Saturday, March 11, 2006

I'm Such A Sucker For A Compliment

About five times a year my vanity gets the better of me. I'm going along, minding my own business, when someone in the SO's family sidles up to me and says, "Are you going to bake______ (unique cultural food or family recipe) this year? Because it just wouldn't be _________ (holiday or special occasion) without your wonderful _________s. No one makes them like you do. It's the best part of the _______ (holiday or special occasion) for me."

And I fall for it every damn time.

I used to hang out in the kitchen with the SO's grandmother while she cooked. I'm a family story junkie, so I'd sit there and listen to her tales while she whipped up some of her specialties. Of course, she'd hand me things while she talked. "Mix this for me, dear. Can you measure that out? Help me fill the pasta. Taste this and tell me if it needs more pepper." She taught me how to cook - something I wouldn't have volunteered for if she hadn't been so sly about the lessons. By the time she passed away, I realized I was the only person around who knew how to make some of the prized family recipes. They weren't written down anywhere, but I had them memorized. Talk about an insurance policy! The SO had to keep me at that point.

These weren't just any old recipes. The SO's grandmother was trained at a culinary academy, and she melded Russian and German traditions with French cooking methods. Some are absolutely unique to SO's family. Others bear the same name as dishes other people know, but there's no comparison.

I got a call from one of the SO's nieces last week. She casually mentioned that Purim was coming up. I already guessed she had other motives for calling me, but I played along.

Cunning Niecelet: Say, did you know that Purim starts next week?

Me: Gee, it must have slipped my mind.

Cunning Niecelet: Well, we were talking about it at Hebrew class, and we started talking about Hamentaschen....

Me: *groan*

Cunning Niecelet: ...And I'm sure we're going to end up having to eat those horrible cookies they always serve.

Me: Yeah, well, I'm sure you'll survive. I hear you can get a buzz if you eat enough of the poppyseed ones.

Cunning Niecelet: Really? *silence while she ponders that tidbit, and then recovery when she realizes she's being distracted* Um, well, anyway, I told them that those weren't real hamentaschen, and that you made the best ones ever.

Me: *I can so see where this is going* Thanks.

Cunning Niecelet: *speaking at full speed so I can't get a word in* So, I need 30 for my class Monday. Make the apple ones. I don't like the cheese filling. Love you. Bye-bye. *click*

Do I call her up and say no? Do I envision a hamentaschen free Purim? Do I tell her parents (who will probably keep five of the 30 for themselves)? No. I get up early Saturday morning to peel, core, and dice eight cups of apples. Once I cooked that filling, I made the cheese one too. Then I got out the yeast and made the sweet bread dough. 12 hours total.

Some day, the cunning niecelets and nephews (who are equally guilty) are going to find out that their hamentaschen/kreplach soup/blintz souffle/toffee square/latke/matzoh brittle/spiced pecan/potato, lobster & corn chowder supplier can cut them off. That's the day I start passing on those recipes to them the same way I learned. Oh, they'll pretend they aren't interested in cooking, but what choice will they have? The poor little babies know nothing about going cold turkey.

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