This is the third column in the new series I’m writing exclusively for the Forward, my goal being to share with YOU exactly how I cook. My most popular cookbook, “Quick & Kosher: Recipes From The Bride Who Knew Nothing” (now in its 7th printing), features glimpses into the story that is my life and my penchant for feeding my family, fast. Almost a decade later, my style hasn’t changed. My life has only gotten busier, my cooking faster and my ingredients fewer.
My story starts at the turn of the last century. Of course it really starts much earlier than that, with Abraham leaving his family for the promised land; continuing with slavery in Egypt; receiving the Torah at the foot of Mount Sinai; and my daughter’s “Chumash” (Bible) play at school yesterday.
If you’ve been following me here, you know most of the first part, so I’ll start with my grandfather Abraham and his birth in 1910.
He was born in the Romanian village of Rozavlea and survived two world wars. He lost his father in WWI and his wife and sons in WWII. He was raised the orphan of a poor widower and then post-WWII found himself again with nothing, having to pick up the pieces of a life without any pieces left to pick up.
After WWII he started over again and married my grandmother Goldie. “Aranka” was her Hungarian name, “Avrum” or “Vrummie” was what they called him, and they had three children who affectionately called him “Chefu,” meaning chef, ‘cause he was an amazing cook and butcher.
My grandfather was jailed more than once for selling kosher meat and generally trying to make a living, and once out decided to get out all together and make his way via Vienna and Italy to “Ah-mer-ee-ka” with my father and the rest of the family.
I was born in Philly and have distinctive memories of his food and love for the kitchen, which he passed down to my daddy. One of my favorite pictures is a sepia-toned, yellowed-around-the-edges image of my father working with my grandfather in his butcher shop in Allentown, Pennsylvania. One of my favorite memories is my dad drying kielbasa from the rafters of our unfinished basement in Southampton Pennsylvania. He used to take me down, sit me on his shoulders and I’d reach up and pick kielbasa from the ceiling. I thought it grew there.
Meat is in my blood, and while I can’t say I’ll ever have the stomach to butcher an animal, I love the importance of serving a holiday roast to my family or steak dinner on Sunday. The year-round beautiful weather in Israel keeps us forever Q-ing, but come July 4th it starts to feel official, like we have entered into this celebration with Americans around the world — the barbecue-season zone.
My dad always worked the grill and my grandfather always came over for the day or the weekend. We just hung out by the pool eating for hours as lunch turned into dinner and dinner turned into a midnight snack. Then we’d catch fire flies while my dad had one more go at the grill.
I married a man who loves meat and grilling as much as my daddy and grandaddy and I’m thrilled to pass this meat “mesora” (tradition) down to the next generation. The kids favorite dinners are barbecue nights (and pizza) and I couldn’t be happier (about the barbecue, not the pizza).
Here are some recipes for when you want to switch up the ho hum hot dog and hamburger drill. You can now entertain this summer season with easy yet exciting barbecue recipes. Time to get your grill on and make my father and grandfather proud!
Jamie Geller is the only best-selling cookbook author who wants to get you out of the kitchen — not because she doesn’t love food, but because she has tons to do. As “The Bride Who Knew Nothing” Jamie found her niche specializing in fast, fresh, family recipes. Now the “Queen of Kosher” (CBS) and the “Jewish Rachael Ray” (New York Times), she’s the creative force behind JOYofKOSHER.com and “JOY of KOSHER with Jamie Geller” magazine. Jamie and her hubby live in Israel with their six super kids who give her plenty of reasons to get out of the kitchen — quickly. Check out her new book, ”JOY of KOSHER Fast, Fresh Family Recipes.”