Last week my son and daughter-in-law traveled to Toronto to visit my in-laws, Bubbie and Zaidie. During their visit they went to see an exhibit on the great Cantors of Toronto. One of the Cantors featured was my husband’s grandfather Harry Saiger. I can only imagine how touched my father-in-law was knowing that his grandson and wife were going to view the collection but unfortunately it was no longer on display. The woman in the synagogue was kind enough to give them the photo and biography that had been part of the exhibit and so we too were able to see it.
The elegant photo of Harry Saiger shows him dressed in the dramatic black Cantor’s hat and Tallis. I stared at it looking for a trace of his features in my children. I thought about his journey to Canada as a young man, not knowing what his future held. Harry settled in Toronto, met and married Manya, had five children, and became an accomplished carpenter as well as a Cantor. I don’t know much else about them (coincidently they shared the same names as my parents, Manya and Harry) but I can imagine that as a cantor he would have been thrilled to know that three generations later his great-grandson became a Rabbi.
I look for those connections because it ties us to our past and keeps our family history alive. I feel the same way about food. Preserving the recipes that were handed down from generation to generation and, yes, though we may tempted to update them to our more modern tastes, there is something to be said for preserving the originals, like the photos displayed in the exhibit.
I don’t know what my husband was served on those Shabbat afternoons when he would go visit his Zaidie and Bubie Manya after shul but I imagine that lunch may have included something like Kasha because he seems to love it so much.
Kasha and Mushrooms
1 cup whole Kasha (Buckwheat Groats)
2 cups chicken stock
2 large onions
1/2 pound brown mushrooms, sliced
6 oz. bowtie noodles (optional)
2 Tb canola oil
Heat oil in deep sided frying pan and sauté onions till caramelized. Be patient because this imparts a lot of the flavor to the dish and can take 20-30 minutes before the onions are the right color. Add sliced mushrooms to onions and sauté for an additional 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove mixture to a bowl. Beat the egg in a small bowl and add Kasha, stirring till grain is completely coated. Wipe the pan clean and then add egg-coated Kasha. Saute for several minutes over low flame till grains separate. Add hot chicken stock, reduce flame to simmer, cover pan and cook till Kasha is tender, about 10 minutes. Do not overcook or Kasha will turn into mush. Add onions and mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and serve. If you want Kasha Varnishkes, then add cooked bowtie noodles to dish. Serves 4