Ear­li­er this week, Jamie Geller wrote about her very first pota­to kugel. Jamie, known as the Queen of Kosher” (CBS) and the Jew­ish Rachael Ray” (New York Times), is Founder and Chief Cre­ative Offi­cer of the Kosher Media Net­work, pub­lish­er of the award-win­ning Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller mag­a­zine and the Joy​ofKosher​.com web­site. Her newest cook­book, Joy of Kosher, will be pub­lished by William Mor­row on Octo­ber 15th. She will be blog­ging here all week for Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing.

Some folks are born with the bal­a­bus­ta gene and oth­ers are not. It’s that sim­ple. If you didn’t hap­pen to grow up where the term bal­a­bus­ta was freely thrown about, let me try to define it for you. I say try” because Yid­dish is a lan­guage that requires para­graphs of expla­na­tion for one tiny word. Nu, let’s give it a go. 

In the glos­sary of my first cook­book I define a bal­a­bus­ta as the per­fect home­mak­er. She cooks, she cleans, she bakes, she owns the best spice rack. And she does it all with grace, donat­ing her spare time to local charities. 

My grand­par­ents were blessed with the bal­a­bus­ta gene (like most every­one from the old coun­try), which comes along with nat­ur­al cook­ing instincts that sense exact­ly what’s need­ed to make a dish sing. Yet, like twins, it skipped a gen­er­a­tion or two and I was born clear­ly defec­tive in this area. As my grand­fa­ther would say to any­one that would lis­ten, she’s no bal­a­bus­ta.”

For most of my life, it didn’t mat­ter. As far as my moth­er was con­cerned, I was des­tined to become the first Jew­ish woman pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States, and I would have a squad of chefs prepar­ing my state din­ners any­way. My dad would kin­da show me on the sly how to scram­ble an egg and how to turn on a stove, skills he deemed use­ful in emer­gen­cies. (That and how to replace a car­bu­re­tor.) But the lessons (both kitchen and car) didn’t take. 

I did my best to learn once it became impor­tant to me. That’s code for I got mar­ried and Hub­by asked me what’s for sup­per?’” Fun­ny, he nev­er men­tioned he’d be expect­ing din­ner on our dates. 

He was in for some ined­i­ble awak­en­ings. But I saw how impor­tant it was to him, so it became impor­tant to me. I was gonna become the bal­a­bus­ta of the cen­tu­ry, come hell or high water. 

So I exper­i­ment­ed and Hub­by choked down every morsel. After a cou­ple of years I had this thing under my belt (and on my hips). At last, I crowned myself a Bal­a­bus­ta” (well no one else was gonna make me kitchen royalty).

But nei­ther Hub­by nor I was ready for the sud­den emer­gence of Extreme Bal­a­bus­ta. I’m sure it was the result of one of those hor­mon­al domes­tic fren­zies; it hap­pened just before I had a baby. Like a culi­nary Madame Curie, I spent ten straight hours mak­ing 60 quarts of chick­en soup and froze them in indi­vid­ual 2‑quart con­tain­ers. Then I made 120 car­rot muffins and froze them in bags of 8 – 10. Next I pro­duced 4 chal­lah kugels, and a huge brisket (frozen in 3 sep­a­rate por­tions), and 90 meat­balls (frozen 10 to a con­tain­er), and 10 pounds of mashed pota­toes (also por­tioned and frozen). We’re talkin’ real­ly hor­mon­al. My moth­er-in-law looked on in dis­be­lief as I had humon­gous pots (almost as big as my humon­gous bel­ly) bub­bling on all 5 burn­ers. There was 12-quart vat in which I was mix­ing my muf­fin bat­ter, and enough ground beef to com­pete with Kosher Cas­tle (that’s the Jew­ish Burg­er King). 

So I had a freez­er full of home­made good­ies that last­ed well into the year. But by the time the baby was three months old, I had to reac­ti­vate that bal­a­bus­ta mech­a­nism which had gone dor­mant. I actu­al­ly had to cook dinner. 

And as Yogi Berra famous­ly said, It was déjà vu all over again.” I dis­cov­ered that I had not endowed myself with a gen­uine bal­a­bus­ta gene; I had sim­ply copied it by arti­fi­cial means. I had to drag myself back into that kitchen, with Hub­by prod­ding me along as my ever-hope­ful cheerleader. 

It was time to start over.

Check back on Octo­ber 15th for Jamie Gellers final post for the Vis­it­ing Scribe.

Known as the Queen of Kosher” (CBS) and the Jew­ish Rachael Ray” (New York Times), Jamie Geller is Founder and Chief Cre­ative Offi­cer of the Kosher Media Net­work, pub­lish­er of the award-win­ning Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller mag­a­zine and the Joy​ofKosher​.com web­site. Also the host of the Joy of Kosher with Jamie Geller cook­ing show and Joy of Israel with Jamie Geller food and trav­el show on JLTV and the Israel Hidab­root Chan­nel. Author of the best­selling Quick & Kosher cook­book series, she is an inter­na­tion­al­ly favored media per­son­al­i­ty appear­ing on ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, and Martha Stew­art Liv­ing Radio and fea­tured in the New York Dai­ly News, Wash­ing­ton Post, Mia­mi Her­ald, Dai­ly News Los Ange­les, Chica­go Tri­bune, Jerusalem Post, Reader’s Digest Cana­da, and more. She and her hus­band recent­ly moved their fam­i­ly to Israel, where their five chil­dren give her plen­ty of rea­sons to get out of the kitchen — fast.