, halvah. My favorite, marble halvah, is in the middle. And I so want to eat some of this sesame and sugar delight. My grandmother sees me sitting there. “Just take a small piece,” she says. And I do. I carry the love of halvah with me till now.

After some weekend visits, Grandma would send a half-inch slice home with me. My father and I were the biggest halvah fans. We would savor that slice, trying to make it last for a week. A feat that was a bit difficult to achieve!

After my grandparents closed their bakery to retire, my Dad would go to the local deli to buy halvah to satisfy our family’s cravings. My sister also loved the marble halvah. She remembers, “The halvah from the deli came wrapped in wax paper inside the white deli paper, like how lox came. I think because of the innate oiliness.”

In the summertime we could always get halvah at the bakery in Monticello or the deli. Halvah was always part of our life. But moving to the Midwest took me away from this treat.

In Kansas I never see full chunks of halvah. If I am lucky I find packaged process halvah By ‘Joyva’. However it is not the same. I have not tasted this treat in at least four years, since I don’t like the taste of the processed packaged squares of what should be a delectable treat that melts in my mouth.

The sign says “Halvah and sweets.”

But there in the large supermarket, Hetzi Hinam, was an entire counter of halvah with many different flavors. It called out to me. It took me back in time. I craved it. My daughter told me to get some. But I decided no, I just took a picture. I have been regretting that decision since we came home.

I have been going through every instance of halvah memory when I was denied my treat. When my husband, then fiancée, and I were in school, I kept my halvah in his refrigerator wrapped in a plastic bag with a handwritten sign saying this was mine, “Do Not Eat”. I would bring the halvah back from New Jersey to Missouri for those moments when I really needed cheering up. You can imagine my furious anger when I found out my husband’s roommate, David, ate my halvah without my permission. Let’s just say he never did that again.

My disappointment that day was overwhelming, I can still feel my anger even now 40 years later. So although my angst is not that bad today, I keep thinking, why. Why did I deny myself this treat? I could have purchased just a small chunk. But I said no.

Part of it, I think, is that I have such high expectations of halvah. I know what I remember it should taste like. But after eating those packaged chunks I have been disappointed. So I think seeing all those lovely rectangles made me a bit afraid. What if this halvah’s taste did not match my memory?

When I had it four years ago, I also purchased it in Israel. My daughter was living in Tel Aviv then, and I purchased a piece at a little shop. It was delicious. Perhaps my fears are unfounded. I should have purchased some! I could be eating a piece right now!

Instead I am here writing about halvah, remembering the taste, and wishing I had purchased just a bit of my favorite childhood treat.

Perhaps we can go back or find another store!

For those who wonder, according to Wikipedia, “The word halva entered the English language between 1840 and 1850 from the Yiddish halva(Hebrew: חלווה‎), which came from the Turkish helva (حلوا), itself ultimately derived from the Arabic: حلوى ḥalwá, a sweet confection .

Finding Good In Seattle

19 Nov

When I travel I look for positive experiences. Besides the regular sites, I like to visit places to reflect my heritage and my desire to do good. So in Seattle, I was delighted to learn that two of the experiences selected by the group I was with were devoted to good deeds.

The Foundations aims

An interactive map.

A safe way to transport vaccines.

First was the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Discovery Center. We had a docent speak with us and describe the Center, which explains and shows the philosophy and collaborations of the Foundation. In reality, you do not need a docent, the Discovery Center is quite user friendly and has many interactive activities that will intrigue adults and older children as well.

A poster I made in one activity.

Besides the regular exhibits, theater and activities, when I went there was a large exhibit on inventions designed to help people in locations far from technology. My two favorites were ways to clean water and really cool eyeglasses. As a myopic person, I understand the need to see clearly!

There is a big push from the foundation for clean water, better use of toilets and cleaning fecal matter, and vaccines. As many, I am glad the Foundation is doing all it can to save lives. But I must admit I did ask if they were doing anything to have more food and population control. Because saving all these lives in areas of Africa with famine and drought, were they adding to the problem if they did not also help create food and find ways for more water to get to these drought ravaged places. I will admit the docent did not have a good answer for me. But it was obvious it was a question the foundation was aware to be a concern.

Another big push is education, especially of women and girls. In fact they want to improve the quality of life for women. In all, I learned much about the areas of the world where people suffer from poverty, even in the USA.

And that leads to my second Seattle experience. For our annual luncheon we went to Fare Start Restaurant located at 700 Virginia in downtown Seattle. What a great meal and great program.

Learning about Fare Start before we eat. And the wall of corporate sponsors.

Fare Start has helped people in property get training in the restaurant business. They have helped people for over 25 years. They not only learn the business skills for food services, but also life skills. There are 16 week job trading programs for adults, as well as an eight-week program for youth aged 16-21. Another program helps homeless youths aged 16-24.

During the week the restaurant is open to the public. While in weekends it does private catering events like ours. I was so happy our catering dollars went to help this wonderful program.

Seattle has much to offer. This is my third trip here. Every time I find new and interesting experiences. One little happy note for me, in Seattle Restaurants where you clear your own plate, there are three cans: recycling, trash, compost!

A Trolley Car Stops, Too!

12 Sep

Holidays always make me think about my grandparents.  We spent all of our holidays, when I was growing up, at one of my grandparents’ homes.  My paternal grandparents in the Bronx were in charge of Passover and Hanukkah.  We went there every year and celebrated with all my cousins.  One year, at Hanukkah, I had to have a tooth pulled and could not eat all the treats. But Grandma made me my very own potato kugel!  I still can taste it!

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My store bought rugelach and honey cake, and candies. Still wrapped in plastic like Grandma would before the holidays.

Every so often something happens that sparks a memory and bring me back in time to the apartment in the Bronx.  During Rosh Hashannah, such a moment occurred.  As I was preparing my dessert plates and covering them with clear plastic wrap, my mind flashed to my paternal Grandmother. She was a great home baker.  One of the high lights of going to her home for the holidays was her magnificent dessert table covered in her treats!

Before dinner, the dessert platters were covered with plastic and put high on a cabinet in the spare bedroom.  We, all the grandchildren and children, knew the desserts were there. But also knew the penalty if we took snuck in and took some.  My Dad and Uncle, known noshers, often snuck in.  But the grandchildren were more careful.

Several of my boy cousins and my brother were eventually tall enough… and sneaky enough… to climb up and reach the sealed plates to get a few treats before dessert.  But we were very careful.  There was always a cousin on guard duty.  We were never greedy, we never took too much in fear of being caught by the sight of an empty plate.

The best part of the holiday was when the dishes were cleared from dinner and food was put away.  Then out came the desserts.  My Mom and Aunts and Grandma could bring all the home baked treats out and put them on a long table against a wall.  Among my favorites were the rugelach sticks and the thimble cookies.  But my all time favorite were the apricot candy.  So thick and gooey.

There were cookies and cakes and even homemade candies.  During Passover there were also Barton’s candies.

Thanks to one of my cousins, I have the recipes for three desserts.  I was bemoaning that I miss them years ago. I found out that my cousin had the recipes.  So smart.  His wife emailed three recipes to me…in 2006!  At the time she told me that they had high calorie count.  And she was right.  Each recipe is chuck full of sugar.

To be honest most of my desserts are store bought.  But for you bakers, here is one of Grandma’s recipes:  Apricot Candy:  Wash ½ pound of apricots.  Boil in 1 cup of cold water. When water is boiled away, mash the apricots.  Add 1 ½ cups sugar, ¼ pound almonds.  Cook for 1 hour, stirring constantly.  When thick, pour out into a pan, and when cold, cut into squares and dip in sugar to prevent sticking.

If you have crowns on your teeth, do NOT eat this!!. It is delicious.  I love apricots and dried apricots and this apricot candy.

One dessert they did not have the recipe for was Taiglach, a mixture of nuts and honey mixed together and baked into a gooey hard mess of deliciousness.  You had to be careful biting into this dessert.  I remember one year my Dad actually broke his tooth biting into this!  He was not so happy that holiday.

My grandfather had a role at all these family events.  He would sit at one end of the table and guard it.  Seriously!  If any of the grandchildren (or his children) took too much dessert or came back too often, he would intone, “A Trolley Car Stops Too.”

When I was little, I had no idea what he was talking about.  But when I got older, and found out what a trolley car was, I realized he meant we were eating too much.  That even a trolley car, which ran constantly, would stop occasionally.

My brother, and my boy cousins were often the recipient of this advice. I heard it as well, but not as often.  It really did not matter.  We all would conquer our fear of Grandpa, in order to have a sweet delectable dessert.

As for his saying, we use it often, especially when something is happening that we think needs to end.  I still can see my Grandpa nodding at me and saying in a deep voice:  A Trolley Stops Too!