Mine is a family that enjoys and appreciates eating and especially, good food. In my various roles: wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, teacher, and freelance writer, food is a common theme. I’ve got a lot of food stories. Cooking for my family and friends, and hosting family gatherings and celebrations is my favorite way to express my love.
Here are some important details that keep things interesting: I keep kosher; I am a vegan; I follow a gluten free diet. My family and friends encouraged me to create this blog as a place to share the recipes I am either dreaming up, experimenting with, or having perfected, probably making for Shabbos. I hope you’ll enjoy the recipes I share and look forward to hearing from you.
Please feel free to reinvent what you read on my blog, as my recipes are user-friendly, meaning they’re easy to make, in most cases, without a ton of ingredients or too many steps to follow. You have the option of making something sweeter if you want, or deleting the salt if that’s better for your health, and the list of options can guide you to best individualize to suit your needs.
So many of my fondest childhood memories involved food. We sat around the dinner table, sometimes for hours, two or three generations of family members and friends. Eating, talking, laughing, recapping great meals eaten and planning the next. People were always stopping over, joining us for meals. Food united us, nourishing our bodies and our hearts.
Eating was very much a shared experience. I learned to cook by helping my mother, who recently passed away and seems, at times, to be looking over my shoulder oohing and aahing, kvelling about whatever’s going on in my life. My other great influence in the kitchen was Bubby. Both were excellent cooks. From watching them, I learned to make all the standard Jewish repertoire, along with our family’s favorite American and Italian dishes, prepared entirely from scratch, along with some notable exceptions. Arriving in American from Russia as a little girl, my Bubby couldn’t get enough sliced white bread! Replacing the stale, hard, black bread of her early years must have been “a real mechaya”.
Bubby wasn’t the only one making progress. After my parents slowly let the sugary cereals in our cupboard run out without replacing them, my father introduced yogurt, wheat germ, and honey into our diet. My siblings and I were too young and much too disorganized to mutiny, but because our friends’ parents continued to buy Cap’n Crunch and Trix, we managed to survive! My decision to became a vegetarian in the 70’s, was greatly enhanced by the abundant crop of vegetables we grew and my parent’s willingness to adapt to my new lifestyle.
What does cutting edge really mean when it comes to food? Our home was often the setting for many taste testings of new food products handled by my mother’s marketing research company. Her always changing quotas meant that some pretty unusual things were requested of us. With the advent of hot dog and hamburger relish coming onto the market, we were instructed, Bring home ten friends who eat hot dogs-just so they could try yellow and red tinted relish on saltine crackers in our kitchen. As people were getting away from home cooked breakfast foods, we got our marching orders: bring home five friends who eat breakfast. Toaster strudel pastry, another new concept, meant another new food for our neighbors to survey. I learned, from watching my mother in action, how to ask probing questions to identify the specific things people liked or didn’t in any given product or idea. This is an incredibly useful tool I use all the time to understand other peoples’ perspectives.
The way I’m able to cook today is a result of adapting food to suit my dietary requirements and staying attuned to what is pleasing. In the 80’s my parents made more drastic changes to their diet because my father had heart disease. Following the Pritikin Diet, a forerunner to so many of today’s popular heart-healthy eating plans, meant that animal protein was no longer the star of every dinner plate, and they were more open to trying the macrobiotic recipes I tinkered with, on occasion.
Although I have not been a vegetarian since first starting, I have gone back to it countless times. Nothing moral or ethical with me and meat, I just don’t like the stuff. Eric’s confusion at dinnertime when we were first married was written all over his face. What’s the main course? he’d ask, craning his neck to see if there were cutlets on the stove that I’d soon bring to the table. But he caught on quickly to the idea that the baked potato was the main course; the broccoli and cottage cheese were meant to be stuffed inside. In time, he embraced a healthier lifestyle and seemed totally comfortable with animal products being reserved for Shabbos and Yuntif.
Several years ago, a cardiologist I’d visited recommended a vegan diet, not because I’d asked about it or indicated any moral or ethical leanings, but because it was that doctor’s opinion that I would decrease the risk of dying of heart disease as my father, ‘obm, did at the age of 60. Scary. So I was a vegan for exactly nine months, and noticed two things: I spent almost all my time cooking. The other was the feeling that I was constantly hungry. No matter how much I ate, I was always hungry again a short time later. My cravings took me back, and I ditched being a vegan and resumed meat eating for a time. I tried it again for another six months, and then ate a hot dog. Disgusting, I know, but it was so salty and crunchy. Hard to resist. And now, I am a vegan for the third time, and loving it.
It’s hard to describe, but I feel like I ate enough meat to satisfy me for a lifetime. And wheat does not agree with me. I gave up sugar and flour a long time ago. Before finding out I had a genetic marker for celiac, I’d already been able to pinpoint that wheat in any form or amount was the culprit that made my fibromyalgia pain worse; wheat was a harbinger to the migraine and sinus headaches I used to constantly experience; wheat, as much as I say that I love it, made my stomach all tied up in knots. So why would I eat wheat if this was the reaction I could expect? I’ll tell you why-because I love bread, pizza, crackers, and cookies.
Luckily, I’ve been able to put my time and energies into creating versions of the kinds of delicious foods I love, so I feel deprived of nothing, and love what I eat. Not every meal is a masterpiece, and the ordinary stuff is delicious and satisfying, as well. Like everyone else who is the family chef, sometimes I don’t have time or interest in cooking. Sometimes I just want a bowl of corn flakes and almond milk for dinner, or one of the really good commercially prepared veggie burgers on a gluten free bun. But I really enjoy creating new and interesting meals and am eager to share them in case they can help someone who like me, doesn’t eat meat or wheat, is kosher, or any of the above.
As it turned out, I’ve shared many of these foods with people who are neither kosher, vegan, or follow a gluten free diet, and they found them delicious. I’ve found this very encouraging, that people with absolutely no restrictions regarding what they can eat, unlike me, enjoy and want to eat what I’m eating. So please enjoy the recipes I post, and be sure to email me with your comments and suggestions as I’m always eager to learn new things as I continue my journey with food. Lori