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A Bubbie as Sweet as Sugar

How do you remember the people you love?

Whenever I remember my Bubbie Ruth, I think about her sugar cookies. Anytime my family would stop into her Elmira, NY home, I would look forward to tasting her brightly colored, sugar-y cookies.

Sharing the story of my Bubbie and her cookies is the reason why I uploaded her recipe to Beyond Bubbie, a website that shares the recipes and stories from the people who made us who we are. The brainchild of “Save the Deli” author David Sax, Beyond Bubbie, is meant to inspire a communal, culinary conversation that spans religions and cultures.

“Everyone’s bubbie has a recipe, and every bubbie’s recipe holds a great story. They tend to be forgotten if they’re not written down, and with so many bubbies working off fading memories, tattered index cards, and worn synagogue cookbooks, we figured it was time to put out a call for the recipes and stories of bubbies everywhere,” said Sax. “Not just Yiddish-speaking-chicken-in-the pot bubbies, but Sephardic-couscous bubbies, Filipino-nanny-pancit-on-Friday-night bubbies, and college-roommate-who-made-you-apple-cake-when-you-were-depressed bubbies.”

While physical recipe cards are a great way to hold on to recipes, unfortunate mishaps sometimes happen and the history is lost. With, stories, recipes and photos can be saved and shared online with family and friends. When I shared my recipe I was so excited to hear about how even local firemen loved my Bubbie’s treats.

My cousin, Mike Semel, wrote, “Yael’s Bubbie was my Aunt Ruthie. I was the rescue captain in our local fire department and there was a fire hydrant across from Aunt Ruthie’s house. One day my fire chief called me and asked me to call Aunt Ruthie. He said that we would be doing a training drill at that fire hydrant and said, ‘Last time we were there Aunt Ruthie (as she was known to everyone) didn’t expect us and ran out of sugar cookies. Please let her know we are coming tonight.’ Everyone — especially the Chief — got cookies that evening.”

When I spoke with Rabbi Ronald Androphy, the former rabbi of Congregation Shomray Hadath and my Bubbie’s rabbi, he said “She was more than a balabusta. She was take charge kind of person, who was sweet as sugar on the inside.” In talking to Rabbi Androphy, I learned that my Bubbie was on the baking committee of the synagogue. “Without a kosher bakery the women of the Elmira community would get together and bake for different events. Ruth’s sugar cookies were always a big hit on Simchat Torah, where men would have their schnapps with a side of sugar cookies.”

This past summer, after giving birth to my daughter, I chose to honor my Bubbie’s memory by naming her after my BubbyieRuth. Revaya, which we also found out is a diminutive of the name Ruth, is a precious little baby with the same smile as my Bubbie. And at her Simchat Bat we made sure to serve Bubbie Ruth Sugar Cookies and share the recipe that spread so much warmth to her hometown and to her family.

Bubbie Kornfeld’s Sugar Cookies

2 cups flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ cup sugar+2 tbsp
¼ cup margarine
2 eggs beaten
1 tsp vanilla

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2) Grease cookie sheets
3) roll out dough (thickness of cookie is a personal preference)
4) Use your favorite cookie cutters
5) Sprinkle sugar on (or frost afterwards)
6) Bake for 7-10 minutes

Join Beyond Bubbie at Beyond Bubbie: Tales from the Kitchen on January 16 at 92YTribeca for a storytelling event with David Sax, Mo Rocca, Carla Hall, Joan Nathan, Jake Dell (Katz’s Deli), Alan Richman, John Donahue, Judy Batalion and Cantor Shira Ginsburg. Tickets can be purchased online In San Francisco? Join Beyond Bubbie at the Contemporary Jewish Museum on January 24th.

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