Maybe If They Wore Shoes…

September 27th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Ring those bells. Make noise. Shout happy new year wishes. Rosh Hashonah is upon us. Though not a practitioner of very orthodox Judaism, HG’s Mom would always make a tasty, multi-course dinner to welcome the new year. A feature was tzimmes, a sweet and savory carrot stew. The sweet element was supposed to induce a happy new year. Among the ingredients were chicken fat (of course), ginger, honey, a touch of cinnamon. And, plenty of chicken feet. HG”s Mom thought they brought a rich, glutinous quality to the “tzimmes.” HG loathed them. They looked very much like what they were — scaly feet, with nails — and were unpleasantly gristly and nasty. HG ate his way around them. HG still hates chicken feet. The Chinese love them, serving them up as snacks at Taiwanese movie theaters and, of course, they are a standard on dim sum carts the world over. HG likes every other part of a chicken–liver, heart, gizzard–so last year HG tried to give them another chance by tasting them at Nom Wah, the venerable dim sum eatery in New York’s Chinatown. Terrible. For some obscure reason, the word “tzimmes” is a Yiddish idiom for a fuss or tumult. HG’s Mom didn’t believe in coddling. When little HG sought sympathy for a cut or a scrape, Mom said: “Don’t make a tzimmes. It’s only a scratch.”

DCF 1.0

Passover: Good and Bad Memories

April 1st, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink

Yes, the great family ritual feast — the Seder — will be celebrated in Jewish and many non-Jewish homes (the Obamas will have a Seder) when Passover comes along this month. Like most great Jewish holidays, Passover and the Seder that goes aong with it exemplifies the theme: “They tried to kill us. They failed. So, let’s eat.”

HG loved the family Seder of his youth. There was gefilte fish (made from scratch by HG’s Mom and served with blazing horse radish hand grated by little HG). Chicken soup with matzo balls (best in the universe). Brisket. Knaidlach (dense matzo meal dumplings that soaked up the lush gravy in the absence of challah or rye bread, forbidden at Passover). Tzimmes (A sweet and tangy carrot stew cooked with honey, ginger and chicken feet. HG was not fond of the chicken feet). Dessert was fruit compote of prunes and apricots plus kosher-for-Passover macaroons. Hot tea served in a glass (HG’s father drank it with a sugar cube clutched in his teeth). Schapiro’s sweet malaga wine was served during the meal along with Horowitz-Margareten matzos (the brand favored by HG’s discerning Mom). Though a life-long Socialist who was skeptical of religion, Hershele Zvi Freimann (HG’s Dad), donned a prayer shawl and yamelkeh (skull cap) for the reading of the Haggadah (Passover prayer book).

The HG family Seder was not a sober affair. There was the aforementioned sweet wine. Little HG was allowed to drink as much of this wine as HG wanted and — foretelling the future — HG wanted a lot! There was also vishniak, a sweet, very potent cherry brandy home brewed by Hershele Tsvi Freimann. HG was allowed only a tiny sip of this fire brew. Best of all, there were the sweet, wrinkled cherries that had been long marinated in the vishniak. HG managed to snare a few of these super-alcoholic goodies which made the little chap a happy and drowsy fellow.

There was a somber note in these festivities. The “blood libel” was very much alive in the Belorussia of HG’s parents youth. The “blood libel” was the claim that Jews killed a Gentile child at Passover because the child’s blood was an essential ingredient in making matzos. This is a claim still being made by some Jihadists, neo-nazis and other rabid Jew haters. HG’s parents both recalled the murderous “blood libel” pogroms in Kishinev, a city in Bessarabia (then part of Rumania). Hundreds of Jews were killed. These dark thoughts were banished from the Seder table by vishniak and the hope that HG, his sister and brother would never experience such horrors.

Victims of the Kishinev Pogrom

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