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Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Annual Eggnog Post

For quite some time now, Thanksgiving has marked the official start of "eggnog season" here at chez treppenwitz (it runs until the end of Hanukkah or New Years Eve, whenever I feel we've had enough).

Soooo, once again... for those who don't have access to store-bought 'nog (or if you just want to take your eggnog game to the next level), here's a foolproof recipe from a certified fool:

INGREDIENTS:

6 eggs 
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 
2 cups whipping cream 
2 cups milk 
3/4 cup brandy, rum or bourbon (optional but highly recommended)


PREPARATION:

All liquids should be very cold. Refrigerate in advance. 

Beat the eggs for 2 or 3 minutes with an electric mixer at medium speed until very frothy. On Shabbat morning, obviously use a whisk.  Gradually beat in the sugar, vanilla and nutmeg. Turn the mixer off (or stop whisking!), and stir in the cold whipping cream, milk and booze.

Chill some more before serving (if you can wait... I never can).

Sprinkle individual servings with more nutmeg.

Makes a little over 2 quarts (after taking several 'samples' for quality control purposes)

Note:  If for some strange reason you end up with leftover eggnog (something that almost never happens here), you can add a splash to your morning coffee and/or to your French toast dip.

Don't thank me... I'm a giver!  :-)

 

Posted by David Bogner on November 23, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Throwing a Congregant Under the Bus

During the return flight from a recent trip to the US, I was seated next to an elderly woman who was absolutely giddy with anticipation and 'over the moon' with barely contained excitement to be traveling to Israel for the very first time in her life.

I don't know much about her, but here are the bits and pieces of information and impressions I got from our conversation during the long flight:

The woman - I'll call her Eunice (not her real name) - is from a medium-large Midwestern city, is Jewish (although has a very limited knowledge of religious matters), belongs to a reform congregation, does not follow Israeli politics closely or seem aware of current events.

She was a delightful seatmate in that she was extremely polite and reserved in an old-school way.  She apologized profusely any time she needed to get up to go to the bathroom or stretch her legs, and always asked me if I wanted anything while she was up.  She thanked me repeatedly for helping her put her bag in the overhead, and would probably have knitted me an afghan if she'd had the time or materials handy to do so.

In short, a refined, soft-spoken American bubbe of the first water.

It turns out she was travelling alone to Israel to take part in some sort of mission comprised of people from various congregations from around the mid-west (or maybe the country... I wasn't clear on the exact make-up of the group).

She was visibly nervous about making her first visit to Israel alone, and politely asked me if she could talk to me about her itinerary.  I, of course, said I'd be happy to serve as a sounding board.

Her group was slated to visit many of the typical destinations of any Israel tour, with the highlight, of course, being Jerusalem.

Almost as an aside while talking about their plans to visit Jerusalem, she mentioned that her Rabbi had suggested she bring along the tallit her granddaughter had worn at her recent Bat Mitzvah so that she could don it during the group's planned visit to the Western Wall (she referred to it as the 'Wailing Wall').

I didn't stop her narrative, but at that point my 'Spidey Sense' started tingling madly and I began listening closely for any sign of an underlying agenda of any sort.  After at least half an hour of talking in general terms about Israel, Jerusalem and religion, I was convinced that Eunice was completely unaware of what had set my senses to tingling.

I then asked her, as obliquely as possible, about her own connection with religious observance and rituals:  Did she attend synagogue regularly? (No); Did she wear a tallit in her own synagogue when she did attend?  (Never);  Did anyone other women in her family wear a tallit in synagogue (only her granddaughter, and only the once on the occasion of her Bat Mitzvah).

I then asked her why she thought her Rabbi might have suggested putting on the tallit at the 'Wailing Wall'?  Eunice quietly answered, "She [the Rabbi] told me that it would make me feel very special and would be the highlight of my visit to the Holy Land" [I could actually hear the capital letters of those two words as she spoke them!].

At that point I had a difficult choice on my hands:  Stay silent and let Eunice stumble into a starring role in the coming week's newspaper headlines, or gently try to give her a glimpse of the future in hopes of avoiding it.  

I opted for the latter.

I began by gently asking her (again) if she followed Israeli news or politics.  She said she did not.  I asked her if she was aware of any controversy about women's roles and ritual at the Western Wall, and she said she was not.

I took a deep breath and offered her a very condensed version of the circus that has been playing out at the Kotel over the past few years, along with my opinion (clearly presented as such), as to what I thought was motivating the various participants. 

To be clear, I told her that in my opinion, the overwhelming majority of the women who have been pushing for the right to pray at the Western Wall while wearing tallit and tfillin, and to read from a Torah scroll during their services, are absolutely sincere... as are most of those who want egalitarian (i.e. non-Orthodox) practices permitted only at the section of the Kotel that has been designated for that purpose further down the wall under Robinson's Arch.

However, I explained, I suspect that a small number of the women involved in the frequent skirmishes with the religious authorities and police at the Wall seem to be acting in a deliberately provocative manner calculated to draw as much publicity and media attention as possible to their actions.  I told her that I am not in any way against protest in general, and am aware that the status quo rarely changes without some sort of public protest... but that there was a price to pay for such protest and it took a toll on everyone involved.  

I then predicted that the moment she went to put on her granddaughter's tallit, many of the women around her would begin shouting angrily at her... as would many of the men on the other side of the partition, once they heard the commotion.  Within moments she would probably be forcibly escorted out of the Western Wall plaza by security personnel or police, and there was a pretty good chance she would be arrested and maybe even deported, since she was a tourist and would technically be breaking a Israeli law.

I'm not sure what frightened her more, the idea of people shouting at her in public, or the idea of being arrested.  Suffice it to say that Eunice was aghast at the prospect of being the focal point of such public unpleasantness.

The last thing I had to say to her was, perhaps, the hardest:  I told her that there was absolutely no chance that her Rabbi was unaware of the events she had set in motion when she suggested that Eunice don her granddaughter's tallit at the Western Wall.  Absolutely none!  In fact, I can't think of any similar cause & effect scenario that contained as high a level of certainty as to the outcome.

Eunice was very quiet for several minutes, and then thanked me quietly for filling her in on a topic of which she had been completely unaware.

I told her that I felt terrible about introducing a sour note to her anticipation of her first visit to Israel, but that I couldn't bear the idea of an innocent tourist being allowed to stumble into such a political hornet's nest during what should be a magical first visit to the Jewish State.  I left unsaid who I felt had deliberately set her blindly down the path towards that hornet's nest.

I called this post, "Throwing a Congregant Under the Bus", for lack of space.  But considering the religious sensibilities involved, a more appropriate title would be "Sacrificing an Innocent Congregant on the Altar of A Rabbi's Political Agenda".

As I said previously, I have no problem with those who choose to protest and expose themselves to potential consequences in the name of advancing their agenda while attempting to change the status quo.  But shame on anyone who would deliberately send an innocent lamb such as my seatmate, Eunice, to the slaughter in order to score cheap political points in hopes of achieving a dubious, and probably fleeting victory.

[If anyone has an ax to grind on either side of the Western Wall ritual observance debate, they can do so on their own blogs or Facebook feeds.  That is not the topic at hand here.  Anyone who ignores this warning and tries to use this post as a soapbox, will have their comments deleted.  You have been warned.]

Posted by David Bogner on November 12, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (14)

Friday, November 10, 2017

Friday Kosher Food Pron

I saw a recipe for Crackling Corn Bread in the New York Times that called out to me, so I decided to adapt it to my quaint cultural ways (kosher). 

To save some of you city folk the trouble of googling it, cracklings are simply the crisp, fatty skin of roast pork.

If your religious background or sheltered urban upbringing has denied you the pleasure of enjoying cracking, cornbread or both, trust me that there is a solution.

The recipe below has undergone a process of Judaisation (to borrow a word from the Pali lexicon), so kosher cooks can proceed without worry (although vegetarians can keep moving... nothing to see here):

Kosher Crackilng Cornbread Recipe

INGREDIENTS
6 tablespoons shmaltz
2 cups stone-ground cornmeal
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 ¾ cups fake buttermilk (use 1 ¾ cups soy mil and 1 ¾ cups tablespoons lemon juice)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons kosher cracking (gribenes bits and chopped servalat fried in shmaltz) dried on paper towel)

 

PREPARATION
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Put the shmaltz in an 8- or 9-inch cast-iron skillet and set over a medium-low flame. Heat until the bubbling subsides.

Meanwhile, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl and gradually stir in the fake buttermilk. Add the eggs and cracklings. Stir in the shmaltz and pour the batter into the hot skillet.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool 15 minutes, then invert over a plate or cooling rack. Serve warm. The cracklings respond especially well if the corn bread is toasted the next day.

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Posted by David Bogner on November 10, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Stupid Statement of the Week

With all the natural disasters, bloodshed and personal tragedies being reported in the news recently, one looks for some sense of guidance and protection from the institutions of government and justice to lend, at least, a sense of sanity to our lives.

Sadly, as is usually the case, one need only peek at the news to have those hopes dashed.

Yesterday a New York jury rendered a verdict of 'not guilty' in the closely followed case of an off-duty New York City police officer who shot and killed a man during a traffic confrontation.

I won't waste your time rehashing the case which has been closely reported at length in the news.  I don't even have an opinion on the outcome of the case, since I didn't follow it very closely.

What gave me pause was the bizarre statement to the defendant delivered by the judge immediately after the jury had delivered its verdict:

“Only you know what exactly happened out there. So no one’s passing any judgment, and let’s try to hope that we have no further incidents like this in the future. I guess that’s the only thing I can hope for.” [emphasis mine]

Um, actually, your honor, someone is passing judgement!  That's sort of the point of the exercise.  Your job title actually has the word 'judge' in it, so your dumm@ss statement isn't really what one could call an understandable mistake.

In today's hyper-politicized atmosphere where many have either lost faith in the the rule of law (bad) or taken the law into their own hands (worse), it falls to the pillars of the system - the elected leaders, legislators and jurists  - to try to restore the public's confidence in the infrastructure, reliability and essential goodness of the system. 

I get that there are many cases where a judge may not agree with the verdict rendered by a jury.  And in fact, in extreme cases where a jury has clearly ignored evidence or instructions received from the bench, a judge may even set aside a jury's decision in favor of his/her own. 

But by making an asinine statement like..."no one’s passing any judgment", after such a fraught and controversial trial outcome, Justice Jeong has abdicated his role as 'grown-up in the room' and has essentially joined the faceless mob outside the courtroom screaming that the system doesn't work and that there is no Justice in America.

Memo to Justice Alexander B. Jeong:  The U.S. legal system isn't perfect (what system is?).  But if you, as a representative and practitioner of that system show such disdain for it that you can say ..."no one’s passing any judgment", it won't be long before the mob will take your message to its logical conclusion and begin passing judgement of their own.

Posted by David Bogner on November 7, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (3)