The ProsenPeople

Earth Day Reading Recommendations

Monday, April 16, 2012 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Earth Day is on Sunday, April 22nd. Begin your celebration early, and catch-up on some reading about Judaism and the environment. View additional suggestions here.


 

Why I Write

Monday, April 16, 2012 | Permalink

Ramona Ausubel  is the author of the novel No One is Here Except All of Us, published by Riverhead Books. She will be blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning and is JBC's May Twitter Book Club selection.

Maybe there are four or five people on earth for whom writing is effortless and never heartbreaking. I don’t know those people, and I’m not sure I’d like them if we met. Writers are professional feelers—our hearts should be tender and sore at the end of the day, right?

Still, sometimes it feels as if any other vocation would be easier. I could have studied fresh-water algae, been a long-distance runner, a baby-seal feeder. But that’s exactly the thing that bring me back: writing allows me to live a hundred other lives besides my own. When I was in high school I thought I wanted to be an actress, but there was one small issue—I was shy and not interested in performing. It turned out I wanted the other job where you get to imagine your way into the heads and hearts of other people, feel the world in a new way every time you sit down to work.

Most of the day, we all tend to the usual things. We pay the gas bill, find a parking place, buy cereal, apples, chicken breasts, remember to call our mothers, take the children to the doctor, sort the stack of mail. We do what needs doing. Meanwhile, we lose friends, fall in love with people, teach our babies to talk, help our parents leave the world. Being alive is so gorgeous, so hard, so everything. Writing—and reading—is the place where I get to try to understand some of the ten zillion strange, beautiful, terrible truths. For me, it is the second half of being alive.

Ramona Ausubel grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She is the author of the novel No One is Here Except All of Us with the collection of short stories A Guide to Being Born to follow. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, One Story, the Green Mountains Review, pax americana, The Orange Coast ReviewSlice and collected in The Best American Fantasy and online in The Paris Review. 

Bageling

Thursday, April 12, 2012 | Permalink

Earlier this week Rav Ron Yitzchok Eisenman wrote about an unexpected Hava Nageela moment and about his disdain for the phrase: "How's Everything?" He has been blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

Have you ever been ‘bageled’?

Bageling,” is:

the conscious act – or speech - of a non-obviously looking Jewish individual to an obviously looking Jew intended to indicate that he or she is also Jewish; or, the conscious act of a non-Jew towards a Jew to indicate his or her affinity with the Jewish people.

An example of the former is when I was on the plane back from Denver and a bare-headed Jew came over to me and said Shalom. He was ‘bageling’ me. He was attempting to indicate with the word Shalom that he too is one of the tribe.

I am sure that many of us have been bageled before. Often all of us have been approached by individuals –Jewish and non-Jews- and befriended or just greeted in order to inform us that the person standing before us would like to connect with us.

In the latter case of a non-Jew, the act of being bageled can be as innocent as the non-Jew also saying Shalom or sometimes - as happened to me at the airport in Denver- much weightier and significant.

So sit back, relax and listen to one more tale of the ‘travels of Rabbi Eisenman’.

My least favorite part of flying is the security check point. Believe it or not- I enjoy the actual flight. After all, I have hours of uninterruptible time by myself; what could be better?

However, the security check point is always uncomfortable for me. I do my best to empty everything in my pockets, hoping that the metal detector alarm will not sound, as I do not want everyone seeing ‘the rabbi’ having to undergo the ‘wand’ treatment.

As I was approaching the security machine in Denver I was quite conscious of the fact that I was the most obviously looking Jew in the airport at the time. I emptied my pockets and waited for the guard on the other side of the metal detector to signal me to begin the shoe-less, belt-less, cell phone-less stroll through the metal detector doorway to the freedom of the plane.

The officer on the other side of the detector was big. He was about six feet three and trim, fit and very stern looking. As I waited to be instructed to begin my walk, I wondered silently if he was physically capable of smiling.

He slowly lifted his fingers ever so slightly and indicated that I was now to proceed through the invisible aura which sees all.

I walked through and looked up at my protector expecting and hoping for ‘the nod’ which would allow me to proceed without further delay.

However, it was not to be. 

Officer Cheerful-face indicated that I must approach him.

I slowly neared my ‘defender of the homeland’ with both trepidation and nervousness.

“Will I be whisked off to Gitmo, never to be seen again?

Will I become the next poster child for the Agudah?

Will prayer rallies be held on my behalf?

Will the very same ‘please forward to everyone you know’ emails that I have preciously railed against now be splashed all over the virtual world for my quick and immediate release?

Will the young girls in Bais Ya'akovs all across the globe know my Hebrew name by heart as their pristine and sinless lips fervidly say Tehillim for my redemption?

Will I now write books from the inside of a prison cell in Guantanamo Bay?”

I was now face to face with the law. 

He slowly looked me in the eye and then, in a move which no doubt would strike fear in the hearts of the mightiest of men, he motioned to me to come very, very close to him. He then began to look from side to side.

“What is going to happen to me now?

If the person who is supposed to be my protector is now making sure no one else is looking and that no one else can hear us, what is he planning to do?

Could it be that he is secretly related to a choleric and cross congregant who still bears a grudge against the rabbi for his not getting ‘Shlishi’ last Shabbos?

Could it be that he is really a secret admirer of Osama Bin Laden and he has mistaken me as a fellow Taliban?’

Finally, after his being convinced that no one else could hear us, he began his murmured divulgence:

“America must support Israel! The only hope for America is when we and Israel are totally in sync and when there is no difference between our interests and that of Israel. That is the only hope for our country. I just wanted you to know this!”

I nodded and, as quickly as my little legs could transport me, I proceeded to the plane.

Friends, I was just super bageled; with cream cheese and lox as well!

Rav Ron Yitzchok Eisenman's The Elephant in the Room is now available.

How's Everything?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012 | Permalink

Earlier this week Rav Ron Yitzchok Eisenman wrote about an unexpected Hava Nageela moment. He will be blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

Yesterday a man came to see me for an appointment. As he came in to the office he asked me, “how’s everything?” At first I did not answer, so he asked again, “Is everything alright?”

Once again, I did not answer.

I do not recall when the phrase “how’s everything” first became part of our vernacular. When I was a child, people greeted each other with “How are you today?” or “How do you do?” I don’t think the phrase “how’s everything” became popular until the era of ‘a cell phone on every belt clip and a blue tooth in every ear.' 

Whenever this phrase became popular, I really dislike it and do my best never to use it.

Why do I have such disdain for this seemingly innocuous greeting? What possible reason could there be for me, a normally mild mannered and easy going person, to become full of wrath and contempt about the use of this little ditty of a phrase?

The reason, which has been made clear to me on numerous occasions, was particularly brought home yesterday when this fellow asked the question. Here was an individual who had requested a meeting to see me about his concerns. Nevertheless, normal human relations necessitate a formal asking of your host’s health and well being. For this somewhat almost perfunctory necessity, people would say, “How are you today?” That was fine. The petitioner would at least sincerely inquire as to how his host was feeling today.

However, nowadays we have this all encompassing and meaningless greeting “How’s everything?” 

When I hear it, I say to me, “does he really want to know HOW IS EVERYTHING?”
What does that mean everything?

Does he want to know all about my children and their issues? What about me and my personal struggles and battles? What about communal affairs? Does he really want to inquire about EVERYTHING

Of course not.

Therefore one can deduce that when one says "how’s everything" they really do not care about anything!

However, by using the word ‘everything’ they are being ‘politically correct’ in conveying the artificial message of care or of setting up the illusion that they really care about everything when in reality perhaps they are interested in nothing.

Try this sometime. The next time someone asks you, “how’s everything?” Answer, “I am so happy you asked" and proceed to discuss at length your issues at work, your issues with world politics, your issues with…..everything! And then see their reaction.

For those who think this post is Much Ado about Nothing, you are right. 

When people say: “how’s everything?”- they are indenting for all to believe that they are interested in ‘much ado’ while in realty it is all nothing.

So let us begin our own little “We Hate ‘How’s Everything’” club:

Show you really care about people and stop using the phrase how’s everything.

All members of the club should only say “How are you today” and really listen and care about their answer! Let’s attempt to stamp out this depthless and casual type of greeting. Let’s go back to the meaningful, "how are you today?"

This can make all the difference in the world.

Thank for reading and by the way, “How’s’ Everything?”

Rav Ron Yitzchok Eisenman's The Elephant in the Room is now available.

wordSpoke Poetry Festival

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 | Permalink

Jewish Book Council is thrilled to be a media sponsor for the wordSpoke Poetry Festival at the Sixth Street Community Synagogue in NYC. The festival is curated by Jake Marmer and Steve Dalachinsky and brings together some of the greatest Jewish poets, thinkers, and characters. The events will be held on the following dates: April 18th, April 19th, April 29th, and May 6th. Information on each event can be found below:

Wednesday, Apr 18 at 07:30 PM - Downtown Perspectives: Steve Dalachinsky & Friends

Featuring: Hersch Silverman, Bonny Finberg, Ivan Klein, Danny Shot, Eliot Katz, Tsaurah Litzky, Jake Marmer, and Steve Dalachinsky. 

Cover: $5


Thursday, Apr 19 at 08:30 PM - Radical Poetics: Stephen Paul Miller, Adeena Karasick, and Bob Perelman

Milestone publication of the "Radical Poetics & Secular Jewish Culture" - a collection of poetry & criticism - opened a great deal of dialogues, readings, and possibilities for contemporary exploration of Jewish identity. Publication's editor Stephen Paul Miller as well as contributors Adeena Karasick and Bob Pereleman will convene for a poetry reading and conversation.

Cover: $5


Sunday, Apr 29 at 11:00 AM - Reading & Writing New Jewish Poetry Workshop led by Adeena Karasick & Jake Marmer 

This summer, KlezKanada festival will be piloting the world's first Jewish poetry retreat, co-hosted by Adeena Karasick and Jake Marmer. Join them for the preview of the upcoming attractions, a sample workshop session.

Cover: $5


Sunday, May 6 at 07:00 PM - Radical Poetics: Charles Bernstein, Hank Lazer, and Erica Kaufman

Milestone publication of the "Radical Poetics & Secular Jewish Culture" - a collection of poetry & criticism - opened a great deal of dialogues, readings, and possibilities for contemporary exploration of Jewish identity. Publication's contributors Charles Bernstein and Hank Lazer (on a rare visit from Tuscaloosa, Ala.!) will be joined by Erica Kaufman for a poetry reading and conversation.

Cover: $5

For more information on each event, please click here


Book Cover of the Week: Einstein's Jewish Science

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

To add to our ever-growing collection of Einstein-themed titles is this new one: Einstein's Jewish Science: Physics at the Intersection of Politics and Religion (Steven Gimbel). Gimbel's book will be published by The Johns Hopkins University Press in May:

Is relativity Jewish? The Nazis denigrated Albert Einstein's revolutionary theory by calling it "Jewish science," a charge typical of the ideological excesses of Hitler and his followers. Philosopher of science Steven Gimbel explores the many meanings of this provocative phrase and considers whether there is any sense in which Einstein's theory of relativity is Jewish.

Arguing that we must take seriously the possibility that the Nazis were in some measure correct, Gimbel examines Einstein and his work to explore how beliefs, background, and environment may—or may not—have influenced the work of the scientist. You cannot understand Einstein's science, Gimbel declares, without knowing the history, religion, and philosophy that influenced it.

No one, especially Einstein himself, denies Einstein's Jewish heritage, but many are uncomfortable saying that he was being a Jew while he was at his desk working. To understand what "Jewish" means for Einstein's work, Gimbel first explores the many definitions of "Jewish" and asks whether there are elements of Talmudic thinking apparent in Einstein's theory of relativity. He applies this line of inquiry to other scientists, including Isaac Newton, René Descartes, Sigmund Freud, and Émile Durkheim, to consider whether their specific religious beliefs or backgrounds manifested in their scientific endeavors.

Einstein's Jewish Science intertwines science, history, philosophy, theology, and politics in fresh and fascinating ways to solve the multifaceted riddle of what religion means—and what it means to science. There are some senses, Gimbel claims, in which Jews can find a special connection to E = mc2, and this claim leads to the engaging, spirited debate at the heart of this book.

Hava Nageela

Monday, April 09, 2012 | Permalink

Rav Ron Yitzchok Eisenman is the author of The Elephant in the Room. He will be blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

"Hava Nagila" (Hebrew: הבה נגילה) (lit. Let us rejoice) is a Hebrew folk song that has become a staple of band performers at Jewish weddings and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs.  The melody was taken from a Ukrainian folk song from Bukovina. The commonly used text was probably composed by Abraham Zevi (Zvi) Idelsohn in 1918 to celebrate the British victory in Palestine during World War I as well as the Balfour Delcaration. (From Wikipedia)

Yesterday was some day- I almost cannot remember the clock moving; it began early in the day at Shul and ended late at night. It was a day of constant motion and if I would fill you in on the details of the day… well, suffice to say we could sell such stories to ‘Ripley’s Believe it or Not’!

At about 5 pm, I find myself at my next challenge of an already hectic day: attempting to find parking on the island of Manhattan. Finally, I spot a garage and quickly turn my vehicle into the lot with about 10 minutes to spare for my 5:13 pm appointment in mid-town New York.

As I open my door and begin to exit, the dark-skinned attendant and his side quick greet me with a smile. They could be African-American, Latino, Indian, Bangladeshi, Arab or perhaps Sephardic Jews (however, that last choice is very unlikely).

As I am step totally out of the car and place my hat on my head, suddenly my parking pals burst out in a spontaneous rendition of Hava Nageela.



At first I am totally shocked by this unexpected occurrence of being ‘bageled’ - by these perfect parking strangers. After all, here I am in the middle of Manhattan as these two men of unknown lineage are serenading me to the tune of Hava Nageela.

As I am in a rush (which seems more and more to be the norm of my life and not the exception) – I am somewhat turned off by this unneeded and bothersome waste of time.

However, as I looked at their smiling faces and their genuine attempt to connect with me on my terms I realized that this impromptu medley came from a good and pure place of the human experience; namely their want and their desire to connect to another human being in friendship.

With this epiphany in hand, not only was I no longer agitated by this spontaneous song, I was elated.

Indeed, this was exactly the G-d send I needed to cheer me up on this stress ridden and difficult day.

In less time than you can say “Uru aḥim! Uru aḥim b'lev sameaḥ” I joined their duet and we immediately created the ‘Nageela Trio’ in the middle of a cold night in Manhattan.

On and on we went, “Hava Nageela, Hava Nageela….” as the three of us sang the night away - well, that’s somewhat of an exaggeration as in truth our opening rendition lasted about thirty seconds; however, the joy and fun we had was real and meaningful- not to mention great fodder for today’s blog.

Why ignore those moments which are so precious and so meaningful when you connect with another person in joy and simcha?
Why ignore someone when they reach out to you on your terms?
If nothing else at least acknowledge and smile back- it will change your day.

Rav Ron Yitzchok Eisenman's The Elephant in the Room is now available.

This Passover, Play With your Food!

Friday, April 06, 2012 | Permalink
Earlier this week, Aviva Kanoff wrote about quinoa, the superfood. She has been blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

This year, you won’t have to bribe your kids to eat their vegetables. With so many colorful and exciting foods out there, they’ll be begging you for more! Can you blame them? With pictures of tri-color cauliflower, and dancing rainbow carrots, they’ll think dinner was created by Disney. Throw in easy-to-follow recipes and colorful pictures and watch out, they may even be cooking you dinner!

Magic Spaghetti Squash

What kid doesn’t love a good magic trick?! Especially one they can perform themselves!

And, for just under a dollar a pound, it's really a win-win situation. If you haven’t already guessed from the title of this paragraph, I’m talking about spaghetti squash, all natural and so healthy! Kids love pasta (and this looks just like it), and combined with the fun of shredding it themselves in under a minute, they won’t miss the 200 calories they are saving by avoiding the real thing.

Ratatoullie, the Dish, Not the Mouse.

Kids are familiar with the cartoon chef named Ratatoullie, but, little do they know, it's also a healthy and delicious food! Maybe they can use a French accent while they are eating it too!

Pop Goes the Quinoa

Children will watch in amazement as the water disappears and the quinoa pops out of its seed during the cooking process. A great source of protein and fiber, and it's also light and fluffy!

Please Eat the Flowers!

Who knew you could eat flowers? With recipes like stuffed zucchini blossoms and flowering chives, you can encourage something out of the ordinary and provide a unique experience at the dinner table. This will stimulate your child’s curiosity and make them excited and interested about food they’re eating.

Crayola’d Cauliflower


With cauliflower available in colors like purple and yellow, your kids will think dinner was brought to them by Dr. Seuss.

Dancing Rainbow Carrots


Add a touch of whimsy to your table with these iresistable rainbow baby carrots. If that goes over well, you can introduce them to rainbow chard too!

And Finally, for Dessert...

Meet kiki-riki, the tznius banana lady!


It’s not every day you see a lady with bananas on her head! Your kids will fall in love with this wild banana lady just like I did when I encountered her in a Jamaican jungle as she chased me with her machete. My recipe for banana muffins is so easy and a great way to introduce kids to baking. There’s no better way to incorporate the importance of Passover into their lives than through yummy food and hands on, interactive experiences.

Cajun Carrot Fries

Ingredients:
• 8-10 large carrots, peeled and cut into thin slices, like “fries”
• 1 tbsp. olive oil
• ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
• salt and black pepper, to taste

Directions:
1. Preheat your oven to 450°.
2. Grease and/or line a large cookie sheet.
3. Toss the sliced carrots with olive oil, cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper.
4. Arrange the fries in a single layer on your baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, then flip the fries over and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until crisp. Serve warm.

Eggplant Parmigiana

Ingredients:
• 2 cups tomato sauce
• 1 large eggplant, sliced into ½ inch thick round pieces
• 2 eggs
• 1 cup matzoh meal or ground walnut
(or half & half)
• 8 oz. mozzarella cheese
• 3 ounces goat cheese (if unavailable, substitute with additional mozzarella)
• salt and pepper

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Salt eggplant on both sides and leave for 30 minutes until liquid is released.
3. Crack and mix eggs in one bowl, and pour matzoh meal and/or ground walnuts and seasoning into a second bowl.
4. Dip eggplant slices of eggplant first in eggs, then in matzoh meal and/or ground walnuts.
5. Fry each slice in canola oil for 2 minutes on each side until soft.
6. In a 9x12 inch pan, create layers with eggplant, goat cheese, and tomato sauce (creates about 3 layers).
7. Top with mozzarella cheese.
8. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes or until mozzarella cheese is melted.


Both recipes can be found in The No Potato Passover (Brio Books; 2012 Hardcover $29.95)

Aviva Kanoff paints, teaches a mixed media art class, and dabbles in photography. Her creative approach to life led her to artistic experimentation with food, and after years of creating her own recipes and working as a personal chef, she wrote The No-Potato Passover.

The Lost Afikomen

Thursday, April 05, 2012 | Permalink

Moshe Kasher is a stand-up comedian and the author of Kasher In The Rye: The True Tale Of A White Boy From Oakland Who Became A Drug Addict, Criminal, Mental Patient…And Then Turned Sixteen This is a story of a Passover miracle. Or something. Readers should be advised of strong language and total immaturity…although it’s got a pretty great ending.

It is said that whoever finds the afikomen on Passover is granted a wish that cannot be refused by the master of the house. That wish, no matter how extravagant or unusual, must be fulfilled and until the lucky discoverer is satisfied that his wish has been granted, the seder cannot continue. This is the story of the night that went quite wrong.

It was the first night of Pesach and Shmulie slumped down at the head of his Seder table with a great relieved sigh. The week was finally over. He’d been running around all week, shopping for matzah and matzah meal and matzah-based beverages and other assorted constipation aids. Shmulie was exhausted.

“Why are you sitting down!?!” Pessy yelled from the kitchen, “Get the door!”

How his wife even knew he had just sat down was beyond Shmulie’s grasp. Pessy had a kind of second sight that tuned right into Shmulie’s attempts at rest. Anytime he took a deep breath she would yell, “Don’t breathe!” He didn’t know how to comply.

Pessy was the boss, always had been. Mostly, Shmulie accepted it, as she seemed able to know all of the things that he didn’t quite know how to do. She was his queen and it didn’t matter to him if she only rarely treated him like a prince. For her, he would be a pauper — he would be a page.

“GET THE DOOR!!!” Pessy shrieked from the kitchen.

“Pessy, no one is at the door!” Shmulie tried to sound reasonable.

Just then the door bell rang. How had she known!?!

Shmulie ended his one-breath-long vacation and got himself up and sauntered into the hall to welcome the Pesach guests. One step at a time the plastic runner in the hall buckled beneath his big feet. He made his way to the door.

One by one the guests trickled in. Shmulie didn’t know any of them, but he greeted each of them with a big fake smile and a warm “Chag Sameach!”

He’d done this before. This was the seventh year in a row they’d hosted a seder for the neighborhood. A sea of strangers washed into their dining room and ate as much as they could then leaked out into the streets. Shmulie hated it. He hated strangers and it was odd to him that some of the people Pessy invited were non-Jews. Why would they be invited to Passover? Sure the Hagaddah says “Let all who are hungry, come and eat!” but they couldn’t have meant let all who are hungry, right? Hungry goys too?

Oh well, Pessy knew best. Shmulie repeated this to himself for the ten thousandth time and got to the business of beginning the seder. At the far end of the table was a Laotian family who clearly didn’t even know what they were doing there. Confused looks were exchanged when Shmulie dipped the parsley into the salt water and splashed the water on his face to show them that they were tears.

“Tears get it? Like boo hoo?”

“Why are they tears?” Bok, the youngest Laotian boy, asked.

“Because we remember the tears our people shed in the desert, toiling for the Egyptians in the hot sun,” Shmulie recited, as if from a script.

“In Laos, we cried too… do you want to know why?” Bok asked.

“Not really, no.” Shmulie just wanted to get through this meal.

“Shmulie! Don’t be rude.” Pessy turned to the seder guests. “Sorry about him, he’s been emotionally off lately. We think its gluten. Thank goodness for Passover, the original lo-carb diet!” She shrieked disgustingly and turned to Bok and said, “We’d love to know why you cried.” Pessy’s face scrunched up in compassion in that singular way that only white women sympathizing with brown people can manage.

Bok spoke, “In Laos we cried because we didn’t have a floor. Our hut was lined with dirt…”

“Well that’s horrible, sorry about that Bok, back to Passover…” Shmulie couldn’t stand stuff like this.

“I’M NOT FINISHED! We ate worms and grubs. We had one well, but it was filthy and we had to drink it anyway. My father died of dysentery.”

“Is that everything?” Shmulie was losing his patience here. He hadn’t signed on for an address at the United Nations. He just wanted to eat that f–king afikomen and be done with this thing.

“No. It is not everything.” Bok then began a 45 minute speech about that hardships of life in Laos that was so painful to listen to that Shmulie imagined he now knew exactly how it felt to be a slave in Egypt, or in fact, a boy in Laos.

Eventually Pessy gave up on the ritual aspects of the meal altogether and just started serving the food in between Bok’s exaggerated sobs, never once betraying any annoyance or a lack of interest in hearing Bok’s tale of woe which was superceding what was supposed to have been the tale of the woe of the Jewish people. Goddamn it, this Laotian kid was stealing Passover with his sad little life. Shmulie had had about enough of this.

“Ok, that’s it. We are doing Afikomen now.” Shmulie’s voice was terse and annoyed.

“Shmulie! We have to finish hearing Bok’s story!” Pessy snapped back.

“I’m almost done.” Bok smiled.

“No! No, I’m putting my foot down. I’m sorry Bok, I am. Laos sounds sh-tty. I’m sorry your father is dead and I’m sorry you had dirt floors and I’m sorry there is a sauce in Laos made of cow shit. It really sounds bad but right now, it’s Passover. And it’s midnight and we are moving on to the afikomen and then I’m going to bed and then I am going to have sex with my wife!”

“No you aren’t,” Pessy sneered.

“Then I’ll have sex with myself!” Shmulie had never spoken to Pessy like this. It felt really, really good.

Bok frowned, sad. “Alright. I’m sorry. I apologize. I didn’t mean to ruin your holiday with my sad story. Lets move onto the Afi…what did you call it?”

“Komen. THE AFI-KOMEN. Let’s do.”

Shmulie cut the awkwardness in the air with an uninspired speech about the Afikomen and the rewards it wrought. Then he screamed “Go!” and began the hunt. Nobody moved.

Slowly, at the end of the table, Bok stood up and calmly walked directly over to the spot where Shmulie had hidden the Afikomen earlier, underneath a copy of Bob Marley’s album, “Exodus” which Shmulie had felt to be a great joke but, watching Bok flip it over and grab the Afikomen without emotion or recognition had taken all the joy out of it. Bok lifted the Afikomen up.

“Great Bok, you win. You got the Afikomen. What the hell do you want for it.”

Shmulie knew. He got it then. Anger surged into him. This was a set up. A con to peel a couple grand from him. Somehow Bok knew all about the Afikomen and had set this up to ruin his Passover. All the joy he’d felt when he’d stood up to Pessy was now gone. He looked over at her, frowning, her glare accusing him – HIM! – of ruining the seder. At that moment, Shmulie knew one more thing - he hated his wife.

“What do you want? Let me guess a grand? Five thousand bucks? Just say it and let’s end this fucking night.”

All the guests got silent and shifted uncomfortably. Everyone wanted to leave.

Bok looked up, smiled and said quietly, “I want your life.”

Shmulie looked back, confused.

“And,” Bok continued, “I want you to have mine.”

And that was how Shmulie and Pessy Bornstein moved to Laos. 

Years passed, Shmulie has made his living repairing old sneakers at the market in town and Pessy caught tarantulas in traps she made and set in the woods. She would sun-dry them and sprinkle garlic, soy and MSG on them and sell them on sticks to travelers.

Their home was small, and the floors were dirt and when the rains came, they hoped that the leaks wouldn’t make too much mud. They’d tried to have kids but something in the drinking water seemed to have turned Pessy’s womb. But mostly, they were happy. Pessy had softened. Shmulie had found his voice. When the afternoon suns came and the pale streams of light stole through the lattice of the hut they lived in and shone on her brow, she glowed, radiant, pure and perfect. And, one afternoon as that Laotian sun danced on her face, Shmulie looked over and realized that he loved his wife. He loved her very much. Crowned with a crown of pure sun, once again, she was his queen.

At that very moment of realization, the postman came, squeaking down the dirt road that led to their village on a bike so creaky and rusty – it defied the laws of logic to see it’s wheels turn. The postman, Chantos, handed Shmulie a letter. The letter, thick papered and tied down the middle with a single red ribbon, held in place with a red wax seal, sat, heavy in Shmulie’s hands. It seemed to vibrate there, singing with an invisible music. Shmulie realized his hand was trembling when he broke that seal and he called Pessy into the hut as he opened the letter. It read, in a simple script:

You can have your life back now.
Yours,
Elijah The Prophet

Moshe Kasher is the author of Kasher In The Rye: The True Tale Of A White Boy From Oakland Who Became A Drug Addict, Criminal, Mental Patient...And Then Turned Sixteen. He is an L.A.-based comedian who was named iTunes Comedian of the Year. He is a regularly featured guest on E's Chelsea Lately, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and Comedy Central.

Passover for Non-Bolivians

Wednesday, April 04, 2012 | Permalink
Aviva Kanoff is the author of The No-Potato Passover. Check back on Friday for her next post for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

By now, most people have heard of quinoa, the superfood. With plenty of fiber, protein and vitamins it sounds like a super idea. The problem arises when the time comes to actually prepare this somewhat unfamiliar item and poses a special problem during the upcoming holiday of Passover. Jewish people tend to favor foods from their particular part of the Diaspora during these eight days. And really, how many Jews are actually from Bolivia?  But never fear, we Jews are a glorious melting pot! We may have been kicked out of many places but we wind up taking the menus with us.

Quin-what?

I have recently traveled around the country to do cooking demonstrations in response to my new book, The No-Potato Passover, and I have found that people have a fear and mistrust of this simple Bolivian staple.

But what exactly is quinoa?

Is it a grain? A seed? A vegetable? Help!

Quinoa (pronounced "keen-whah") is often mistaken for a grain, but it's actually a seed — one that originated thousands of years ago in the Andes Mountains. Dubbed "the gold of the Incas," it's treasured because of it's nutritive value. Quinoa actually has more protein than any other grain or seed and offers a complete protein, meaning it contains all the essential amino acids our bodies can't make on their own. It's also a great source of calcium and is high in lysine, the B vitamins and iron. To top it off, the seed is easy to digest and gluten free! If you are counting carbs or just want to eat healthier quinoa is your new best friend.

Why has this tiny seed brought forth such huge confusion?

For starters, misinformation, or don't believe the bag!! Typically, the label will state to boil for 15 minutes. In my experience, quinoa is not ready for consumption before 20- 25 minutes of cooking time. Only when the seed “pops” and it is soft, is it ready to be eaten.

But it doesn't taste like anything.

Aha! thats where you come in. The wonder of quinoa is that you can make it taste like anything you want. Think of the biblical mana that fell from heaven. 

Do you like savory flavors? Reach for the pepper and garlic. Middle Eastern more your style? How about cumin and safron?  Use different colored vegetables and tangy fruit to add more texture and “zing” and soon you too will be singing the praises of quinoa. It will supply the wonderful canvas to bring out your inner culinary artist.

Mixed Berry Quinoa with Roasted Almonds



Ingredients:

• 1 cup red quinoa
• 1 cup slivered almonds
• 1 cup white quinoa
• 5-6 medium mushrooms, chopped
• 1 cup golden raisins
• 1 Vidalia onion, diced
• 1 cup Craisins
• 2 tbsp. canola oil
• salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Cook quinoa according to package.
2. In a separate skillet, sauté onions in canola oil until golden brown.
3. Add chopped mushrooms and sauté for one minute.
4. Add raisins, craisins and almonds, and sauté for another minute.
5. When quinoa is ready, add to pan and mix with other ingredients.
6. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Recipe from The No Potato Passover (Brio Books; 2012 Hardcover $29.95)

Aviva Kanoff paints, teaches a mixed media art class, and dabbles in photography. Her creative approach to life led her to artistic experimentation with food, and after years of creating her own recipes and working as a personal chef, she wrote The No-Potato Passover.