Monday, September 21, 2009

Old Old and New Old

This year I went to two Rosh Hashanah dinners, one on Friday night, and then another one on Saturday. Both dinners were completely lovely, and the conclusion that I have come to is that el mundo es un pañuelo (the world is a handkerchief-- meaning small) -- and sometimes it feels freaking tiny. The first dinner, held at the house of the mother of my cousin Leora´s friend Lorena (they met in Israel, I met them when Leora came into town for Lorena´s wedding), was pure Ashkenazi Judaica-- challah, tongue, roast chicken, kasha, apple and honey cakes, (apples and honey), fish balls and fish loaf-- it could have been a dinner of my bubby´s, Detroit circa 1960. There was another American there (North American, sorry, as I am reminded daily we are all Americans here in the Western Hemisphere, though you know what? I´m almost always introduced by others as americana, it´s just that I´m not allowed to call myself that. Kind of like Jews and Holocaust jokes), also a friend of my cousin´s who grew up in San Francisco at 2nd and Lincoln, that is to say, 8 blocks away from me. I asked her how she likes Buenos Aires, and she said she´s having a great time, but she misses burritos. Felipe turned to me and said, "talking to her is just like talking to you." Well, I didn't come into being out of thin air. Then Lorena's mother Claudia asked me if I had plans for the second night of Rosh Hashanah, and I told her I was going to the house of the director of the foundation where I intern. Guess what? They grew up together, his wife's a famous artist, and I have to make sure she shows me around their house while I'm there because her art is everywhere and it's gorgeous.

And the house was gorgeous, in that quirky way that artists´ houses always are-- salvaged doorways and unexpected colors and strange chairs-- one side of their dining room table was occupied by an old pew from a synagogue. And there was more round challah and smoked salmon and trout and pickles and I brought an apple cake and so did another girl. And it´s true this is all happening very far away from where I grew up but I have to tell you most of the time it doesn´t feel that way, and it really didn´t feel that way this weekend.

And it often doesn´t feel that way when I´m in my house, either. I have a core set of things that I have been moving around with me since high school-- the quilt my mom made for me for my eighteenth birthday, the plaid wool blanket my dad brought from Scotland, the slowly-growing collection of scarves that litter(decorate?) the walls/unadorned surfaces...and so my rooms tend to end up looking familiar to me. And my sister, who has just recently moved into college, seems to be adopting the same tactic, with the addition of taking my old stuff I left behind. We were skyping (yes, that horrible, not a verb verb again) the other day and I saw the old buddha lamp that went with me to college, and one of my silk scarves that surreptitiously ended up in LA. She claims anything left at my parent's house is automatically up for grabs because I left them and I'm in South America. And then she complains to me that she misses her beloved bakery Rustica in Minneapolis (a more devoted employee they will never find), and she especially complains if she sees I'm baking something in the background (the wonders of technology), because although Occidental apparently has amazing savory food, it's lacking in the sweet department.

I can't say I'm totally sympathetic to her food plight-- I would kill for some good Mexican food right now, see above-- but I do understand her dessert dilemma [which I'm sure could be rectified (man how we used to laugh at that word) if she ventured to leave campus, or the Eagle Rock neighborhood where Occidental resides]...but, that's okay. We're allowed to miss these things. And though there is certainly much comfort to be found in the fact that Jews actually do things quite similarly here in the Southern Hemisphere, I miss my family a lot during these holidays. I miss going to shul (synagogue) with them, and I miss all of the cooking and general noise that accompanies all of our holiday activities. Every family has it's own rhythm for these things, I think. During Passover my sister and I make chocolate meringues. When I say "during Passover," I don't exactly mean once, or twice, or even three times over the eight's really more of a daily thing, and although the sensible person would say, why not just make a triple recipe and save yourself the work, well, they would never make it to the next day...maybe there is a saturation point for these meringues during Passover, but we´ve never reached it. They are ridiculously good, and super light, more like pieces of chocolate air that just seem to disappear, until it's time to make another batch. And I'm looking forward to next Passover, all together back at my parent's house in Minnesota, when we can make (8 batches of) them again.

Chocolate Meringues

Adapted from Pure Chocolate by Fran Bigelow

4 large egg whites

1 c. sugar

1 tbsp. plus 1 1/2 tsp. cocoa (Dutch-process or Scharffen Berger-- Scharffen Berger doesn´t make a Dutch-process cocoa because they say they prefer their cocoa unalkalized; both worked well for me)

4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

Place the rack in the middle of the oven and set the oven to 200°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a bowl, whisk egg whites until foamy and white. Add half of the sugar and whip until stiff peaks. Sift cocoa and remaining sugar together then fold into whites. Fold in chopped chocolate.

With a pastry bag, or with a spoon and your finger, make peaks with a 1.5 in. base.

Bake 1 hour, turn off the oven, and then leave the meringues in the oven 6 hours or overnight.

Durante La Pascua Judia, nosotras hacemos estos merengues. A ver-- cuando digo durante la pascua, es decir, todos los dias, no una o dos veces durante los ocho dias...mas bien es una cosa diaria, y aunque la persona sensata diria, ¿entonces porque no triplican la receta y listo?, pues, no durarian hasta el dia pronto hay un punto de saturacion de los merengues, pero no lo hemos pasado nunca.

Merengues de Chocolate

Adaptado de Pure Chocolate por Fran Bigelow

4 claras de huevo

1 taza de azucar

1 cucharada mas 1 1/2 cucharitas de cacao alcalizado

115 g chocolate amargo (amargo pero no sin azucar, comestible) picado chiquito

Coloca la rejilla en el medio del horno y pon el horno a 100°. Cubre dos bandejas con papel de hornear.

En un bol, bate las claras hasta que esten espumosas y blancas. Añade la mitad del azucar y batelo hasta el punto de nieve. Tamiza el cacao y el resto del azucar juntos y revuelvelo muy suavemente con los huevos. Añade el chocolate picado, mezclando muy suavamente.

Con una bolsa pastelera, o simplemente aporcionandolo con una cuchara (y el dedo ayudandote sacarlo), haz bolitas sobre el papel de hornear con una base de 4 cm., terminando en picos.

Hornea una hora, apaga el horno, y deja los merengues en el horno 6 horas o por toda la noche.

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