Eggs and Kittens

#1, from my beloved Aunt Judy

Why do the French only eat one egg at a meal?
It is un oeuf!

 #2, from my Grandpa Abe of beloved memory

Maman  told her three kittens, Un, Deux and Trois,
“Stay away from the pond! The water is deep.” 
But the little kitttens did not listen to their Maman.
So Un, Duex, Trois quatre cinc! (got sank)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse

A friend called and raved about this book. “It’s about a little boy who meets three animals friends. He has many questions about life and they answer them. It’s simple. It’s profound. You’ve heard this wisdom before but…..” She read me some of the text. Yes. The statements were simple, profound and heard-before.

Trusting in my friend’s enthusiasm, I went online to order the book. It was sold out everywhere and I never got around to trying again. Then last week, another friend came by for a walk. She had with her a present for me. I unwrapped the gift and whooped. One friend tipped me off; another friend gave it to me. Something was afoot.

I waited until before bed that evening to enjoy it. The cover text is gold. The drawings of the four friends are spare yet powerful. The illustrations have a misleading sense having been quickly scribbled. They are anything but. The book’s front and back inside covers are printed with a composition — four staffs of music through which the four friends run, glide, and rest. I sat down to play, imagining boy, mole, fox and horse tripping through Mackesy’s ink-rendered world.

The boy’s questions draw LIfe’s truths from his new friends. Many of their answers are familiar, yet no less important for their familiarity. In my younger years I mightn’t have understood, “One of our greatest freedoms is how we react to things.” Toward the end of their journey, having delved into courage vulnerability, love, and kindness, the boy begins to share wisdom of his own.

If you can order this beautiful book, go for it. Or, wait until a dear friend raves to you about it and another gifts you with it.

Bon Appetit!

My step-mom is a fabulous cook. We visited recently and in addition to returning home with a very happy tummy, I am sharing below three great recipes that I used to make our first Shabbat dinner with friends since last year. Serendipitously, the beet soup matched the table settings, making the meal a feast for the eyes as well as body and soul. The Texas Caviar and the Beet Gazpacho are from my step-mom Lynn Berkowitz.

The menu:
Texas Caviar
Beet Gazpacho
Baked Tilapia with Spinach Pecan Pesto
Steamed broccoli
Trader Joe’s Dairy Free Chocolate Ice Cream
Ginger Snaps

Beet Gazpacho
5 medium fresh beets
(2 pounds w/o tops)
(Better idea is to use Trader Joe’s ready-cooked beets)
2 cups chicken or veggie stock (I used veggie)
16 ounces sour cream (I used Fage yogurt)
1/2 cup plain yogurt (ditto)
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp champagne vinegar (I used red wine vinegar)
1 Tbsp Kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 cup medium dice English cucumber with seeds
scooped out.
1/2 cup chopped scallions, green and white parts
2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill with extra for serving

If you’re not using Trader Joe’s beets, place fresh beets in large pot of boiling waterand cool uncovered for 30 – 40 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside to cool. Strain cooking liquid through fine sieve and also set aside to cool. If you’re using Trader Joe’s beets, you won’t have much liquid so add more of your stock to make the full 1 1/2 cups.

In a large bowl, whisk together 1 1/2 cups of the beet cooking liquid (or less beet liquid and your stock), the veggie/chickent stock, yogurt, sugar, lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper.

Peel the cooled beets with a small paring life or rub the skin off with your hands. Cut the beets in a small to medium dice. (Or use a Vidalia Chop Wizard™ and be done easy peasy.)

Add the beets, cucumber, scallions and dill to the soup. Cover and chill for four hours or over night. Season to taste and serve with dollop of yogurt and an extra sprig of fresh dill.

This soup is so refreshing, I could eat it every day. And besides, what other pink food can you eat that is this healthy?

Texas Caviar
2 cans black-eyed peas
1 can white shoe peg corn, drained
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped (I used red)
1/2 cup olive oil (less is OK)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar (I used a bit more)
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro (I despise cilantro. Didn’t use.)
2 Tbsp French’s honey mustard
1 tsp each salt and pepper
dash cayenne petter

Mix all ingredients and marinate in fridge 4 hours or overnight.
Lasts 1 week.
Serve with Frito Scoops. (I ditched the chips and served this as our salad.)

Cranbrook Spring

Cranbrook. One word, six marvels. Formally known as the Cranbrook Educational Community, the CEC consists of a graduate Academy of Art, a contemporary Art Museum, an historic House and Gardens, a natural history museum and Pre-K through 12 independent college preparatory schools .In August 1989, Cranbrook became a National Historic Landmark, America’s highest designation for a place of outstanding historical significance. To walk these grounds is to experience the vision of apogee of human potential.

This week, I share with you Martin’s latest image from the gardens just behind Cranbrook House. If you live anywhere in Southeast Michigan and haven’t been here, what are you waiting for? If you live farther away, put it on your list. Let me know you’re visiting and I’ll come with you!

Photo courtesy of Martin Darvick

Shtissel, Chaim Potok, and Me

My husband and I are finally watching the long-awaited third season of Shtissel, an Israeli TV series about an ultra-Orthodox Jewish family living in Jerusalem. It’s a world most of us have never encountered. Although once you’re hooked, and you will be, trust me, the family’s trials and triumphs are universal. Shtissel is an artist, a painter. In his community that’s well-nigh verboten. Graven images and all that. This is a community where the men are expected to devote themselves to studying and living God’s Torah. Painting? Anathema. Nevertheless Shtissel walks the difficult middle path between two worlds.

My husband and I were talking about Shtissel’s dilemma which made me think of Chaim Potok’s novel, My Name is Asher Lev. The eponymous Asher Lev is a struggling artist. Like Shtissel, he is caught between his community’s expectations and his determination to answer his soul’s call to paint. Thinking of Potok’s novels reminding me of the days I worked as the receptionist for Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. which at the time was coming out with Potok’s book Wanderings, A History of the Jews.

Not all of Knopf’s authors noticed the receptionist as anything but a lowly cog in the finely-assembled publishing house. But Chaim Potok took notice. He was always kind, always patient. He had       a gentle smile and a gentle manner. I was over-the-moon starstruck to meet the author of the novels I had devoured in high school. Our paths crossed twice more. In 1998 the author’s short story collection, Zebra and Other Stories, had just come out. I took my son, then 14, to hear and meet Potok at our Barnes and Noble. After his book talk, he was every bit as gracious to us as he autographed his book and chatted with us for a minute or two.

A year or so later I took a chance and wrote the author, asking him to consider writing a blurb for my book This Jewish Life. I knew it was a long shot and indeed he demurred. I still have his letter a reminder of a gentle man who cared as much about Jewish life and art as he did about treating his publisher’s receptionist with dignity and kindness.

Photo of Chaim Potok by Monozigote is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.
Photo of Debra Darvick courtesy of Martin Darvick.