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Newsletter of the Adelaide Jewish Museum – December 2002

Israeli Cooking

Avoiding fast food, but not good food, I’ve been attending Hadass Arens’ Israeli cooking course for the past few weeks, and learned the formulas for some exotic and unusual dishes, as well as some of my favourites, such as pita bread and falafel. Hadass has got a lovely style of teaching, setting out the nutritional value of the ingredients, and then planning the menu so that, once you are cooking the prime ingredient, for instance lentils, you study two or three other recipes where the key ingredient is also lentils.

Why am I writing this when, at face value, it’s not got much to do with museum work?
I am on a mission to document the living culture of Jewish Adelaide. Historically, we know that there have been notable personalities and leaders and important business people in our midst and that this history is also the focus of museum work. But for now, it is more the stories of those alive and still with us that I am interested in recording. It is easy to argue that community cooking, reflecting our interesting culture mix, could be an activity falling within this ambit.

I should document the recipes, like the Magadera dish or Baba Ganoosh, as they have been passed down to Hadass from her Polish grandmother, mixed in with recipes from her Israeli mother, remixed by her own palate and tastes, transmitted then to an Adelaide audience, adapted by an interpretation of the local preferences and availability of ingredients. However, I’m not going to at this point, even though I would like to, as I’d rather recommend you experience her Israeli cooking first-hand, in her kitchen context.

While on the subject of recipes, my 88-year-old Granny recently sent me a recipe for meat borscht and pitzar. It was a little difficult to read her handwriting, now micrographic and a bit shaky. I may try out the borscht one day, but sorry Granny, although I have happy memories of hard-boiled eggs wobbling in cows heel jelly, I can’t see my family appreciating this one. Still, therein lies an idea for you all out there to respond to – send to the Museum a recipe that has been passed down to you from a previous generation. No doubt the collection of recipes would reflect the richness of Jewish culture reflecting our Adelaide “melting pot” of diverse cuisine from all over the world.

It pays to enter competitions. My daughter discovered that after persistently telephoning the Maggi Noodle competition hotline, an extra large Spiderman t-shirt arrived in the post for her, followed by a cap in a similar theme a week later. It was a lucky week for me too. Having entered the online JewishAustralia.com competition, I won a book from Scribe Publishing. Excellent timing, as I was just finishing “Children of the Shadows”, a collection of stories by the second generation of Holocaust survivors. I bought the book to read Georges Rich’s contribution called The Candidate. It’s the story of Mamie, his French-speaking mother of Hungarian descent, and owner of a deli famous for its gefilte fish, seen through the eyes of her young son. The Candidate is not someone going for a job, but someone about to take out his mother on a date. Humorous yet poignant, it is a great combination of anecdote and insight, where the past subtly encroaches on the present. The Candidate is the newest story added to the Museum website.

I will soon have a tape recorder and transcribing equipment. With such technological back up, I will be in a position to record stories for the Museum, based on the approach that Jewish life and history can be portrayed through the memories of the family. If you are a willing candidate with a story to tell, please contact me.

Roslyn Sugarman, Curator Adelaide Jewish Museum