Sunday, 16 September 2012

Rosh Hashana 5773: Dill Pickles...a story unfinished

Shana Tova: hoto source -

So here I am, in the wee hours of the morning, perusing the cookbooks and floating down memory lane.

I am looking for another, new matriarch recipe to add to our Rosh Hashana meal and introduce to the family tomorrow night.

The kids are asleep - Becca with a fever and cold (just in time for Rosh Hashana) - and just I discovered yet another dill pickle recipe in Mom's cookbook!  So I pulled it out, and with it came a slew of papers, little slips of paper some with writing and notes, others were store receipts with notes on them.  They are a record of Mom's pickling years - she tracked everything!  The quantities of everything she bought (cukes, tomatoes, dill, spices & salt, vinegar, garlic, lids), the cost and the yield.   There are even dates!!

One of two sets of Mom's pickling records

The Yomim Tovim (Jewish holidays) are especially difficult for me (as I am sure they are for Davie and Dad too).  It was a time that I spent with my mother - whether I wanted to or not! - reviewing menus and deliberating quantities, helping set tables, preparing the occasional dish, and mostly just spend time with my mom.  I loved the smells of her kitchen during the holidays, and that is probably what drives me to cook for hours on end, until my arthritic feet ache so badly I can barely stand...knowing that my children are experiencing the same haymishe (friendly) household that I did.  Really - there is no greater satisfaction for me than when they all come into the kitchen excitedly sniffing the air, guessing at what I am preparing.

Every Rosh Hashana, Chanuka and Passover I find myself reaching for the phone to call my mother and review my menu.  To update her on my progress, and boast of yet another dish I've completed for the festive meal.  But those days are gone, and the best I can hope for is that she is sufficiently alert to perhaps hear and process what I am saying when I visit...then I may see a smile and a twinkle in her eye.

And so, it is a sweet surprise for me to discover these notes, telling me so much in what appears to be nothing.

  • That my memory is clear, she DID make tons of jars every year - 262 quarts in 1976(!), but on average she made 75 quarts a year. 
  • That she always made them in the middle of August - except for the year Carlo and I married (1995), when she waited until late September.  
  • That she was a more diligent record keeper than I realized, albeit on the fly and on scraps of paper (THAT I knew!).  
  • That the last time she made them was August 11th, 1996 - 16 years ago...

In my mind, and my heart, I believe that this was a message I was meant to receive today, on the eve of Rosh Hashana 5773 (2012).  I think my matriarchs are up there, watching over Mom, me and my girls, and they knew I needed some answers and inspiration.  The whole time I was making the pickles (2 weeks ago tomorrow) I was kicking my younger self for not having the foresight to realize that everything my mother told me was valuable, that I needed to listen carefully so I would have the information for the future, when I no longer had her to turn to.  And now I have some more information to go by - what quantities I really need to buy and when I should be making my pickles.  And I have another little piece of my mother to keep close and treasure.
The second set of records...{{sigh}}

Most of all, these little discoveries push me forward, to write more, blog more and share the stories and recipes with my one day, when I am no longer able to guide them, and remember, they will still have the treasured memories and flavours of my childhood and theirs.  Y

So,from my family to yours, I wish all those celebrating a happy, healthy and peaceful New Year, may 5773 be the best one yet for all of us.

Whatever you're cooking, may your Sunday be filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito and Shana Tova u Metuka!