They came to America on the S.S. Argentina, sailing out of Genoa, Italy, in 1952, my parents and sister, five-year old Anie. My sister said our mother spent the entire trip in their cabin below deck, fighting seasickness. Anie spent the days running around having fun, following our father who apparently spent most of the trip in the company of an Italian man. Once they docked, they went to Ellis Island for medical examinations, after which my sister and my mother were placed in quarantine for a day or two.
Anie soon became Anita, Henri became Harry, and Marie became Miriam.
Harry found work as a tailor, Anita was enrolled in Kindergarten, and Miriam stayed home and took care of her family. By the time I was born three years later, they had settled in, for the most part. Harry was back to Hersch, Miriam was Manya and Anita was Anita. They had all learned to speak English, my sister had shed her Parisian roots, my mother had a drawer filled with slim, decorated boxes, that when opened, revealed various shades of delicate silk stockings, and my father’s shirts were sent to the dry cleaners. Just like everyone else, we watched Ed Sullivan.
They were participants in the melting pot. Eventually, my father left the world of tailoring and became a stock broker, my mother wore pencil skirts and even tried smoking for a brief time. Anita straightened her hair and dated boys who smoked pipes. Despite all of their efforts, I knew that we weren’t “real” Americans.
This year, Thanksgiving and Chanukkah are coinciding and I couldn’t imagine a more suitable pairing. One holiday celebrating freedom and the other, victory. I am sure that when our small family of three reached the shores of New York, they felt that they had achieved both freedom and victory in a way that they had never dreamed possible just a few years earlier. They navigated this new world, and somehow managed to find the perfect balance. They were Americans on the outside, in ways they found palatable, like how they dressed, or attending Thanksgiving dinners, but we were Jews first and foremost.
This Thanksgiving, we will serve latkes instead of stuffing, and apple sauce alongside cranberry sauce. Turkey will still be the main but I am considering adding a pot roast or brisket. Sufganiyot will be paired with mulled cider, and little kugels might be served as well, disguised as muffins. Hopefully we will strike the right balance, and be richer for it.
Savory Zucchini-Mushroom Muffins
6 medium zucchini, shredded or coarsely chopped in food processor.
6 large mushrooms, chopped
3 large brown onions, finely chopped, in processor
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp salt
1 Tb finely ground black pepper (or less depending on preference)
Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Make sure there are no dry spots left in the mixture. Grease your muffin tins with canola oil and place them in the oven to heat for several minutes. Remove from oven and spoon mixture into tins. Bake for about an hour or until muffins are golden brown. Or bake in large roasting pans for a more traditional looking kugel. This made one large round kugel and 12 muffins. Serves 10 -12
Note: I think you can substitute almost any vegetable and this would work. Chopped broccoli, small diced eggplant, shredded carrots, etc.