Thursday, April 3, 2008

A Little Bit Nuts

I remember one Passover when my mother, grandmother and great-aunt Goldie shared the kitchen together. It was 1982 and I had just purchased my first video camera. We were in my mother’s kitchen, which by all rights was her domain, but my Nana Lena was a real balebuste in the kitchen and she was always in command. Then there was my Great-Aunt Goldie, two years older than my Nana, she pranced and preened in front of the camera like a Southern Mae West. “Get me. Get me, I’m the prettiest.”

“You are not!” Nana Lena elbowed her sister.

“Yes, I am.” Goldie leaned into frame. “We are the cooks of 1920.”

Nana Lena added, “Or earlier.”

“1920, I wasn’t old enough to cook.”

“You were born in 1900 and you weren’t old enough to cook in 1920?”

Goldie flaunted her age proudly, “I was born in 1911.”

Nana Lena thought a minute. “I suppose you’re right. I was born in 1912.” Nana Lena didn’t like it when Goldie was right, so she quickly changed the subject. “Watch me make the haroset, Amele. I’m making haroset, but I never make it this way. I always grate it. But your Mama insisted on putting it in the blender.”

“It’s the modern way, Nana.”

“Blender’s in,” Goldie quipped.

“But your Nana’s not modern. She’s old fashioned.” Nana said.

“Blender’s in, grater’s out.” Goldie continued.

“But Nana, you used a blender yesterday to beat the eggs?”

“That was a blender; this is a food processor.”

“That’s right, processor is in, blender is out,” Goldie rolled her eyes.

Nana turned to the camera. “Now I don’t hear anyone saying, be careful Nana, you’re going to cut your hand.”

Goldie mimicked her “Be careful Lena, you’re going to cut your hand.”

My mother chimed in from across the room. “You wouldn’t cut your hand if you used the processor, Mother.”

Nana Lena turned toward her daughter, then back toward my camera. “I started to say something, Elayne, but Amy’s got the video on.”

“What were you gonna’ say, Mother?”

Nana Lena looked straight into the camera, and in her best Southern drawl said, “Shut up.”


Nana Lena rolled her eyes for effect. “Elayne, you said you had some open honey?” Mom brought her the honey, Nana poured it in.

Goldie leaned in and whispered to the camera. “I’m watching so I’ll know how to make it when I make it next time. But I won’t make it this way, I’ll make it good.”

Nana Lena teased her, “You won’t make it this way, you’ll make it good, but you’ll watch me to learn how to make it?”

“Smart ass.” Goldie turned away,

Nana stirred in the nuts. “Shit arayn. That’s what Mama used to say.”

We all joined in saying “Shit arayn,” not because it is a blessing, or anything, we just like the way that it sounds, like throw some shit in, when shit just means to shake or pour. Nana Lena poured a little wine into the mixture, then stirred, handing the spoon to her daughter, “You want to be the Official Taster?”

“I thought that was my job, Nana?” I teased from across the room.

Nana Lena turned right to camera. “Well, who do you think was the Official Taster before you?”

“You got a point,” I answered.

Mom took a bite. “It needs more honey. No, it’s good.”

Goldie elbowed in. “Let me have a taste. Let me taste it.” She took a bite off the same spoon. “It needs nuts. All I tasted was apples.”

“We need a lot of nuts in this family,” my mother added.

“We have enough nuts already.” Nana Lena concluded as she dumped the rest of the chopped pecans into the bowl. “To hell with the expense. Give the bird another seed. I’ll use them all.” She took another bite. “Now it needs more honey.”

* * *

Haroset is one of the symbolic foods on the seder plate that we eat on Passover to remind us of the bricks and mortar that the Jewish slaves used to build the pyramids of Egypt. Haroset is usually made with walnuts, but being Southern, Nana Lena made hers with pecans. I love to eat it as a snack. This recipe should serve 8 to 10.
4-6 apples
1 cup chopped pecans
¼ cup sweet red Passover wine
½ cup honey

Peel and core apples. Dice into small pieces the size of a kernel of corn or a raisin. Chop pecans into similar sized pieces. Add wine and honey. Combine ingredients. Taste. Add more wine or honey or pecans, to taste. Store in refrigerator until seder. Serve with matzo.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great recipe!