Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A little Poetry

I've been thinking, in my attempts to make myself blog more, of instituting a weekly poetry update. Ideally, this would include something that I will have written. If you can't thrust your poetry on your friends, then what good are friends? I thought of posting a rather racy poem from Donald Hall from The New Yorker (modern pastoral sex poetry) but I decided to give you the link instead. So, I was perusing the Academy of American Poets website and found a lovely, uplifting gem from Lucille Clifton. It's hard to write an inspirational poem without sounding really sappy and Hallmarky (my friend, Michelle, claims that when I try to make a toast, for instance, I sound like a beer commercial) but this one manages to do it, I think. I hope it makes your day feel a little brighter:

blessing the boats

(at St. Mary's)

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that

Friday, October 10, 2008

May I direct your attention

To two new links on the right. One is from the famous Jill Magee, who is back in Pacifica, CA and has become a bit of a serious cyclist. In fact, she recently rode in a competition in Hawaii to benefit those suffering from Leukemia. She hasn't updated her myspace page for a while but I see that she took home a prize -- you go, girl!

Secondly, friends may see a link called "seriously Romania" which may leave you a bit puzzled. In my class this summer, I had a great teaching assistant, Jeremy, who is now in Romania on a Fullbright teaching award. If you want to know the latest news from Transylvania from a good writer, check it out (though I may pull it if he realizes my crazy friends are reading his experimental blog).

In Yom Kippur news, I successfully got through the fast, and the rabbi, not only used my new name to call me to the torah, but also made a bit of a fuss about it in introducing me to the community (and used it to advertise -- "if anybody else wants a Hebrew name and never got one, come see me"). That threw me off a bit because I was freaking out over the Hebrew I had to chant before the reading. Got through that as well, despite the fact I hadn't drank water for almost a day (how do the rabbi and cantor survive with no water?). I also realized that a woman in the congregation whom I highly admire (she's very active in the synagogue and her daytime job is as a lawyer, making sure that people get the medicare benefits they desperately need) has the same Hebrew name. So, I'm doubly pleased that I get to share it with a role model.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A New Name

On Thursday, during Yom Kippur, I've received the honor of being called to the Torah. Being so non-observant all my life, I did know or did not have a Hebrew name. This is rather important since it's the name that is used in aforementioned honor. I talked to my rabbi and we discussed possible names I could choose.

But, I was named after my Uncle Billy (William) who had died many years before I was born. (yeah, I know William = Wendy?). I wondered what his Hebrew name was so my mother asked my cousin to read the memorial plaque in our synagogue in Nashville. She didn't do it. So, my mother asked her childhood friend to look during Rosh Hoshanah. She found it but couldn't read it -- they omitted those pesky vowels. So, she asked the cantor of the synagogue to figure out what it is. I e-mailed him and I found out the following: he had two names, which is also traditional but I don't know why: Yehuda Volf. Now the second name is cool because it means "Wolf." I would like to be called that because it sounds dangerous and edgy. But then the feminine version of Yehuda is, as my rabbi told me, Yehudit. After a quick search on the internet, I discovered that Yehudit = Judith and is the name of the same Judith who slew Holofernes. Yeah, I think I'll take it.

If only I could figure out the feminine version of Wolf....

Above is a rather tasteful ca. 1530 version of Judith with Holofernes' head (Lucas Cranach the Elder (German, 1472–1553) . I could have shown a brutal Caravaggio version of this story, but I didn't want to scare my male readers.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

The art of the Kugel

It's the holidays, the high holidays, and every year I have a few people over for some traditional food on the eve of Rosh Hoshanah. I started this years ago when I was feeling homesick. Miss Kate loaned me her kitchen and the rest is history. Every year I say to myself "well, it's so expensive and time-consuming, should I do it again this year?" And then I talk myself into it.

In this post, I'm going to address the art of the potato kugel which is a labor intensive but awesome little dish. There are many kugels in the world but I use the recipe that my mother gave me. What's so annoying about it is the grating of the potatoes. Now, one year I used pre-shredded potatoes but I guess they add some chemical to keep it from turning a funny color (and boy, do potatoes turn funny colors) so that was weird. My mother uses a food processor but the texture is just not the same.

So, I peel and grate 7 pounds of potatoes. Peeling has become easier once I purchased a fancy schmancy tool. But the grating is done on a handheld grater and inevitably I tear up one of my knuckles. The truly evil thing I realized after grating the potatoes is that I have to grate a couple onions and after receiving said knuckle wound, it's pretty miserable -- not to mention all the crying. However, this year, I heard that if you put onions in the freezer, it will not be a tear fest. I am happy to report to you, dear readers, that this is the case. No tears!! I highly recommend it.

So after all the grating, I squeeze out all the liquid from the potatoes. I find it easier to do this by hand, but I suppose cheesecloth would work well, too. Then I mix it all together with a little flour, a couple eggs, a little baking powder, salt and oil. That's it. I am always amused that two eggs and 1/4 cup of flour holds this baby together. It's all potatoes!!!

The secret, however, is in the baking. I get my casserole dishes and put a little vegetable oil in the bottom and stick them in the hot oven. After a couple minutes, I pull them out and spoon in potato mixture. It sizzles and, once it's done cooking, there is a wonderful crust all around the kugel. Serve with sour cream (my favorite) or applesauce (my sister's favorite).

I'll put the full recipe up if anybody wants it, but, seriously, are you going to do all that work?