Tag Archives: Cooking

Oy Vey! The Matzah Balls!

Looks good, right?

Looks good, right?

A few years ago, I did a crap load of cooking. I was preparing for Passover, so I was doing what Jewish mothers do — cooking up a storm. I was Martha Stewart and Rachael Ray and Betty-freaking-Crocker — except the Jewish version.

So picture frizzier hair and a bigger nose.

That year, I made 3 times as many matzah balls as I usually would, to make sure that my family would have enough to eat for the entire week. It took hours, but no big whoop, right? These are the things we do for love.

After the brisket went in and the noodle kugel was finished, I realized I didn’t have enough room in my freezer. So, I asked my kind neighbor if I could use a little space in the freezer that she keeps in her garage. She said of course.

Passover comes and so do all the guests. I’m serving the soup, and I’m like where are all my matzah balls? I look in the freezer, in the refrigerator, in the garage. It’s cold enough. I’m thinking, maybe I stashed them in the trunk of my car. Sometimes I stick things there. I look everywhere. I only have 18 matzah balls. The thing is this: that year? We have 24 people at the house. Picturing, standing in the kitchen, confused and cutting matzah balls in half.

I believe it is written in the Torah.

Thou shalt not run out of matzah balls.

But I did.

I apologized to our guests.

Time went by.

Spring came and went.

Months after the holiday ended, I was sitting on my driveway in the sun when my neighbor asked if I would like to have my matzah balls.

“Because isn’t Passover coming up?” she asked.

You guys, I didn’t even remember giving them to her.

Suddenly I was like: Should I be worried? Should I call the doctor? Do I need to check about early dementia? Seriously, how did those balls get over there? Did they roll across the street on their own?

I followed my friend into her warm garage. She opened her freezer and next to the ICEEs, there was my long-lost Tupperware container filled with frozen balls. All 9 bazillion of them.

I obsessed about forgetting those matzah balls.

And then I got sick. For 15 months, I couldn’t cook or clean or even leave my house.

I couldn’t even think about making matzah balls.

It’s been a few years since I hosted a Passover meal.

At 32 months off Klonopin, I’m doing really well. I’m grateful to be alive, grateful to feel Spring in the air, hopeful that one day I will feel even better. I know all of this is part of G-d’s plan.

And this year, I plan to enjoy someone else’s balls.

#IYKWIM.

tweet me @rasjacobson

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Gazpacho for Muchacho

Gazpacho (Spanish liquid tomato salad).

Gazpacho (Spanish liquid tomato salad). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday, it was a warm, breezy summer night and our family was having  supper outside at our heavy black wrought-iron table, under our umbrella in the backyard. It was a light meal: a little bread, some cheese and fresh fruit. And gazpacho.

When we finished, Monkey pushed his chair back from the table and patted his tummy.

“Mom,” he said, “I’ll bet no matter how old I am, whenever I think of summer, I’ll always think of your gazpacho.”

And before I could smile and say how good that made me feel, to think that I could feed him something healthy that he would forever associate with a specific time of year and –perhaps, maybe — a place and a feeling of family, he added: “And now that I’m thinking about it, can you give me a recipe? Because one day you’ll be dead, and I want to be sure I know how to make it!”

Ahhh boys.

So sensitive.

I know Monkey meant his words as a compliment. And I know he loves my gazpacho — which is really a recipe from my old friend Allison. When we lived in New Orleans, she made her recipe one summer and I remember reacting just like Monkey. It is divine. For me, Allison’s gazpacho is all about hanging out with teacher friends during the off-season.

Here’s the Allison’s Gazpacho Recipe for those of you who love easy meals:

  • 2 cucumbers, reserve about 4 tablespoons
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1 large red onion
  • 1 small can black pitted olives (drain the juice)
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • dash of Lea & Perrins
  • 1 bottle of V-8 (I use regular; some people like it hot)
  • dash of Tabasco sauce

Put all ingredients into a food processor in order listed, pulsing gently — until you get to V-8. Pour V-8 and Tabasco into a gorgeous tureen, then add all the ingredients from the food processor. Garnish each bowl with a few cucumber chunks. Let sit 1 hour in fridge to chill. Serve cold. Easily serves 8-10 people.

What food(s) do you associate with summer? What do you see? Feel?

Lessons on Valentine’s Day

Early 20th century Valentine's Day card, showi...

Image via Wikipedia

Picture me in third grade, roller skating with a certain someone special. Yummy Boy Billy is shorter than I am, but he is an awesome skater, and we are zooming around the rectangular gymnasium to The Bay City Rollers’ (what else?) “Saturday Night.” Suddenly, Yummy Boy decides to cross his right skate over his left on the turn. He falls, dragging me down with him. I was wearing my favorite pair of Levis, and they tore at the knee. I was so pissed. It was over before it started.

Fast forward to high school, a much beloved boyfriend got me one of those Cabbage Patch dolls for Valentine’s Day. Had I asked for a Cabbage Patch doll? No. Those suckers were creepy. (Still are.) But he gave me one, and in exchange for his gift, I gave him tongue. ‘Nuff said.

In college, I dated a guy who insisted that Valentine’s Day was an excuse for capitalist pigs to convince the masses they needed to buy ridiculous items to convince their companions of their undying love. Yeah, he was a cheap bastard. Our first Valentine’s Day together, he bought me a slice of pizza. For our second Valentine’s Day, he bought me a pencil with a heart eraser on the end of it. (Was he frickin’ kidding me?) For our third Valentine’s day, he bought me a fish tank. Why? Because he wanted fish. Still, it was better than nothing, and the bubbler turned out to be a lovely, relaxing way to fall asleep. We stayed together for one more year (what was I thinking?) but I believe things actually ended on or near Valentine’s Day, so he found a way to get out of that rather nicely. Oh, and when things went south, the fish tank stayed with him. Nice.

My knight riding a white ass.

Husband is much better at Valentine’s Day. When we were in the “I-so-want-to-impress-this-woman” phase of our relationship, he made an amazing dinner at his friend Brian’s house. (Okay, maybe Brian made the dinner, but I’m sure Husband helped). We ate escargot and filet mignon and a green salad. And we drank wine. It should be noted that this was around the time that I punted a wineglass across Hubby’s living room floor causing it to smash against a wall into a zillion little pieces and, as an added bonus, coat the wall in a fabulous shade of blood-red. You would think someone would have thought to hand me a plastic glass, but no. That was the Valentine’s Day that I smashed an irreplaceable wine glass (hand blown in Germany and borrowed from Brian’s mother) against Brian’s stereo. (For all you young’uns out there, a stereo is a device we old folks used to use to play our music.) Anyway, Hubby wasn’t mad at me. Brian’s mother probably was, but Hubby made me feel okay about being human.

Over the years, Hubby has brought me flowers and made me breakfast. We’ve gone skiing, seen concerts, done great dinners. Lots of stuff. I don’t know what we’re doing this year, but Hubby did teach me that I am worth slightly more than the cost of a slice of pizza or a pencil. And for that, I am grateful.

I am also grateful to know that I do not have to work that hard as Hubby is genuinely happy with a bag of York Peppermint Patties – and a little tongue. ‘Nuff said.

The Blessing of the Ugly Casserole Dish

photo by Stacy Lynn Baum @ flickr.com

A little nostalgia, if you will indulge me. My husband and I attended a wedding this past Saturday night: Fifteen years and two days after our own wedding day. The day after we were married, as my new husband and I were opening our wedding gifts, we quickly noticed someone had given us a used casserole dish. It was yellow and chipped; it was even a little dirty. I ranted: “Who would give us a used dish?!” I was astonished and, frankly, pretty pissed.

Then I read the card.

The casserole dish had come from a distant aunt who was in her early 90s at the time, and quite ill. Still, Aunt Bea wanted to send us something. Her husband, whom she had loved dearly, had passed away by then and she was alone. In her beautifully written penmanship, Bea explained that a dear friend had given her (and her new husband) that very casserole dish that I now had before me over fifty years earlier. She apologized about the chips and dings, but pointed out that the dish had seen her family through the good years and the lean years. That casserole dish had fed them through The Great Depression, fed their children and grandchildren. She told me that – while she no longer cooked her own meals – she still cherished the dish, but now she wanted me to have it.

Suddenly, everything changed. I no longer hated the old, used casserole dish; I cherished it. It was infused with so much meaning, and over the years I used it all the time. I always put sweet things in it: apple crisp or blueberry cobbler. So many yummy things.

Not too long ago, my casserole dish split into two pieces as I carefully washed it in the sink. It was old and fragile. Its time had come. Nevertheless, I wept. Who knew that something that I had thought represented such a thoughtless gesture would become one of my most precious possessions? It was hard to throw away the pieces.

Now whenever my husband and I attend people’s weddings — while we don’t give them something used — we nearly always give the couple a hand-thrown casserole dish, usually one made by my husband’s uncle, Earl Jacobson, a talented, local potter, and we attach a note explaining the story about the casserole dish we received on our wedding day. We always wish the bride and groom well and hope that — in the very least — they always have a pot to cook in. (Then we stick a check inside!)

It is amazing how one’s perspective can quickly change when presented with the right lens through which to view things. Ugly things can become beautiful; things that seem like curses can be blessings in disguise. Aunt Bea taught me that sometimes my eyes lie. Sometimes people have to go deeper and see with their hearts.

What is something you have unexpectedly come to cherish?