This morning my sister Rachel emailed me, my brother Josh, my sister Becky and my mom requesting a knish recipe. My dad’s mother used to make knishes so light and airy angels would weep with envy. It seems Rachel got the hankering and an email string was born.
Josh: Remember that Knish cookoff about 20 years ago???
Becky: Yeah, I won.
Mom: Let’s do it again!!!
Josh: Um, not quite, you won the dough, I won the filling. That makes us a perfect combination.
Rachel: Gosh, I must have blanked that out.
Naomi: I just threw up a little in mouth.
Mom: Anxiety or the thought of knishes?
Naomi: Josh’s Hallmark sentiment.
Josh: I have been carrying with me for 20 years the desire to know how Becky got that dough so damn thin…
Naomi: Child labor in China.
Now, what’s the point of this? Well I had an epiphany. My mom’s query about anxiety was related to a job I am waiting to hear about. Not so much waiting as retreating to my 16-year old self waiting for the phone to ring. I figured I could do two things at once so while waiting I dug out an incredible cookbook I found years ago, knowing it would provide Rachel with her recipe.
Printed in 1954 the Jewish Festival Cookbook is divided by the Holidays-sure I knew about Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Passover, but can’t say I’d heard of Chamishah Asar B’Shevat-New Year of the Trees. I think that’s a nice one. It’s like Arbor Day, only not. From the book: “In the Talmud, the New Year of the Trees is known….as the day when trees are judged….the Lord chooses which trees will flourish through the year, which will perish, which will suffer from lightning, and which will bear fruit.” Man, God is brutal! What did those trees ever do to him? And, who the hell judges TREES! They’re TREES!
Okay, moving on. Before each Holiday section, the authors write about the history of the holidays, provide menus and tell stories. They are genuinely interesting, and give insights to the role of the woman. It was reading these stories where I was epiphanied. A few highlights.
-“The Jewish housewife takes deep and abiding pleasure in making the Sabbath table completely different from that of other days.”
-“The good Jewish housewife prides herself on the wonderful variety of relishes she provides for the Sabbath.
-On the difficulty of making Strudel: “What matter you patch a tear or two now! By the time you are married you will be so expert that your husband will never discover that you were once a novice!”
-“Channukah is a season for delightful dishes, feasting and merrymaking.”
–“Although Passover is a good three months away at the time of Channukah, it is none too soon to begin collecting poultry schmaltz so essential for Passover cooking.”
If you haven’t figured it out my epiphany, I’ll spell it out. The reason I cannot seem to find a job is because the job for me no longer exists. I should have been a 1950s Orthodox (or at the very least) Conservative Jewish Housewife! Let’s review some key phrases & ideas:
*Deep and abiding pleasure; pride. I wanna be proud. I want some pleasure.
*Husband! One of those might be fun for a while.
*Merrymaking: Um, guaranteed annual merrymaking? I’m in.
*Guaranteed planning? Woo hoo! I’m a girl who likes to plan.
Of course this particular revelation puts me in a bit of a quandary. Not the obvious predicament of only being a quasi-jew and loving all pork products equally, but rather the added stress of knowing I missed my calling. I mean it’s one thing to not have a job but it’s a whole other to know that I was only a couple of Matzoh Balls shy of having it all.
At the very least, I can provide the Knish recipe.