Mouth-watering, Marvelous, MATZO BREI!

After devouring a plate of homemade matzo brei this morning, my husband of 63 years, declared: “The world would be a better place if everyone ate matzo brei.” We laughed and I agreed and thought about the role of matzo brei in my family and others.

Matzo Brei is a favorite amongst, but not limited to, Jewish people, almost in a category with French toast. Although I will say that one-third of my family, down to the great-grandchildren, favor matzo brei, one-third prefer French toast, and the last third, eat whatever’s put in front of them.

Matzo brei is identified with Passover, but is enjoyed all year round. It’s usually served for breakfast, but is great at other meals. I like the simplicity of serving matzo brei because it doesn’t require putting a lot of things on the table. The eggs and bread are combined in one dish.

To make matzo brei, I use one matzo for each serving. The recipe, which can be found in my cookbook, A Glub, Glub & A Shake Shake, instructs to break the matzo into pieces and cover with water for a minute or two. Then drain the matzo and add beat up eggs and a little milk for another couple of minutes, and then fry in butter or margarine, scrambling the mixture to cook it evenly and prevent it from sticking to the pan. There are many variations where people add vegetables or even meat but we like it plain. Marty adds strawberry jam; I like salt and pepper and my son uses tamari sauce to season his plate.

My grandsons used to consume mountains of matzo brei and I would use five matzos and five eggs for the two of them. My oldest grandson had the idea that we open a matzo brei restaurant together. He’s become a social worker instead, but still loves matzo brei.

I can think of many reasons why the world would be a better place if everyone ate matzo brei. Can you?

 

 

 

 

 

Wyoming: Butch’s Place

Butch’s Place, a western -style tavern comes complete with swinging doors, tables covered with red and white checkered oilcloth, and posters of locally produced ale and whiskey. A single gas fired stove provides heat for the dining area. The tavern, on Route 10 in Kirby, Wyoming, (population, last count, 375) between Thermopolis and Worland has been a landmark for over twenty years.

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Of course the main attraction to Butch’s Place was Butch. Marty and I don’t remember Butch’s last name and never knew his first name. He was just Butch. His wife, Linda helped manage the restaurant and also held a job working for the Town of Thermopolis.

Butch was a gregarious, accommodating host. He was known for his “okey doky” to any request. In spite of Butch’s claim that he didn’t cook, just “only put food together” there were several items on the menu that were unique to his establishment. A favorite amongst the children were the twelve -ounce hamburgers, whether they were ordered unadorned or smothered. His was one of the first restaurants in the area to serve buffalo burgers, cooked to perfection. A single order of chicken salad was large enough to satisfy a family of four, and the lightly grilled sirloin finger steaks were a delicious specialty. One dish that I haven’t seen before were his “hog wings”, which are pork shins, about the size of chicken drumsticks, very tasty and tender. They were cooked so that the meat fell off the bones.

A few years ago, Butch retired and sold the business. Although the food was still good, twelve- ounce burgers were no longer served, and we missed Butch’s and Linda’s camaraderie and conviviality. The tavern might have changed hands more than once.

You can imagine our surprise, upon visiting Wyoming last winter, to learn that Butch’s Place had closed. The rumor is that the recent owner’s girl friend decided to put pool tables in the dining area, which infringed upon the seating capacity and detracted from the character of the eatery. One of the employees was enraged and pulled the plugs on the refrigerators and freezers. The food was contaminated and it took quite a while before the restaurant was cleaned, sanitized, and safe to be used. To date, nobody has shown any interest in rehabilitating the facility and starting up again.

Back in Thermopolis, we observed other changes. Restaurants come and go for many reasons. As a result of a poor economy there were fewer bathers at the pool. In other years the pool was crowded with visitors from neighboring communities, particularly over the weekends. There were winter athletic meets at the high school and participants from different schools usually included a swim in their busy schedules. We may not have been in Thermopolis during the right week, but the out of town athletes were also rare.

The Quality Inn that we’ve stayed at has the capacity to park the tractor-trailers operated by truckers working in the oil patch. They haul large pipe, massive generators and other equipment to nearby oil fields. With the glut of oil and low prices for fuel, many oil wells hat have been capped and thousands of people have lost their jobs. This has had a ripple effect on the entire economy in the region. Consequently, truckers at the motel were not as numerous as other years.

Thermopolis is still home to the “World’s Largest Hot Springs” and we delight in ducking our heads under the hot water to get the icicles out of our hair. It’s also fun to see children making angels in the snow before jumping in to the pool. Water aerobics, which I find therapeutic, are still offered at the “Teepee” pools where we swim. It’s fascinating to watch the birds migrate in squadron formation, while we ‘re swimming. I love counting boxcars and tankers as the railroad trains whiz by the pool, but I have to admit that I lose track when there are more than two hundred cars on one train. We also enjoy watching the stars come out, whenever we swim in the evening. Some things I hope will never change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SONGS I LEARNED FROM MY MOTHER AND FATHER

 

“Take me out to the Ball Game, take me out to the crowd…”I can still hear my granddaughter, Ruby, now nineteen, sing that song, years ago.

Does anyone over 4 sing anymore? Do we spend too much time texting or in front of a computer screen? Or do we not hear music that makes us want to sing?

I remember the broken heart love songs my mother used to sing like, “The Isle Of Capri” and “Whistling in the Dark.” My dad’s preferred whacky ditties and ballads, such as “The Old Carnarsie Line” and “Grandpa’s Old Brown Pants.” We serenaded my parents at their 50h anniversary party with, ”How do I Know My Youth is All Spent,” the song memorialized by Pete Seeger. You can just imagine my father’s joy upon hearing his grandchildren bellow his old favorite, “Grandpa’ Old Brown Pants.”

l-r: My cousin Stephen, Lisa, David, Naomi, Madeline, niece Debbie and nephew Mark, 1979

l-r: My cousin Stephen, Lisa, David, Naomi, Madeline, niece Debbie and nephew Mark, 1979

I know that I am no Barbra Streisand but I did sing with the choir in college and performed as a member of the chorus with the Gilbert and Sullivan Society. Regina Resnick, the opera star, gave guest concerts for Hillel, at Hunter College and I was part of the chorus that provided accompaniment. Yet if I attempted to sing, when my children were growing up, I was greeted with nothing but scowls. Recently I was singing “On the Old Carnarsie Line” and my daughter couldn’t understand why she hadn’t heard that song before.

I always enjoyed reading to my children, grandchildren, and now to my great-grandchildren. When I am with my great-grandchildren we enjoy singing together, regardless of who’s listening. One of our favorites is “If All the Raindrops Were Lemon Drops and Gumdrops.” 

 

“Grandpa’s Old Brown Pants”

Oh, my grandfather he, at the age of 83
Thought one Sunday morning he was going to die.
And when he was dead, why they took him from his bed.
And hung him on the clothesline to dry.

To my brother it was found, he had left 1000 pounds,
The same to “Eobaimer”, they called Ned.
But when it came to me, the lawyer said I see.
He’s left to you his old brown pants.

Chorus:
How they tittered, how they laughed, how my brother and sister yelled
How they goad me whenever they got the chance,
Cause my grandfather left to me his old brown pants.

One bright summer’s day Isabella chanced to stray
By the river and she thought she’d take a swim.
And the billy goat showed his nose and he ate up all her clothes,
Being summer, her garments they were thin.

I had business there the day and I also chanced to stray
By the river and I saw her situation at a glance
I went over to sister Belle, and I started in to yell,
How’d you like to have the old brown pants?

No more they titter, no more they laugh, no more my brother and sister yell.
No more they goad me whenever they get the chance,
Cause my grandfather left to me his old brown pants.

 

CHOCOHOLICS’ DELIGHT

I remember the close up in the French film, “CHOCOLAT”, of a bowl full of chocolate being mixed by hand. I still recall my desire to push my finger through the screen and get a lick from the bowl. (Marty said, “That’s you alright.”) MV5BMjA4MDI3NTQwMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNjIzNDcyMQ@@._V1_SY317_CR1,0,214,317_AL_

My husband and I are chocoholics. Our tastes include chocolate ice cream and cake, but not to the same extent as our love for chocolate candy, and we rarely pass up a chance to watch the manufacture of chocolate.

When our children were young, we visited the Hershey plant and museum, in Hershey, Pennsylvania. The exhibit ended with preparations of mouth- watering pies, using fresh butter and eggs. We had our camper, then, and didn’t hesitate to pick up a pie for dinner.

In Melbourne, Australia, we joined a group on a Chocolate Tour. Can you imagine touring the city on foot, and sampling all kinds of chocolate and other confections along the way? The tour included an ice cream cone. We finished at a lovely restaurant with a great chocolate cake and a beverage.  Although we were exhausted after the walk, we didn’t experience any discomfort from our “lunch.”

It was cold and damp on the day that we witnessed a demonstration of processing chocolate in Bruges, Belgium. What could be better than hot chocolate, to chase away the chills? We were served a soup bowl- sized cup of hot milk and a bar of chocolate, which we added as much as we liked to the milk, to achieve the desired strength of hot chocolate. Marty and I used all of the chocolate for a nice rich beverage, but we had the option of saving all or some of the chocolate to nibble later.

We narrowly escaped getting a speeding ticket on our way to Lubec, Maine, not far from Campobello Island. It was unchartered territory and we were anxious to reach Lubec before dark. Monica, the proprietor of Monica’s Chocolates,  creates wonderful European -style bonbons: two inch round delicacies of chocolate, filled with caramel and nuts or fruits, and wrapped in brightly colored foil and contrasting ribbon. Definitely worth a trip to Lubec, but don’t speed to get there! bonbons-grouping

We’ve been anxious to visit the renowned Cowboy Chocolatier in Meeteetse, Wyoming, but the owner, Tim Kellogg  travels in January and we’ve always missed him. This year we left later than usual, and spend most of February in Thermopolis, enjoying the outdoor hot springs. So we were able to visit.

Meeteetse is a quaint western town, on route 20, about halfway between Thermopolis and Cody with a population of around 300. The sidewalks are wood. The town has a beautiful high school, a few nice restaurants, a post office, a fine museum of the locality, and the Cowboy Chocolatier. Tim doesn’t put on cowboy boots for effect; he does make a living by roping steers. But he is also recognized for his candy making. He competes internationally, and has received awards for his quality chocolate.

We were not allowed to take pictures of the candy production. We were informed that the sweets only have a shelf life for about five or six days and were advised to keep the chocolate away from heat, strong light, and not refrigerate or freeze. The candy is organic and gluten free. Naturally we’ve kept the candy for more than six days and it was very fine and smooth. We sampled chocolate made with cocoa beans from Venezuela, Honduras, and Morocco. The truffles were without nuts but were flavored with spices and liquors.

On the way back from Meeteetse, I  felt like having some chocolate cream pie, which was not on the menu where we stopped. But the apple pie hit the spot.

Attractions on the Interstate

Our usual trip to Thermopolis, Wyoming was delayed this year from December to late January. It is a long journey and each year we check out the possibilities of flying, and each year we opt to drive. The logistics of flying are horrible; the connections from one flight to another, disastrous. So we pack up our car and prepare for three and one half days on the road. We have our routine and manage to visit friends and relatives along the way and enjoy the ride.

Honestly, I look forward to stopping at the incredible rest areas on the Interstate Highways, funded by federal and state governments. The familiarity of these sites is “comforting.” These facilities have no concessions. Fresh food and fuel aren’t sold, but the areas around the buildings are landscaped and have shaded spots for picnicking. There are placards disseminating local history and geology, and travel information is available. I’ve heard it said that the most attractive room in your house should be the bathroom, where we spend more time studying detail. This applies to pubic restrooms as well.

Nebraska was one of the first states to modernize the rest areas on Interstate Highway 80. The lavatories include attractive blue and white tiles; the stalls are corrugated stainless steel, and there are built -in changing tables. unnamed-5

The windy hills on Route 26, in Wyoming are dotted with creatively designed rustic facilities. The stalls are covered with mosaics constructed from local stone and the painted trim on the stalls compliments the hues in the stonework. unnamed-6

Back on Interstate 80, in Iowa, the comfort stations are architectural achievements, more like museums, known as New Generation Rest Stops. The motorist needn’t wonder where he/she is; each unit is unique. Glass and steel are used extensively in construction. The floors inside the structures are mosaic tile maps of the locale. My favorite is a tribute to prominent writers from the state. The pillars at the entrance are designed to look like writing pens. On our recent trip, we didn’t stop at the facility with the pens. However, I did take a picture of a granite sculpture in front of the highway rest area in Council Bluffs, Iowa.P1000024-2

On the Ohio Turnpike, most of the rest sites have concessions with access to all services. Some of the facilities are large circular buildings and the concessions offer better quality food. It was at one of the stops on the Ohio Turnpike, that we discovered “The Panera Bread Company,” a chain we’ve come to like and look for in our travels. There’s comfort sometimes in knowing what we can eat.

The stop on the Garden State Parkway, near Oradell, New Jersey, and close to where the Garden State and Route 287 intersect is always bustling. Yet, I appreciate the fresh plants on display in the lavatory year round.

It’s hard to miss the palatial edifices designed like hunting lodges, invoking those of Teddy Roosevelt’s era, on the New York Thruway and on the strip of I-90 that runs through the state of New York. There are several styles of “lodges,” so the traveler has an idea which town he/she’s near on the highway.

Are you tired of the hassle of flying? My guess is that you haven’t visited such beautiful bathrooms in any of the airports like the ones on the nation’s highways.  So get the family chariot in good condition and see the U.S.A!

 

 

 

Whither I Go, My Knitting Goes

I can’t forget the photo of Eleanor Roosevelt knitting while listening to election returns on the radio. I can’t think of any activity that works as well as knitting to calm the nerves; reading requires too much concentration. Even music may not be heard. But needlework beats nibbling, smoking or nail biting, to conquer stress. I remember my sister-in- law crocheting while her husband was undergoing surgery. 6a00d83452615669e201b7c6e47bcc970b-800wi

I can bury my nose in a book while flying or traveling on a train, although I usually have my needlework on hand when I’m chatting while waiting for the plane or train. A young man I met at Gatwick Airport in the U.K., admired the baby hat that I was making for the grandson to be, and was impressed that I “always had something on the go”.

When I am a passenger in a car I find it difficult concentrating on reading but I can always take a break from knitting to look at the scenery. My husband has complained that we drove 100 miles out of the way because I wasn’t watching the road or the map. I do put my knitting down when we are at a busy intersection or if we are in unfamiliar territory. Now, I often let Samantha, our GPS guide bring us to our destinations, but even she makes mistakes, bringing us recently to the Atlantic Ocean when we requested a route from Maine to Lake Winnipesaukee, in New Hampshire.

It was never a problem getting a seat on a crowded subway train on my daily commute to school or work years ago. All I had to do was pull out my knitting needles. I found that knitting helped pass the time while waiting on line to register for college courses and during those boring orientation sessions.

I was about nine years old when I learned to knit with the help of my Aunt Rose, and family friends, but I probably was thirteen when I finished a checkered, patterned scarf for myself. It wasn’t until I was in college that I became a serious knitter and tried my hand at a sleeveless, v-necked slipover for my father. Although the v-neck was far from perfect, Dad appreciated my efforts and wore the sweater.

Argyle socks were the rage in the 1950’s and the women at Hunter College were making socks for the men in their lives. I asked a classmate what she would do if the romance ended before the socks were finished. She replied that the socks were intended for Joe and Joe would get the socks regardless. Not my style! When Marty and I were engaged, I knitted argyle socks for him. Marty has been the recipient of other knitted gifts, but his favorites are woolen mittens, for warmth. We were away from home and he needed mittens. I decided to see what I had on hand and found some nice grey yarn in my bag. Since I didn’t think there would be enough grey, I striped the cuffs and tips of the mittens with purple, green and yellow. The compliments keep coming. IMG_0060

No project was too large or too small, too intricate or too simple. In fact I prefer more challenging designs and didn’t shy away from cables, laces, entrelacs or fair isles. A friend remembers that I said that I couldn’t see any purpose in doing something that was sold in the store. Now of course you can buy all sorts of ready made knitted items. I have adjusted directions for size, weight of yarn and size of needles without compromising the fit of the garment. Wool, the yarn that I favor, has many attributes, including being warmer than cottons or synthetics and holding its shape better. It is a more giving and forgiving material to work with. I also like the feel of the yarn sliding through my fingers as I work.

My fingers cramp when I work on a section of the project with few stitches on the needle. The proprietor of the yarn shop suggested to my daughter Lisa, that she keep switching back and forth from one project to another, with different size needles, if her hands ache, to keep the fingers from being in a bind and exercise them.

Back in the 1960’s when mini -skirts were popular, I made a tweed suit for myself of wine heather and coral, worked together, with a Mandarin collar and hand -knitted frog closings. I outgrew the suit when mini-skirts gave way to the cowgirl look of the 1970’s of mid -calf flared skirts and boots. I gave the suit to my mother. The sleeves and skirt were too short for her and a friend added knitted borders to the sleeves and the hem of the skirt. The alterations weren’t exactly in keeping with the style of the suit but it looked nice and Mom wore the suit for quite a while. When Mom could no longer wear the suit and mini skirts were back in vogue, I restored the suit to its original style for Lisa.

My mother had a beautiful Italian mohair sweater with hand -embroidered flowers. Here again the sleeves were too short for her. My daughter Madeline was given a box of different colored mohair, which she passed on to me. I picked up the stitches on the bottom of the sleeves, and extended the cuffs, adding a few stripes of the colors that were used in the sweater. Mom loved the sweater.

My grandson, Jacob, told my daughter, Lisa, that she was going to be a grandmother, by asking her how long it would take her to knit a carriage blanket. She remarked that it would take her no time at all because she still had the blanket that I made for him; a beautiful bulky entrelac cover, in two shades of light green, with a hand -crocheted corded edge.

Knitting isn’t just for women. A good friend made himself a black sweater because he didn’t want charcoal grey that was available in the stores. Kaffe Fassett is an artist who paints with needlecraft. I have adapted many of his designs.unnamed-1

After 9/11, our handbags were searched scrupulously at airports for potential weapons. Embroidery scissors were amongst the contraband. Lisa learned that the cutting edge on the dental floss pack is good for cutting yarn. NOBODY is going to stop us from knitting.

 

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Chicken Coop Epidemiology

With the exception of washing baby bottles, when I married and changed my career to poultry farming, my clinical work was mainly vaccinating chickens before they came into production, for New Castle and Pox. There are many strains of New Castle, but it is a disease that essentially affects the central nervous system.

Every year, in the late spring or early summer, we would join Marty’s parents, Rosie and Abie, at our farm and then later at their farm, for inoculating. Rosie would wear an old housedress, rubber galoshes, and a babushka. I had jeans, a painter’s hat, and sneakers. Our employees would coax or carry the chickens to one side of the room, and create a pen with screens; to keep the vaccinated birds separate from those that weren’t. We screened off a section of the room with enough chickens for us to handle easily. When the chickens in that pen were vaccinated, we moved the fencing to form a pen for the next batch. This procedure was repeated until each chicken received the vaccine.

The men would catch about three chickens at a time and spread their wings out on a table, so Rosie and I could stick each chicken with a needle and vaccine, between the wing and the web; referred to as the wing /web method. We had to work quickly; the dust was flying and the chickens were squawking. Every now and then we would stick ourselves. You couldn’t blame the hens if they gave you an occasional “k’nip.” After all, don’t you feel like “sticking” it to whomever gives you a “shot”?

Rosie would always rinse the remaining drops of ketchup from the bottle, when cooking, to use in soups and sauces. She would also add a little water to the almost empty vial, to remove all of the remaining vaccine. I too, like to salvage the last drop from jars and bottles, but ketchup isn’t exactly vaccine. When I mentioned this to Marty, he accused me of overreacting and explained the concept of “herd immunity”. Many birds “escape”, and it was of little consequence if some chickens received a diluted dose of the vaccine. If most of the flock received the vaccine, the bird that avoided inoculation was not apt to get sick, because the incidence of disease carrying organisms was low. The possibility of an outbreak, therefore, was slim.

It wasn’t long before my mother-in-law and I joined the ranks of unemployed “chicken stickers”, when we adopted more effective, and less labor intensive means of immunization. One of the preferred techniques was disseminating the vaccine in a water spray, at night, when the chickens were asleep.

We are able to maintain a higher standard for immunizing people because the person administering the vaccine has control of the procedure. However this person has no control over the population that chooses not to be vaccinated, for fear of adverse results, and is willing to benefit from the “herd immunity” supplied by those who do assume risks. Unless your doctor advises otherwise, it is everybody’s responsibility to share possible risks so infections are few or non-existent.

Vaccinating reminds me in some ways of voting. Recently, I attended a meeting of our town committee where the November elections are the main topic of business. I heard people say, ”Oh, he’s in a safe district, he won’t have trouble getting elected, and my vote won’t be missed.” We can never be sure of the dynamics of politics. Every vote is necessary. Just as we shouldn’t rely on “herd immunity” for immunization, we shouldn’t rely on “herd immunity” in elections. We have a shared responsibility to control the possibility of an epidemic through immunization. We have a shared responsibility to elect competent public officials through the ballot.

Healthy chickens mean healthy eggs.

Healthy chickens mean healthy eggs.