It feels weird to be back. I have been gone for ONE month, and it seems like everything is different. For years, my mother has been telling me and my three siblings that family is the most important thing. And now I fully see how true that is. For the majority of my trip, I didn’t even communicate with my friends at home because I was so busy cooking, looking at pictures, and hearing stories. I went days without even looking at my phone. It didn’t matter because I had the most important people in my life around me for the duration of my trip. Who you are related to will never change, and although we all may sometimes wish it did, it means the most to understand and appreciate what everyone has done in their lives and what they do for you. Each family member has a different story, different struggles, and a different outlook on how to be a better person.
I know I said I would update you when I got to New Orleans, but I have been busy and exhausted since my arrival here on Tuesday. We have been exchanging stories with my mom’s cousin, Robyn and her kids, Beth and Jen. Although Robyn didn’t grow up here, Beth and Jen did so I thought it was also important to try some of their favorite, native foods. Robyn isn’t much of a cook; when she was living with my mom when they were in college, she was boiling eggs and forgot about them. The water evaporated, and the eggs went flying, smashing into the ceiling. Robyn has become a better cook since then, but she wants to learn Momma Bubb and my mother’s recipes. That reminds me… here is Momma Bubb’s brisket that my mother and I made with Aunt Billie when we were in Miami.
I had never made brisket by baking it either, so it was interesting to know how much easier it was to make this way and to see how well it turned out. I think I will stick to making my brisket on the stove though, because you cannot cut out all the fat if you are baking it. And I hate fat. On a side note, I found out that Bob, Robyns husband makes brisket is a Crock Pot. Anyways, I also told you that I was going to be making tzimmes. Tzimmes is like sweet matzah balls with candied carrots. When I told Robyn’s family about it, they cringed at the thought of it. But it was delicious!
The tzimmes, like the brisket was also Momma Bubb’s recipe. We looked at pictures of Momma Bubb and Daddy Bubb, and even found a picture of their wedding at Aunt Billie’s house.
It was crazy to see all these people who I never have and never will meet. It pains me that I never was able to meet Uncle Fred, Aunt Billie’s husband before he passed away over the summer.
It really made me glad I was doing this project now, and that it isn’t too late to start caring about this. In fact, my mom and I are trying to make plans to go see my other second cousin, Briahn at her Bat Mitzvah in June. She is Aunt Billie’s granddaughter, and I think it will open me up to a lot of my other family who I have never met before.
Anyways, since I have been in New Orleans, my mom taught Robyn how to make chicken pot pie, one of her specialties. It turned out delicious, as I would expect despite the fact that we made SIX pot pies at once. If you are not a cook, multiplying a recipe by six is a little risky.
And we were able to make Momma Bubb’s potato kugel! No one, with the exception of Momma Bubb has been able to make it before. She uses words like keep adding whatever until it feels “right.” And for once, with the addition of another egg, it was able to come out just the way she made it!
We are going to continue to teach all them these recipes, and get the few recipes Robyn does have to put into my cookbook. Robyn and Bob have been living in New Orleans for over thirty years- the food here a big part of their life. And I need to make sure it is included in my cookbook! This might be my last post until I get home on Monday to reflect upon my trip. So have a nice weekend despite any horrible weather…. I know its pouring here right now, but at least I have a cup of coffee and the brisket aroma to keep me warm today.
The last time I left you, I was still in State College. The last couple of days I was there I was trying to talk to Mama Trudy about her childhood. That was a little bit of a failure; All she told me was that her father was an engineer and he lost a lot of property during The Depression. It was a little disappointing, but my mother told me that she had a very traumatic childhood. Mama Trudy’s mother passed away when she was 4 years old, leaving her father to raise nine children on his own. My mother said that her older siblings used to tell stories, but now a lot of them aren’t around to say them.
As we sprinted through the cooking this week, the past few days have been pretty mellow. My brother and mom had to drive out to Pittsburgh today for his follow-up doctor appointment. If you don’t know, that is about 2 and a half or 3 hours each way. That also meant I was fully responsible for the puppies today. Yesterday, we made chocolate chocolate cheesecake and my Mama Trudy’s brisket.
And in case you were curious, the Fader on Wednesday went really well. If you didn’t read my last blog, a Fader is a Fake Seder, a term I made up. It was quite delicious. And the dessert platter was beautiful.
I managed to finish the rest of the Petites Four Squares (because they are just beyond delicious), and we are thinking of repeating some of the recipes soon. This would definitely be one of them. On another note, tonight we are having chicken with my Mama Trudy’s stuffing and even more matzoh ball soup. She accidentally dropped all the leftover soup earlier today, but at least now I have a picture of it to show you!
I am going to try to talk to Mama Trudy about her family, but from what I have seen she is reluctant to talk in detail about her childhood. I will let you know how that goes. I have so far learned that her father was an engineer, but my mom gave me a signal to stop asking questions soon after. I have been taking a lot of pictures of photos of family members when they were young and/or alive. I am getting all the anecdotes to make a perfect cookbook! I will let you know in a couple of days how it goes, since my mom and I are planning to leave Sunday, Monday at the latest.
When I last left you, I was about to cook strudel and stuffed cabbage, both which take awhile to make. The stuffed cabbage took awhile because you have to wrap the cabbage around the meat sauce, like so.And then it was carmelized in a pan and then put in a container with cabbage and sauerkraut. And then finally, homemade meat sauce was poured over to look like this.
The strudel, on the other hand, takes awhile because you have to make the dough the night before (but you have to do that with the potato knishes, the mocha tarts, and pretty much anything that needs dough). They also turned out delicious… especially the ones I made for myself which had less walnuts and more cinnamon sugar.
Then yesterday, we made the potato knishes, brisket, and chocolate covered matzah. Potato knishes are dough with an oniony mashed potato in the middle. I came up with the idea to put cheese in with the potatoes, and everyone thought that it definitely added a new dimension to the taste, so we made all four batches with it!
The chocolate covered matzah, on the contrary, is a very quick recipe. In fact, it is so quick that it is a process full of anxiety. You have to make the caramel to the right temperature, and then pour it over the matzah very quickly before putting it in the oven for 3 minutes. And then you have to take it out on time, and then pour chocolate over before putting it back in the oven for a minute. It is very easy to mess up, and we did in fact have to throw out the first batch because the caramel waited too long before having the chocolate added. My mom usually makes four to six batches of it, but we only made two this time. My mom has making this recipe since I was six, at the oldest. It is one of our Passover favorites.
We later cut this up to make a bite-size treat! The last thing we did yesterday was make the brisket, which we just finished today. My mom’s brisket is one of the most difficult things to make because, well there is no recipe. My mom created this dish when she was trying to make a Cajun brisket out of a cookbook. But it was so bitter that my mom added brown sugar, ketchup, and pretty much anything to sweeten it up. But she figured it out and now we have this brisket (which tastes different every time) but it is always delicious.
After that, you would think we would be extremely tired, but today we made matzah ball soup, mocha mini tarts, sour cream coffee cake, and cole slaw. The mocha mini tarts are almost like a souffle, and I am excited to try them for the first time!
And the matzah ball soup isn’t yet ready!
We are cooking up a storm to have a huge dinner tonight with all the food we have been making. I am calling it a “Fader,” but I guess you can use your own term for the fake Seder. We are going to have the conglomeration of all the food with my brother, Margo (my sister), my grandparents, my grandmother’s best friend, and my mother. But it sure seems like we have enough food for 30 people. I will let you know how it goes, but we are just going through the list of food we wanted to make at such a fast rate, we will definitely finish by the time my mom and I have to go to our next destination!
Due to a weather delay, my mother and I left Wednesday instead of Tuesday to visit my brother, Danny, in Pittsburgh. He had surgery on his meniscus at 4 am the following day. He currently has to keep his knee at 180 degrees, so I am the one to take care of his two 4 month-old puppies. He heard that he needed to get the surgery 4 days after he got the puppies. At least they are adorable.
On that Friday, I met my mom’s cousin Judy (Mama Trudy’s sister’s daughter). She will be sending her mother, Anne’s, potato kugel recipe and pictures soon! My mom, Danny, Pudge, Mojo, and I went to State College Saturday to see Mama Trudy and Papa Sam. Danny and his puppies will stay at their house until the end of the month when he will hopefully well enough to go back to Pittsburgh. I think he’s doing pretty well so far- I am just happy he has his puppies to keep him company.
When I got to State College that Saturday, I showed Mama Trudy, Papa Sam, and Aunt Renee (my mother’s older sister) my poems I wrote about Mama Trudy’s family a week or two ago. I have tried posting them here for over an hour but the website appears to just not want to have my poems.
And then after that, we made carrot soup. Here is a picture of Mama Trudy and I making it.
My mom has been raving about this chocolate dessert Mama Trudy would make all the time when she was little. Her and Renee would always eat them frozen because they were too impatient to let them defrost. We found the name Petites Four Squares, and made them too. After following each direction to the letter, it tasted exactly how my mother remembered it.
We also made “liver pâté,” but we all know it’s just chicken liver ground up with onions and garlic. That is not my favorite, but here is a picture of it anyways!
After that, Papa Sam made his Southern fried chicken. He learned how to make it when he was growing up in Saltville, VA. He hadn’t made it in over 50 years! Mama Trudy told me that he didn’t make it in so long because he would always make a mess, getting grease on the floor, the counter, and even the ceiling!
When we were done, Mama Trudy said that he was much neater making it. And it tasted delicious.
My mom and I are commencing our 4-week-long trip Tuesday. We start in Pittsburgh because my brother is having a huge surgery on his meniscus. My mom and I are going to take care of him and his puppies for a week to make sure he is okay. My mom and I will be cooking, and I will be taking pictures and recording the recipes the entire time. From Pittsburgh, we go to State College to see my grandparents, Mama Trudy and Papa Sam. Mama Trudy is one of nine, but a lot of her siblings are no longer with us, so it is important to get a lot of recipes and stories for her to make up for her entire side of the family. Continue reading “Update on my trip!”
For my senior project, I will be traveling with my mother to visit a few relatives (some of whom I have never met) to collect stories and recipes. In my family, our culture is the food. I am going to five locations: Pittsburgh, State College, Tampa, Miami, and New Orleans. I am going to cook with my mother, grandparents, aunts, and even second cousin. I want to learn more about my lineage and the recipes that come along with it. The recipes I am collecting are near and dear to my family, even if we weren’t the ones to create them. Some of the recipes have come to our knowledge through friends, mistakes, and other family members. No matter what, every recipe says a story; I will try to share them with you throughout the next several weeks. In the end, I hope to make an electronic cookbook that has the stories and recipes intertwined for all my family members.