I believe that the world is made up of two sorts of women – those who cook to live and those who live to cook.
My mother-in law was one of the latter.
Any telephone conversation always ended with “ so what are you making for supper?” Or “What did you make for lunch?” Note it was always the word “make” because opening cans and packages was just not part of her world. My mother-in-law made everything from scratch and it always tasted just perfect.
She was a full time businesswoman with her own ladies clothing store, which she ran very successfully. Yet her real love was cooking and she put her whole heart into it.
I don’t think it ever occurred to her that not all women love to cook as much as she did. When she asked me questions about the meals I was preparing there wasn’t a hint of mistrust or criticism. For her it was two women sharing a mutual passion.
But, I have to admit, my passion was nowhere near as great as hers.
Her meals were all delicious, her cakes, cookies, kichels and kiegels were everything a Jewish mother’s food should be. Mine are okay, sometimes more okay, sometimes less.
At Pesach her matzo balls were light, fluffy, moist and filled with fried onions. Mine were usually edible, but sometimes could play understudy if you lost your golf ball. Going to her for Shabbat was a culinary delight . Yet she never made an issue of her cooking or baking – it came naturally to her, and if I brought anything along it was always eaten with enjoyment.
Once one meal was over her mind was always on the next meal. When she came to stay with us, as soon as I had cleared away the breakfast dishes she would ask, “What shall we make for lunch?”
Personally I enjoy a good 5 hours break between meals – and that includes even thinking about them. I’m happy when the Shabbat leftovers last through Tuesday and even happier that my husband and kids don’t mind eating them that long.
When she became less able to look after herself and walking was difficult, she moved into a Sheltered Home, where she still had her own mini-apartment. She had a very small kitchenette but that didn’t stop her cooking up some delicious suppers for all of us. By then she was blessed with many grandchildren and even more great-grandchildren and all of us loved to visit Bubba and enjoy her food.
But one thing she wasn’t able to do any more was bake, as she had no oven. In vain I took from her the recipe for her delicious hamentaschen. No one would have had any idea that it was Bubba’s recipe after I made them. The resemblance was in name only.
Mind you, it’s not easy trying to follow her recipes, which have no definite amounts in them. They are all a bit of this, then see how much of that you need to make it feel just right. If it’s too firm add just enough liquid to make it moist. If it’s too moist add a bit of flour, or maybe just put it in the fridge.
I never stood a chance.
Even as she grew older and weaker and was no longer able to prepare food for us, or even herself, her sense and instincts about food never wavered. When she was served some pale almost liquidized and unrecognizable dish she could always tell you what it had originally been.
Now, unfortunately for us all, Bubba is no longer with us, yet still the height of success for me is when my children take a forkful of food on Shabbat and say. “Yummy, Mum, this cholent is delicious, just like Bubba’s”.
(good for any time of the year not just Pesach)
Bubba would first fry a lot of onions in plenty of oil. Onions are always good for adding to other items of food so you can never have too many. And the oil as you will see is also put to good use.
- 3 eggs
- 6 Tablespoons of oil (which had onions fried in them as they are much tastier)
- Maybe a bit of ground nuts
- 1 cup of water
- Matzo meal
- Beat up the eggs
- Add the salt, cinnamon and nuts to taste
- Add the water
- Add the matzo meal (enough to make a firm but not stiff mixture – it depends on the size of your eggs and the size of the cup of water!)
- Leave in the refrigerator for one hour at least.
- Form into balls (if you like you can make some of them extra large and then make a deep dent in them with your finger and insert some fried onions and then cover over with the mixture so you have onion-filled kneidlach)
- Cook for 30 minutes in boiling water or soup or if you don’t want to cook them in your chicken soup then you can make up a pot of packaged onion soup and cook them in that.
Pareve Kishke (for cholent)
(If you’re into healthy eating look away)
- 1 stick (100 g) of margarine, melted
- 1 grated onion
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Mix all the above together using enough flour so that it isn’t too sticky nor too hard
- Put in the cholent and let it absorb the taste all night ready for Shabbat lunch.
I have never ever got these to taste anything like Bubba’s delicious light simple cookies. Please let me know if you manage.
- 400 g soft (not melted) margarine
- 2 cups sugar
- 4 eggs
- ½ cup water
- 1 packet baking powder
- Approximately 700 g flour
- Mix together and roll out on a floured board
- Using a cookie cutter cut out shapes and bake on a medium heat until golden in color – not still white but not brown or they’re too well done.
This was the original recipe which Bubba stuck to, but there was way too much liquid when I did it so I used 1 egg less, still no good so I used less water, still not like Bubba’s.
Bubba’s Hamantaschen (Oznei Haman)
- Some fresh poppy seed – cooked in water until ready! (I usually leave it for about an hour as I have no idea ‘ready’ is)
- Mix with some sugar, a little jam maybe, or perhaps honey whatever you like to make it taste less bitter. Maybe add some sultanas also if you like them.
- 500 g flour
- 250 g sugar
- 4 sticks (400 grams) margarine
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- Beat margarine and sugar together, add eggs and baking powder.
- Then add the flour until you get just the right (?!) consistency, not too moist and not too hard. If too moist then add some flour…slowly so you don’t have too much. If it’s too hard then add some water…slowly so it doesn’t get too wet.
- Leave in the refrigerator for an hour or so to ‘settle’.
- Divide into 3 portions. Roll one portion out on a floured board and using a round cutter or rim of a cup or bowl, cut out shapes with enough room to add some of the filling.
- Add some filling into the center, then draw up the sides to form the triangular shape of traditional hamentaschen. Make sure that the filling is not oozing out. Wet your finger and ‘seal’ the joins to stop them opening up as they heat up in the oven. Cook in a hot (-ish) oven until golden.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.