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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!

 

 

My Dad Created My Snapple Addiction

13 Feb

I realized on a recent trip to Mexico how deeply I am addicted to Diet Peach Snapple.  I had accepted the fact that I would be without it for eight days and was in day five when I made a discovery: the resort’s small grocery store carried Snapple; however there was no peach!

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My Mexican Snapple!

When I went back the next day to check, there it was: Diet Peach Snapple. I purchased a bottle. I was so happy I even took a photo of it, and it’s Spanish label. My last few days in Mexico were a bit more joyful with my favorite drink.

My Snapple addiction comes from my Dad.  I think he started drinking Diet Snapple Peach Ice Tea from its beginning.  The company that concocted Snapple teas was founded in 1972 in Valley Stream, Long Island, New York as a juice company.  It was not until 1987 that they started producing tea, starting with lemon (Wikipedia).

I do not know when exactly they started making peach ice tea, but I do know that around 1993 my Dad was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.  At that point he needed to find a new drink, and he found it in Diet Snapple Peach Ice Tea.  He drank it constantly.  Whenever I went back East to visit, it became my drink of choice as well.  A cold ice tea in the summer was wonderful.  In fact, a cold ice tea anytime of the year is great for me.

Since my parents came to visit me in Kansas twice each year,  and since I am a devoted daughter and hostess, I wanted to buy the tea my Dad loved when he came here. But it was impossible to find. None of the grocery stores carried it.  I went to the Snapple website to see if there was anywhere in Kansas City area where I could find it.

Nowhere! I sent them a message asking if they could sell it here.  The response, ask my grocery store to carry it.  I started a campaign.  First, I went to my two favorite grocery stores and asked them to carry it.  Then I started talking to other transplanted New York City area people about Snapple.  Since they also missed it, they started asking their grocery stores as well.

Soon I was able to find the two-liter bottles of Snapple.  But that was not enough!  We needed the individual serving that we could carry around. Back East I could find Snapple in many different size bottles. That is what I wanted in the Kansas City area.

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All sizes of Snapple are available.

And it worked.  There is Snapple Ice Tea everywhere now.  Of course, the small company was purchased by a much bigger company with nationwide and international distribution, which also probably helped as well.

Whenever my parents came, I could now provide a good supply of Dad’s favorite drink.

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Trivia I had not seen before!

Of course, it wasn’t just the drink my Dad loved.  He also loved the bits of trivial that were always under the lid of the drinks.  Some of them, I have seen them so many times, I think I have them memorized. Recently however, I had one that was new to me!  That was exciting.

Just over six years ago, my Dad passed away.  When my Dad was in the hospital before he passed, I purchased and brought him Snapple every time I visited.  Sometimes I could not find Diet Peach. It is often difficult to find.  It must be everyone’s favorite.  I wish I could say the Snapple nursed him back to health, but it was not to be.

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My love for Diet Peach Snapple lives on.  I cannot drink a Snapple without thinking of my Dad.  Every year on Veteran’s Day and Memorial Day, I go to the local Korean War Memorial.  I bring a Snapple and a few roses from my garden to place on the stone I had donated in honor of my Dad.  I leave the flowers, I take the bottle with me.

Do I love the drink, or do I love the memory of my Dad?  I am not sure.  All I know is that when I drink a Diet Peach Snapple, I am happy.

 

A Mexican Interlude

9 Feb

A week in Cabo San Lucas has been a joy. The weather is a dream. Seeing the humpback whales with their babies a delight. Listening to the Pacific Ocean pound the shore throughout the day is actually relaxing even in its furious attack against the land.

Granite rock formations honeycombed by the erosion are fascinating. We saw the famous Cabo arch.

Before we came, people told me to be careful. But there was never a problem. In Cabo itself, where the ocean liners dock daily, there is a strong police and military presence. I never felt insecure or unsafe. We walked around the marina several different days and experience the restaurants, the shops and the whale watching boat tour of the cove and watched the baby whales frolic (Cabo trek). Marine biologists went with us to give us interesting facts about the whales.

We walked into town several times both during the day and at night to experience the restaurants, with no issues. Just joined the trickle of others also walking along the well lighted paths. So many good restaurants! Guacamole, fajita, chimichangas, tacos, grilled fish, tamales and more specialities filled us each day.

The live music ranged from two or three men playing mariachi in restaurants throughout the city to classical violin and cello melodies floating through the air as we sat outside.

We drove to Todos Santos and explored the streets and sights. The Mission of Santa Rosa sits in the center of town, with its high vistas to the sea. Another great restaurant, Tequila Sunrise, had our taste buds smiling.

At both Tequila Sunrise and Las Guacamayas (in Cabo), the owners came to speak to us and tell us if we needed help in anyway they would help. And they did, even helping us find things outside of the food they served.

We walked through the Hotel California and examined the art in the many galleries in Todos Santos.

We visited beaches along the Sea of Cortez, and watched the pelicans dive into the waters to catch fish.

The people of Mexico were friendly and helpful. They enjoyed my meager efforts to speak Spanish. But truly appreciated my husband’s more fluent attempts. Smiles would like their eyes when he spoke to them. And several said to his comment that his Spanish was not that good, “but you are trying. You make the attempt!”

Were there times when I wish there were not as many people trying to have you buy something ? Of course. But in my many travels, I have seen this in all tourist sights. Cabo, with its cruise ships is ripe for this behavior. But in Todos Santos, there was no pressure from vendors. It was a delight.

Our last restaurant meal was at The Office, which sits right on the beach. The food was excellent. The margaritas strong. Luckily I don’t drink so I drive back to our resort, The Grand Sol Mar.

Our week exploring the Baja Peninsula is over. We fly home in the morning. It was well worth the trip to visit this lovely site in Mexico.