She would fold a towel and place it on the window sill, pull over a chair and then peer out the window. High above the Grand Concourse, she looked down and watched what was happening on the streets below. That was how my mother spent her afternoons once her chores were completed and before we sat down to dinner. She looked peaceful and happy in that position and looking back, I now realize that it allowed her to be alone without feeling lonely. After a while, she would end up in the kitchen, making dinner and baking cookies.
Our family is very good at enjoying periods of quiet and inactivity, although some of us prefer company even in our quiet moments. This past Friday after attending an early morning Bris, followed by a day of work, I came home to an afternoon where I was completely free to do as I please. It was a beautiful day and in spite of a week where the news was filled with tragedies, nothing is more life affirming than being around a newborn. With another Bris to look forward to, plus a graduation, two wedding showers, five weddings, and two Sheva Brachot, life is sweet. So, after sitting in my yard and looking out at my garden, now in full bloom, I went into my kitchen and baked cookies. Almond cookies, crunchy and sweet, my mother would have loved them.
This recipe was given to me by a friend with very little instruction. It took no time to make, nice when you are in rush and even nicer when you have the time to enjoy one freshly baked, in your yard with a cup of coffee.
3 cups sliced almonds
3 egg whites
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place parchment paper on two cookie sheets. Mix ingredients well, it is a loose batter, and spoon onto the cookie sheet. You need to keep mixing the mixture in between spooning. Bake till golden brown, about thirty minutes. Allow to cool completely. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.
I just finished reading Russ & Daughters
, a memoir written by Mark Russ Federman, now retired owner of my favorite appetizing store in NYC. It made me think about Pesach which we spent with our children and family on the East Coast. This year felt different, with everyone helping, all in their own way of course, there was a rhythm and ease that I had not felt before. Some shopped, some cooked, some did prep work, some set, some supervised, and some even cleaned. In his book Mark Federman talked about family and how important it is to rely on them when you need them to step up, and how that not only requires the patience to teach, but the ability to let go. Getting ready for Pesach is like running a small family business and I can only say that by the time I left, I felt that while they already knew exactly how to run a Seder, this time they learned what it takes to prepare for one.
My own memories of Pesach include scenes of my mother and Tanta Marisha, cooking together in my aunt’s kitchen. I loved watching them, it made it so much nicer that they had each had a kitchen companion, not to mention just having another person to ask if the soup is too salty or help decide if you really need another kugel.
Over the course of two days leading up to Yontif, we prepared for 28 guests. We had more kitchen companions than I can mention, but each one made a significant contribution, and although they were not technically all family members, they acted and felt like family. I was thrilled to be a part of it, but the best part is knowing how well-prepared the next generation is to tell the story, carry on the traditions, and even make the brisket. Letting go? I guess next year Kitniyot may appear on the menu. I look forward to finding out.
Note: I changed this recipe slightly by adding a rub that I massaged into the brisket the day before cooking it, two days before the Seder.
1- 10 pound brisket, both first and second cut.
10 cloves garlic
2 tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
1 Tb paprika
2 Tb olive oil
Mix ingredients and “massage” into brisket. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
5 large brown onions, thinly sliced.
2 cups good quality Cabernet
2 cups Ketchup
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place brisket in a large roasting pan and cover with sliced onions. Combine wine with ketchup and pour on top. Cover and bake at 325 till tender. About 6 hours. Slice cold and reheat. Served 20 when cut with an electric knife!