Chicago and holidays will forever be intertwined for me, like the strands in a braided challah: inseparable, golden, and tasting like "more." Last year, I inherited my grandmother "Ga's" accordion recipe file, from which she culled to entertain family and friends for 40 years or more in the apartment she shared with my grandpa on Dorchester Avenue, in Hyde Park. The file is arranged alphabetically, followed by two slots devoted to holidays. The mismatched scraps of paper embody so much more than a list of ingredients and a step-by-step guide to recreating family favorites.
The pocket full of "Jewish Holiday" recipes holds treasures from decades past: special features from the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune , stray pages from a Hyde Park Co-Op collection, and more. One Passover article makes me smile; the publication name was clipped away, the article simply titled "Some Chicago Recipes." I am taking my time working my way through the recipe file-Meatball Stew, I am looking at you come next Passover-connecting with Ga and learning every contour of her handwriting from the notes in the margins. I don't want to miss a thing. Ga passed away in May, but I can hear her nudging me to put the recipes I have pulled out of the file back in the right place.
The generations that follow Ga's have replaced accordion files and newspaper clippings with blogs, online repositories of digital recipes woven with guidance, and personal notes from the author. I did not start my cooking blog with the intent of sharing it with anyone. It was my own digital accordion file; I just wanted to tag and categorize my favorites with efficiency and features available only electronically. "My Utensil Crock," I named my blog, because it is where I first reach when I need something in the kitchen. In building my own blog, I have come to appreciate the story behind those cultivated by others, especially those blogs rooted in Jewish cooking. When looking for Jewish inspiration for my blog, for a holiday, or just because, I start in one of three places:
What Jew Wanna Eat
Amy Kritzer's What Jew Wanna Eat is a playful homage to her Jewish heritage, wasting no time bursting out of the gate with her blog's tagline: "This Ain't Yo Bubbe's Blog!" Whether gingerly cradling a bottle of Manishewitz (a twinkle sparkling in her eye and blinging off of her sequin get-up), or regaling her readers with seemingly endless punnery (supplanting all susceptible words that rhyme with "Jew"), Amy's blog is a fun departure from the typical old-word associations that most attach to Jewish cuisine. Jazz up your Chanukah dessert buffet with Amy's Manishewitz Cheesecake with Boozy Blackberries or Funfetti Rugelach.
Although she has merged her admired Jewish cooking-themed blog "The Shiksa in the Kitchen" with another popular blog she maintained, Tori Avey will always be "The Shiksa in the Kitchen" to me. Tori's Jewish cooking blog, ToriAvey.com is the place to go for traditional Jewish dishes. Tori talks her readers through the history of the posts and shares knowledge and research on ingredients and tradition. I first found Tori's blog through her "challah tutorial." In two thorough posts stacked with step-by-step pictures, Tori talks her readers through the basics of making challah, and the many options for braiding the dough. I love Tori's posts on variations of challah as well; her pumpkin challah was well-received when I shared it with my family at Thanksgivukkah 2014, although my traditional family appreciated having the option of a "regular" four-strand braided challah as well.
Monday Morning Cooking Club
Growing up in the 1980s in Northwest Indiana, I could not have fathomed that there was a Jewish community in Sydney, Australia, a land so distant, and foreign to me. From my perspective, Highland Park seemed like a day's journey. Even if I could have imagined such a civilization, I certainly could not have anticipated that we would have a passion in common. But today, through the magical powers of the internet, I can interact with this culture on as "real-time" a basis as the half-day time difference allows. I love the concept of Monday Morning Cooking Club. Comprised of six Jewish women whose heritages span the globe, MMCC was originally formed to create a cookbook for charity. Enterprising women as they are, the MMCC moved on to try to find the best recipes from the best cooks in Sydney's Jewish community. Nearly 10 years later, their blog shares with the world familiar Jewish recipes and more.
Although she currently lives in Washington, D.C., Becky Brown's heart (and stomach) belong to Chicago, where she was born and raised. You can find her cooking blog at www.myutensilcrock.com .