Monday, 16 September 2013

One, Two, Three - Exhale...Happy Birthday Nonna!

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah....finally time to exhale.  The major holidays are over for another year.  I know that the Yomim Tovim continue for a couple of more weeks, but the entertaining is over for another few months.  Phew!

It's been so chaotic...every time I thought my plate was full, something else was piled on.

First we decide to list our house and get on the merry-go-round of never-ending house showings.  Who knew that 3 weeks could feel like 9?  Bravo to the familia for keeping the house spotless, darting out to facilitate showings on an hour's notice (no small feat for my wonderful hubby, who has a home office), and trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy through it all.

Then we returned from summer vacation, started a new year of classes, and 1 day later, celebrated Rosh Hashanah with a dinner for 13 here.  It was so nice to be together, with family.  As I looked around the room I thought of Mom, and how she`d have shepped nachas (drawn pleasure) from it all.

But it did not end there.  We had my mother-in-law's birthday celebrations that weekend, and I offered to make the cake.  Why?  Because I love my mother-in-law...I really do.

Losing my mother to Alzheimer`s Disease has been a slow and agonizing process for all of us.  We are witnessing a tragedy unfold in slow motion, and there is nothing we can do to stop it or to ease the pain.  No-one can ever replace my mother - no-one will have her smile, her sense of humour, her passion or her unfaltering love for her family.  When I realized that this was all lost to me, to us, I felt so alone.  The grieving process began, and the pain was overwhelming and debilitating...I felt like I was drowning in sorrow.  At the same time, my father and brother were lost in their own grief, and we could not help each other through it.  I have learned that this is one road you travel can ease your suffering, only time can heal that wound.

During this time, I found myself wanting to go to Carlo's parents' home more often.  When I was there I felt more at peace.  For a few hours I was nurtured and mothered.  Carlo's mom is a soft-spoken, loving woman.  We always got along well, from the first time I met her (when I was 20) and she greeted me with open arms and a welcoming hug.  But now it was different.  She just seemed to understand what I was going through, and instinctively stepped into a mothering role without trying to replace my mother.  All the while she would honour my mother, always asking for her, remembering happy stories about mom.  She loved me unconditionally, listened to me patiently, and helped me through the healing process.  She did the same with our daughters, who were reeling from the loss of their Bubbie.  I will be forever grateful to her, and I know that my mother would too, knowing that her Mechutainista (mother of your child's spouse) was stepping in to care for her girls where she was no longer able.

And so, you see, when I say I love my mother-in-law, I am not being trite...I really do.  I think of her as my second mother, and I wanted to do something nice for her, from the heart.  I wanted to make a cake that was pretty and tasty, that said "I love you".  I was planning on baking in the morning, and then heading downtown to a meeting at the Alzheimer's Society to enrol Mom in the iPod project, then to Mama B's for her birthday celebration.  As always, I wakened early.  I baked the vanilla cakes and the chocolate cupcakes, made the vanilla butter cream icing and the chocolate fudge icing, and got ready.  As I was finishing my morning routine the phone rang.  It was our Realtor, calling to see what I was doing that day.  My heart sunk...there was no way I  could leave the house for a showing before the cakes were frosted.  But it was not a booking request, an offer was coming in.  Fast forward past all the boring stuff...SOLD!

And what did I do during the "boring stuff"?  Frosted my cakes...seriously, I did.

As Carlo pointed out to me, there are so many stories to come about the new house and more importantly, the new kitchen!  Oh, how Mama would have loved this adventure we're embarking on.  She would have loved the house - it has so many little reminders of her homes in it...from the swinging door connecting the kitchen and dining room, to the double ovens, to the decks...

So, I apologize for My Mother's Treasure halting to a virtual standstill, but life is even more hectic than usual, and it doesn't look like it will slow down any time soon.  I will try to be more consistent though, sharing some new recipes and keeping you up-to-date on all the exciting events to come over the next few months.

Until next time, I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Plum Apple Kiggel and a 'Yontiff' message from Bubbie Lou

It's that time of year again...the hustle and bustle of back-to-school is upon us.  Believe me, we are ready to welcome routine structure back into our lives.  Usually, this one change keeps us on our toes.

This year, however, we have added additional pressures to the mix - Yom Tov (Jewish holy days, in this case Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year) falls very early - Erev Rosh Hashanah (eve of the holiday) fell on Wednesday September 4th!  And, if that weren't enough, we listed our home for sale, so it needs to be pristine and clean at all times (tough to do when flour is flying in the kitchen and I am preparing a dinner for 13!

So, I left my cooking to the very last minute, because there just hasn't been time to prepare the food - we've been out of the house to facilitate showings - a lot!

On Sunday, Becca and I went to Sobey's to pick up the brisket, chicken and fish for Wednesday night.  I am hopeless when it comes to choosing meat, and it is at these moments that I really wish I had paid more attention to Mama when she tried to teach me.  She loved her meat, and prepared it beautifully.  I, on the other hand, always preferred the veggies, and ignored her words of wisdom.  Today, I pay the price for my short-sightedness.   Thank goodness for my patient butcher Danny - who helps me choose the right meat every holiday.

Note to self:  remember that the brisket should always be boneless, and a single brisket is fattier and more flavourful than a double.

I look back on my holiday posts from earlier years, and recall the sadness that permeated the holidays...and I think to myself, in the words my Mom used to always say "we've come a long way baby".  The pain and profound sense of loss were so raw that I could not hold back the tears.  It's been 7 years since Mama was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, and more than a year since she stopped actively chatting and walking.  I miss her so much it hurts...but, life goes on.

As I have said before, I see now that Mom prepared me well for life without her, and I am now comfortable in, and accepting of my role as matriarch of this family.  I embrace the traditions, and recognize that it is only through me that the Matriarchs' legacy will continue.   This is my birthright, and I will happily assume the responsibility that comes with it, as my mother and grandmothers did before me.

I cooked up a smaller storm this year, given that I was limited in my time and couldn't have too many cooking smells wafting through the house should showings pop up before Yom Tov.  But we still had a variety of family favourites (click here for the link to my menu), and I was determined to add a new recipe or two to the mix.

I find that when I am lonely for Mom, I peruse her recipes, and find something to try, which invariably brings me comfort.  This time I made her Plum Apple Kiggel.  The recipe is written in Bubbie Lou's handwriting and, true to form, she writes a little note at the bottom - which I just discovered when writing this post: "Very simple and a terrific dessert for a Yontiff Dinner!!".

Sometimes I think that the Matriarchs really are watching over me, and bring me these signs when I need them most.  Oh Bubbie Lou - thank you for this one!

Whatever you are having and wherever you are celebrating, I wish everyone a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous 5774, filled with family, fun. friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon, Buon Appetito and Shana Tova u Metukah!

Bubbie Lou's Plum Apple Kiggel


  • 3 eggs
  • ¾C sugar
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1C flour 
  • 1½ tsp baking powder
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 4 or 5 green apples (peeled and cut into smaller pieces (not too small)
  • ½C to 1C of dark raisins (rinsed, patted dry and coated in a little flour so they don't sink)
  • 3C plums (cut in half, make sure they are a drier plum (ie Italian plums), otherwise kiggel is too moist)
  • 3 egg whites (beaten stiff)
Method:Preheat oven to 300˚.  Mix the ingredients in the order listed above, up to the lemon juice.  Make sure to combine the baking powder and flour before adding to the egg/sugar/oil mixture.  Add apple pieces, then raisins, then plums, then stiffly beaten egg whites.    Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes to 1½ hours.