Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Why did he come this time? Because my mouse's parameters were too wide. Who knew? And if I were the least bit technologically savvy I would have known that you can click into the computer and "set" the mouse for whatever parameters you want. In fact, I am always amazed at the wonderful things he finds living in my computer - all sorts of information - all kinds of goodies. Yes - who knew?
While he was here he tried to teach me to make a graph using Excel. No go! I was lost from the word go. So he clicked onto something else and tried to show me that - also no go. So - in the interest of both our sanities - he simply set up the graph I needed and filed it away in My Documents - and now, each time I need it there it is - ready to be filled in. See how lilttle it takes to make me happy these days?
While we're on the subject of my CM - he emailed me to say that my recollection of his cookie-baking adventure is a bit like Rashomon - remember Rashomon? - the same story told from several different points of view. Anyway - he remembers it differently - but essentially the same! And he says I can quote him, which I will - "You should know "derechagave" (by the way) among MY friends I am considered THE chef, but...cookies were familiar to me only as a consumer. You can quote me on this."
You should also know, "derechagave" - that among MY friends I am known as THE computer idiot. And you can quote me on that.
Sunday, November 26, 2006
GOBBLE GOBBLE - part III
And Thanksgiving was wonderful - fun and delicious and lots of work and if I never see my kitchen again for the rest of my life that's OK too - and I'm already planning next Thanksgiving!! Actually - I'm already planning my annual dinner for Marallyn's brother David who is coming in December - but that's another story.
So what was the menu you may well ask. Well - there was turkey "kamuvan" (of course), and chestnut stuffing (but as it wasn't stuffed inside the turkey I guess you'd call it dressing), and mashed white potatoes, and sweet potatoes and glazed carrots and pumpkin all whipped together, and gravy, and corn pudding, and sweet baby peas with shallots, and brussels sprouts sauteed with frizzled smoked turkey bits, and cranberry sauce and cranberry relish, and apple pie and pecan pie and wine and tea. All made by my little hands with the enormous help of Myra's little hands - she peeled almost two kilo of carrots and cleaned the turkeys of all the pin-feathers - no,
children - turkeys do not come cleaned here the way they do in the States - Israelis just look upon the pin-feathers as extra protein.
From the minute people walked into the house there was that special buzz that signals a special evening - everyone liked everyone else - the conversation sang all evening - I had a fabulous "ozeret" (helper) who is worth her weight in gold - people finally left at about 1:00 AM - and I finally got to bed at about 2:30.
And then on Friday there were five more people who came for leftovers - and tomorrow night there will be three more here for the rest of the leftovers of the leftovers. And that's it - from now on it's turkey salad, and turkey hash and turkey-vegetable soup.
And what happened to the lemon meringe pie? Funny you should ask. There were a few "fashlot" (mix-ups, mini-disasters) along the way. First of all - while the crusts for the pecan pie and apple pie were wonderful the crust for the lemon meringue pie fell apart. Just crumbled up and died. So, scratch the lemon meringue pie. I cut my left forefinger with a very sharp knife while slicing the turkey - not too bad. I burned the top of my left ring finger while putting something into the oven - not to worry - a ring will hide the scar. And a piece of hot potato jumped onto my wrist while I was putting the potatoes through the ricer - and so I now have a lovely burn. All not too bad, all things considered.
But the worst thing - or the funniest thing - happened on Friday evening. You have to remember - after cooking for two straight days I had guests on Thursday and got to bed at 2:30. I was up at 6:00 on Friday - ran to the hairdresser - met Myra for coffee in town - came back and ironed the tablecloth (I always iron my cloths before setting the table - I don't like cupboard-folds on the cloths) and set the table - got dinner ready - and then had guests again. We had another scintillating evening - and about midnight - I actually fell asleep at the table. Just for a second or two - but I fell asleep - can you imagine that? Luckily these people have been my friends for more than thirty years - so we all laughed about it - but was I ever embarrassed.
Actually the worst "fashla" (singular of fashlot) was that my dishwasher stopped working again - and it was filled with dirty dishes! So there I was again at 1:00 AM washing dishes.
And yesterday - yesterday I slept all day. And I do mean all day. I surfaced once or twice - and then back to sleep until this morning. And now I'm ready to go once again. But I'm not going anywhere - I'm waiting for the dishwasher repair man to show up. Hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
GOBBLE GOBBLE - part II
Did all my marketing except for the slices of smoked goose breast. Sliced goose breast you ask? Yes - to frizzle in the pan before I put the brussels sprouts in to saute. I used to use pancetta in the States but I keep kosher now - remember? Smoked goose breast seems to have disappeared from the deli counters for the moment - just when I need it. Like right before Shavuout a few years ago. Philadelphia Cream Cheese had just come onto the market here. Oh Joy. Oh Happiness. Now I can make New York Cheesecakes - I foolishly thought. After all, Shavuout is the holiday where you pig out (you should excuse the expression) on dairy products. Overnight the Philadelphia Cream Cheese disappeared from the shelves - not to be seen again for several months. My goose is really cooked now. (Ouch)
As you know - I was agonizing over my pie crusts. But synchronicity - or is it serendipity - stepped in and saved the day. On my way back from a wonderful concert last night I stopped off at the post office to pick up my mail - among which were two of my food magazines - GOURMET and SAVEUR. As I was leafing through GOURMET I read a letter-to-the-editor from some woman who said that she also had "piecrustophobia" but she used the recipe in the August issue (page 89) of GOURMET - and she now makes perfect pie crusts. Well - if she can do it so can I. So I got out my August issue - turned to page 89 - and I have just finished preparing the dough for four pie crusts. They're now in the fridge "resting" - see, I'm not the only one who has to rest after working hard. On Thrusday I'll roll them out - praying all the while - and hoping for the best.
I'm still trying to decide, however, between a pumpkin pie and a lemon meringue pie. I'll definitely do an apple pie and a pecan pie. I think I'll just sleep on it and decide later.
Now its back to the kitchen to clean up the mess I made doing the pie crusts. Then I'll make the cranberry sauce and the cranberry relish. (Because with all the preparations I also had a Board Meeting to attend today and my car had to go in for service - which is really a no-brainer as I lease my car and I always get a loaner so that I am never carless. But I am tired. ) Will let you know how my preparations are coming along. Tomorrow I have to.......oh forget it - you're probably just as busy as I am.
Monday, November 20, 2006
Anyway - as time went on I began to feel Israeli enough so that I could continue to carry on that wonderful American tradition - a holiday which transcends any religion, race and ethnicity - and is simply an excuse for friends and family to get together and eat and eat and eat.
So for the past several years I have gotten together essentially the same group of people and cooked my heart out to do the real thing. Of course, the "real thing" also includes making Cranberry Sauce and Cranberry Relish - except cranberries don't exist here other than in cans - and that just doesn't do it.
This year my friend, Rosaline, went to the States to visit her son and I asked her to bring back bags of fresh cranberries (Ocean Spray, of course - is there any other kind?) which come onto the market at the time she was there. And mission accompished - she brought back five bags of fresh cranberries. I was over the moon. See how little it takes to make me happy these days? And for only ten dollars!
Today - four days before the big day - begins my personal countdown to Thanksgiving. I've written out my menu - my shopping list - and my "things to do" list - even my lists have lists. Have already ordered my turkeys - yes turkeys in the plural since we can't get a nice healthy 25 pound turkey here - only 6 to 7 kilo ones - somewhere between 13 to 15 pounds each and that just won't do as one has to have leftovers and enough for doggie bags. And if you have the kind of friends I have - who know they are always welcome at my house - well, some friends I invited for Thursday can't make it but informed me that they were available to come Friday for leftovers! Which is why I need two turkeys.
I'm really a very good cook - and not a bad baker - but my nemesis is pie crusts. And for dessert for Thanksgiving you have to have pies. Apple pie and pecan pie and pumpkin pie (which nobody ever eats) and lemon meringue pie. Which all call for pie crusts. I do a great apple crisp - no crust. And a great cheese cake - a graham-cracker crust. But the other pies? I'd sooner break a nail. (tfu, tfu, tfu) My friend, Marallyn, contends that Jewish girls don't do pies - we do honey cakes, yeast cakes, chocolate cakes - anything that doesn't have a crust.
My fabulous friends have all offered to make the pies for me. But as I keep kosher at home (don't even ask - my house is kosher but my stomach isn't, if that makes any sense to you) and most of my friends don't keep kosher and the only friend who keeps kosher who will be here on The Night, the aforementioned Marallyn, doesn't bake anything requiring a crust - I'm on my own. So today I'm going to take the bull by the horns - so to speak - and make the pie crusts - my first step on the road to The Dinner. Wish me luck.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
TURN ABOUT IS FAIR PLAY
I always feel such an idiot - the solutions are so obvious - why didn't I see them? He never makes me feel an idiot - he makes me feel that it's just an area in which I don't excel. Smart boy.
So - a few weeks ago Elad moved into a new flat with his new girlfriend. (Absolutely darling - the girlfriend.... the flat I don't know about.) And this flat has a real oven - not the toaster-oven he's been cooking with all this time. Derechagave (by the way) - did I tell you that Elad is a real cookie maven? He simply cannot begin to work on my computer unless he has something to drink and a plate of my home made cookies in front of him.
He decided - as long as he has a real oven - that he wanted to bake cookies. As part of my lesson
he told me to send him an attachment with a cookie recipe. Yes - I'm finally able to send an attachment. Simple, you say. Simple for you - difficult for me.
Then came the phone calls - "How much is in a cup"? Simple - a cup is eight ounces. "How big is a cup? A teacup? A coffee cup?" No - a measuring cup - but a measuring cup for dry ingredients. Aha - but here we use milligrams or millilitres or kilograms - not American cups, or pounds or ounces. So I did the conversion for him.
Then came another phone call - "What's do you mean when you say bake at 350 degrees?" Again "Aha" - here we use celsius (centigrade) not farenheit - so again I did the conversion and told him it was 180 degrees celsius. (The British use the term "gas mark 5" instead of degrees - but that's another problem just to make life exciting when you are trying to convert recipes.)
A third phone call - he has no vanilla essence but he has vanilla beans - can he use them? Of course, I said - and told him what to do - including putting the empty pod into a jar of sugar so that he will then have vanilla sugar.
And a fourth phone call - "The cookies aren't hard." Right, I said - that's why they're called Chewy Oatmeal Cookies - they're not meant to be hard.
And that's when the lightbulb went on - we each have our own area of expertise. That's when I began to feel as clever in my field as he is in his field. I can bake and cook with my eyes closed - and read a recipe and know what it will taste like. Hooray for me! But I can't straighten out my computer to save myself.
By the way - he said that the cookies were delicious.
Thursday, November 16, 2006
LET'S TALK ABOUT FOOD
Speaking of food - (wasn't that a good segue?) - on Tuesday evening I went to a food tasting for my friend Riva's granddaughter's wedding which will be held in December. Before the intifada came along a big part of my business was running charity dinners and weddings and the like so I'm really good at this. Besides - I love food!! I was so impressed with the whole operation - weddings are so diffferent today than when I first came here thirty-one years ago.
Then - you got some indifferent pass-around thingies, the tables were set with maroon - not burgundy or bordeaux but plain old ugly maroon - tablecloths and napkins on top of which was a very ugly and unesthetic centerpiece with a lot of ferns to fill in the holes - there were about a dozen little oval plates with "oriental" salads (oriental in this case stands for Middle Eastern) - spicy carrots, three kinds of eggplant, hummus, tehina, red cabbage salad, white cabbage salad, tabboule - you get the picture - and pitot. For the main course there was what my friend's kids called "reva off mechubas" (one quarter of a boiled chicken - or sometimes roasted within an inch of its life, in which case boiled was better) or well well well done pot roast - need I say more?
Now - there were about twenty families invited to the food tasting. Each bridal couple and family had a table for eight for the tasting with a beautifully printed sign naming the couple - everything was in white - napery, dishes, flowers - and each table had another imaginative centerpiece to give you some idea of what was possible.
And the food - delicious and imaginative. First the salad bar - or should I say salad table - a very large wooden affair with some of the most delicious salads - roasted peppers in three colors, penne and grilled zucchini with some sort of a green herb dressing, shredded kishuim (zucchini) with fresh mushrooms, grilled portobello mushrooms in a vinaigrette, roasted batata (sweet potato) salad - not to worry, they are not repeating ingredients - you have a choice of six out of about twelve salads not to mention baby lettuces with all kinds of fixin's and dressings. And wonderful, crusty breads and rolls.
And a choice of all kinds of pass-around goodies for the "kabbalat panim" (reception) - salmon wrapped with basil in a tempura batter, lamb kebabs with a "kusbara" (cilantro) sauce, salmon terriyaki, vegetarian eggrolls with a sweet-and-sour dipping sauce, deep-fried button mushrooms filled with pesto and on and on.......
And there will be stations for sushi, and hummus with all kinds of toppings, and stir fries - you choose.
And then they had buffet stations for the tasters with three kinds of fish, and an absolutely tender and juicy roast duck, and entrecote steak with a wine sauce, and two kinds of chicken dishes (NOT boiled chicken), and ossobuco and a roast-beef and roast lamb slicing station and all kinds of "tosafot" (side dishes), - grilled vegetables, and different rice dishes and different potato dishes, and sauteed vegetables and, also, on and on and on.....
AND THEN - a selection of desserts the likes of which I have seldom seen in Israel - chocolate mousse bombe, and fresh strawberry tart and roasted pear tart, and chocolate truffles, and Dobosh Torte and individual lemon meringue tarts and all kinds of cookies. And when you factor in that all the desserts have to be parve (no dairy products) and all the food strictly strictly kosher - what an undertaking.
There was so much to taste and choose from that we only had a few bites of each - but, let me tell you - just a bite here and just a taste there and just a nibble someplace else - and by the end of the evening I was realy to burst. I swore that I would never ever eat another morsel again.
But my dear friend, Joey, invited me out to dinner the next night - and we went to hell with ourselves at one of the best restaurants in town - "Cavalier" - and I "ate another morsel" - what a dinner we had - enough already with the food. Will save it for another time.
Monday, November 13, 2006
MY GPS - part deux
So as I was saying - I am totally inept, technologically. My new GPS has instructions - in English - for the computer, telling you how to download music - I don't want to download music - I want to get from here to there. It has instructions - in English - on how to show all your photos on the screen. I don't want to show all my photos on the screen - I want to get from here to there.
Nevermind that the salesman assured me that everything was in English - what does he know - he just wanted to make the sale. When I got the thing home and realized that all the instructions were in English - with the exception of the Navigator instructions - which were in Hebrew - I had the proverbial s--- fit. So I began calling - this one and that one and the other one - until I finally called the store where I bought the darn thing - and the saleswoman - who was also helping me - said "al tidagee" (not to worry) - she would organize the instructions in English.
She actually called me the next day to say she was working on it. (Unheard of....will wonders never cease?) Today she called me again to say - "no go - there is nothing in English". "Not to worry" said I. "I will bring the damned thing back to you and get my money back". Of course, they don't want to lose a sale of more than 2000 shekels. So the next thing I know some nice guy gets on the phone to tell me he is willing to come to my house and explain the whole thing to me...right now. Except - "right now" wasn't good for me. "Not to worry - I'll be back in Jerusalem later on this week or early next week and we'll straighten it all out. It's simple and we want you to be happy". (Is this really Israel? Is this really anyplace on Earth?))
I ask you - did you ever hear of anyone in America offering to do that? Not on your life. Mostly because tech support people are usually in India when you are in the Bronx!!
Now, you have to understand - I speak quite good Hebrew - very good, as a matter of fact. But - my reading leaves a lot to be desired - especially something technical. I don't understand instructions in English - let alone in Hebrew. I can read recipes like a champ. I even own Hebrew-language cookbooks. I can read articles in a magazine. (Unlike my friend, Rosaline, who can actually program a new TV and get the channels to come in correctly. Don't ask - not something you have to worry about in North America.) But something technical - no way.
So - my new GPS is back in the box - awaiting my personal English translation and instructions. I have to be someplace on Tuesday evening to do a food-tasting for a wedding - I don't know where I'm going - I know I'll get there - but how? If you don't ever hear from me again you'll know I'm still driving around.
If I ever show up again - I'll let you know how I'm doing with my new GPS. In the meantime - I have the thing charged up - that much I figured out how to do.
Friday, November 10, 2006
I ONCE WA-A-AS LOST - BUT NOW I'M FOUND.....
Not emotionally or mentally, mind you, (although I've been there too) - but actually lost. As I've said before, I have the "hush kivoon" (sense of direction) of a toaster oven. It all started in my childhood - my Dad also had no sense of direction. And while I freely admit my shortcoming, my Dad was unable to admit that he was always lost. (It's a macho men's thing - which is why it took the Jews forty years to get out of the desert because Moses couldn't bring himself to ask for directions.) I spent my childhood riding down highways - and then backing up because Dad missed the exit - again. Yes, I know it's dangerous to back up on a highway - but that's what Dad did.
My Mom, on the other hand, had a fabulous sense of direction - but my Dad couldn't ask her for directions because that would "prove" that he wasn't a man. So she would sit quietly in the passenger seat and when they came to a place where it was either turn left or turn right - she would - also quietly - indicate with her thumbs either "left" or "right". And then he wouldn't have to lose face - as it were. Of course, she could have done the driving - heavens - what am I saying? She never drove when my Dad was in the car.
It was only when I began to drive myself that I realized that I never knew where I was going. And then - great luck - I married Fred who also had a great sense of direction. In fact, his golden rule was, when we came to a place where we had to turn either right or left he would ask me which way I thought we should go - and he turned in exactly the opposite direction to what I said.
I remember the weekend we went to Safed with another couple. The hotel fronted on a narrow, one-way street. The men got out of the car to have the luggage taken in and I sat in the car with my girlfriend until he could come back and take the car to be parked. Just my luck a rather large vehicle came up behind me and couldn't get by. So I sent my girlfriend in to the hotel to tell Fred that I was going to drive around the block and be back in five minutes. Ha!
There is no "just around the block" in Safed. We were using Fred's car - a great big, powder blue BMV, manual shift, without power steering. I hated driving that thing. I liked riding in it - but driving it? No way. So there I was - driving - and driving - and driving - and getting more and more lost. And that was a time before cell phones so there was no one to "talk me" back. This is Israel and no one likes to say "I don't know". We have many words for "I don't know" - but they are never to be used when someone asks for directions. You say "yashar, yashar, yashar (straight, straight, straight) - and then ask again". So I drove and drove and drove - and then asked again - and again - and again.
Finally I saw a young soldier and asked him if knew where the Rimon Inn was. "Of course", he answered, "I was born in Safed". "Get in my car right away" I cried (literally cried - because by this time I was weeping) and take me there. And one whole hour later I arrived back at the hotel.
And that is an example of only one of the million or so times I've gotten lost.
So, dear readers, yesterday I bought myself a GPS - which I think stands for Gee, you're Pretty Stupid - for many thousands of shekels I might tell you. But I can't use it yet because the instructions are all in Hebrew - and, as I am technologically challenged as well as directionally challenged, and don't understand technical instructions in English let alone Hebrew - I am still figuring it out. I'll let you know what happens. Wish me luck.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
ZE LO YUMAN - or - UNBELIEVEABLE
This evening Rosaline and I decided to go to the films - as we often do. Now, you have to understand that in Jerusalem you choose between going to a nice theatre - which may or may not have a decent film - and may or may not have convenient parking - or you go to a dive without decent parking and with yucky seats and with escalators that don't work - but with the best films in the city. So we chose to go to the Rav Chen Movie Complex (a white-elephant of a place) to see "Keeping Mum" - a funny, off-the-wall film with Rowan Atkinson (Mr. Bean, Blackadder) - see it.
Anyway - this theatre gives a discount for the 5 o'clock showing....the first showing of the day. So we get to the "kuppa" (box office) for the 7:30 show - because there was no 5 o'clock show. We asked for our discount - and were told that it was only for the 5 o'clock show. But there was no 5 o'clock show - so we should be entitled to the discount for the 7:30 show - we said. We would have come to the 5'oclock show had there been one. No way - it seems you are entitled to a discount for the 5 o'clock show only if there is one! Chelm!
After the film we decided to get a bite to eat. We went to a fairly new "steakiah" called "Bibi"- no relation at all to Bibi Netanyahu. The food there is very good. DO NOT GO!!
We weren't in the mood for meat - or a lot of food at all in fact. But - these steakiah's have a wonderful selection of salads served with fresh-baked "laffa" - a large, flat Iraqi pita....which is served gratis when you order a main course. However - the menu said - "Salads (without meat) 25 shekel per person". Goody. Just what we wanted. And so we ordered salads - which came with gorgeous chips (french fries) and that delicious laffa. A perfect late-evening nosh.
We thoroughly enjoyed our supper and asked for the check. When the waiter brought it to us he said - "The manager is very angry at me for only serving you salads - you have to have meat, too". Hello! The menu said we could order only salads.
Ros and I are far from shrinking violets - so we went up to the manager and asked why he was angry with the waiter for only serving us salads - when it said on the menu that we could order only salads. Lo mishaneh (it doesn't matter) what the menu says - you have to order a main course!
Twice in one evening? CHELM!