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October, 2009:

Turkey neck bean soup

As we woke up to gray skies and chilly air this morning, I decided to treat my kids to turkey neck soup – their favorite. Turkey is an excellent source of iron, but my family is not very fond of it. The only part of turkey everyone loves is the neck

If you are looking for a substantial and satisfying yet economical meal to warm your family’s bodies and hearts this winter, this recipe will fit the bill.

Turkey neck bean soup

The dangers of Chinese (food)

Following the Chinese infant formula scare last year and other reports of unsafe foods coming out of China, I decided to keep all products from this country away from my kitchen. After growing up in a totalitarian country, I knew that human life was worthless in the eyes of the Beijing government and I certainly was not going to rely on them to safeguard the safety of my family’s food.

At the time, it didn’t seem like such a big challenge, since for the most part, we buy locally-made products anyway. The reality hit me on my very first visit to the supermarket. While holding a packaged side of salmon, I noticed that it had been imported from none other than China. Quick perusal of the entire fish freezer left me speechless. With the exception of Nile Perch (a questionable nutritional and ecological choice too) all other fish products either hailed from China or were completely unmarked.

Undeterred, I tried my luck at the fishmongers. There, nothing was marked, so everything hinged on the salesman’s integrity. After looking high and low, all I could come up with was one brand of Norwegian salmon and one brand of local tilapia.

Just in case you think I am exaggerating, this week I came across an extremely disturbing photo report of pollution in China (some pictures are gruesome so view with care).  After seeing this, I am not going near another package of Chinese fish ever again.

 

 

 

 

 

The great hummus war

A group of 300 Lebanese chefs got together to beat the Israeli Guinness record for the largest hummus plate in the world and prepared a 2,056 kg (4,523 lb) plate, complete with a Lebanese flag on top.

If you think this is a simple celebration of national cuisine, think again, According to the AP report, Lebanese businessmen are looking to sue Israel for marketing hummus as an Israeli food. Thankfully, Israel is not relying on its exports of hummus to hold up the national economy. We have a few other things to sell, like world’s smallest medical camera and dew-based irrigation systems.

And though the new record-setters told Israel “to keep its hands off hummus,” here is a great hummus recipe from my friend Simona.

This is just shocking…

This week Reporters Without Borders published its annual Press Freedom Index. As could be expected in the current political and media climate, Israel was ranked 93rd and 150th (inside and outside the Green Line), behind such bastions of the freedom of expression as Lebanon, Kuwait, and United Arab Emirates. Sure enough, Israel was singled out together with Iran in the group’s analysis of the index.

I am not at all upset by this new record of progressive anti-Semitism. Actually, I am quite happy. By falling off the deep end with its blatant anti-Israel rhetoric, international public opinion is administering a long-overdue course of shock therapy for Israel’s chronic insecurity complex. After decades of trying very hard to appease, of paying an arm and a leg (actually  hundreds upon hundreds of very literal arms, legs, limbs and lives of innocent terror victims) for the illusion of a new Middle East, of fantasizing about eating hummus in Damascus and doing business with the Emirates, of bringing the world the latest technical and medical innovations, of beating the world at its own game of military ethics, Israel is finally waking up to the fact that no matter how lovable it tries to appear, it will never become the world’s darling.

Believe me, the treatment is working, because Israelis are internalizing the message. They are refusing to cooperate with Goldstone’s kangaroo court, canceling all-included tour packages to the Turkish Riviera, and staying away from cultural talks with the Israel-bashing Egyptian intelligentsia. Even the ultra-liberal Israeli press is beginning to call things by their names.

Slowly but surely Israel is rediscovering Ben Gurion’s maxim of “it doesn’t matter what the Gentiles will say; what matters is what the Jews will do.”

Ode to leftovers

I have a recipe for a super-simple chicken salad. So when I found some leftover chicken in the fridge, this was just the thing to make. The recipe called for pineapple slices, so I opened a can of pineapples and took out the fruit. There was some syrup left and not wanting to throw it, out I decided to use it in a cake.

The cake recipe required only the yolks, not the white. I didn’t want to chuck them and ended up mixing a batch of meringues. Meringues are bland without lemon zest, but bold lemon would just dry up in the fridge. Not a problem. Lemon juice would make the salad dressing that much better. I needed half an onion for the salad. It’s a pity to throw out the other half, but how about some spaghetti sauce? Opened a can of tomato paste, used one half. Now what do I do? OK, I’ll make vegetable soup.

Sure enough there were no potatoes in the house, so I drove over to the supermarket and picked up some potatoes, carrots, bread, cottage cheese, tuna, napkins, detergent, dishwashing liquid, Tylenol, and 3 boxes of cereal (they were on sale).

While in the neighborhood, I stopped at the bank to deposit a check, picked up the shirts from the dry cleaners, changed oil at the mechanics, and got a new battery for my watch.

By the time I got everything into the house and finished cooking the soup, I couldn’t give a darn if there was anything left over. Next time I’ll be smarter; I’ll toss that syrup straight into the garbage can.

Free text messaging (SMS) in Israel

For anyone located in Israel, there is a free program that enables you to send unlimited text messages (SMS) for free to whomever you like.

I’ve checked the site through McAfee’s site advisor and it was found to be safe.

To access the program click here.

Happy texting!

A Letter to Goldstone

Someone sent me a copy of a letter in which a personal friend of Judge Goldstone berates him for his involvement with the anti-Israel committee named after him.

I have no idea whether the cover story is true and who really penned this letter, but that in no way diminishes the poignancy of the arguments or the validity of the facts.

Judge for yourself.

To: Judge Richard Goldstone
From: Barbara Press
Subject: Hello Richard… It’s been a while…

Dear Richard

Our paths have crossed many times compelling me to correspond directly with you. I pray your indulgence that you hear me out by reading to the end of my missive. In fact I ask you to share my letter with Noleen from beginning to end and to respond with your thoughts.

It has been a while since (inspired by you as head of ORT South Africa) I, together with Rabbi Bernard at Oxford Shule, established a school to teach the Killarney-Houghton Black domestic workers how to write, read, sew, cook and drive. It has been a while since you praised my father, Hubert Press, as one of the finest business brains  you had ever encountered. It has been a while since I dined with you, Noleen, David and Marilyn Rivkin, discussing opera.

Jewish life has been crying out for a man of the stature of Adolph Cremieux, of Justice Louis Brandeis, of Sir Moses Montefiore, people of the highest integrity and purpose. For those who champion their own people are remembered forever in the annals of history. But those who are self-serving are lost in a trail of ignominy.

South African Jewry stands tall and your efforts in championing Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa were applauded and earned you a  reputation as a man of stature.

I am bewildered by the direction you have taken as part of the United Nations Human Rights Council. This rogue Council has been tainted by a membership that does not condemn Iranian tyranny, Chinese oppression, African despotism, but spends their time condemning one country unjustly, Israel.

The Goldstone Commission bears your name. One would expect the mandate of any report to be objective, so that your name could be respected and a legacy ensured. Instead your committee ignored the facts, embraced bias and rendered the report bearing your name,  illegitimate.

You tried to defend yourself in the New York Times but it was transparent and not effective. You could have resigned from the commission and retained your integrity. You knew that Israel faced 12,000 Grads and Kassams from its Iran-backed terror base of Gaza, 8,000 irreversibly traumatizing the families and children of Sderot. You knew that the U.N. never passed one resolution condemning these deadly missiles. You knew that before and during Operation Cast Lead, Israel made thousands of cell phone calls to warn civilians. You knew that Israel sent thousands of texts to warn civilians. You knew that Israel dropped hundreds of thousands of leaflets in Arabic (I managed to obtain one of these as evidence) to warn civilians. You knew that Israel aborted operations to avoid civilian deaths. You knew that Israel set up medical facilities on the edge of Gaza to treat civilians. You knew that Israel dropped supplies of food into Gaza to feed civilians.

You also knew that Hamas operatives are not “civilians”. You knew that not only were they not civilians, but that they hid behind their own civilians to fire on Israeli civilians. You knew that they misused ambulances for military purposes. You knew that mosques and schools were used for Hamas depots and launching pads. You knew that Hamas operatives kill or shoot at the legs of any Gazans refusing to target Israel.

The video footage and U-tube sequences are still available for any and all of us to witness.

You clearly knew that one of your team members had condemned Israel in a published letter, even before the conclusion of the incursion or  the beginning of your investigation. But you did not resign or distance yourself from the hypocrisy of this illegitimate report.  Instead, a tedious 500-page report of the 3 week battle was padded with pages from the tainted U.N. mockery of Israel’s security barrier (misnamed the “wall”). What a sad indictment of the charter of the United Nations.

Richard, you were indeed a respected legal giant in Johannesburg. This report did not arise from ignorance or naivete. I am trying so hard to resist the conclusion that your role and report might represent a self-serving desire to ingratiate yourself for a more senior position in the kangaroo court called the United Nations. But  if true – and one hopes that this is not the case – at what price?  Association with the infamous U.N.,  garners no respect in the USA so why would anyone seek to be head inmate at the U.N. Asylum?

I have been very direct as South Africans are want to be. But many of us South Africans have been tainted by the perfidy of the Goldstone report. This is the Jewish time of Judgment when the scales of fate are entered in the book of life and we all need to look into our souls. I am not sure how you could comfortably extricate yourself. Perhaps we could discuss this face to face.

Good Yomtov to you, Noleen and your family.

Regards,  Barbara Press Fix

It’s 5 PM! Do you know where your pots are?

A friend of mine recently shared her troubles with the dinner hour. She is not alone. Getting dinner to the table, while ensuring kids don’t eat each other alive can be quite a challenge, especially after a long day.

Believe it or not, there is a better way.

Have you ever considered the wisdom of stuffing our bodies with the heaviest meal of the day just as we are about to doze off?  It wasn’t always that way. Until about 150 years ago, people ate “dinner” at midday. But as factory (and office) workers started working far from home, dinner shifted to evening hours and the midday meal took form of a light packable lunch. The old way is still widespread in many places around the world.

Recent lifestyle changes have made midday “dinner” feasible for many families. Stay-at-home parents, freelancers, telecommuters, and part-time workers may find many benefits in switching the meals around. This one lifestyle change may enable you to save money, reduce stress, and even lose weight.

For most people, noon is a much saner hour than 5 PM. If at least some of your family members are home in the early afternoon, consider serving the main meal at that time.  This way, you will not have to cook while juggling a dozen other chores and listening to “M-o-o-o-m, we are H-U-N-G-R-E-Y!” in the background. Save several servings for whoever will come home at night. Your family can enjoy a cozy meal without everyone eating the same food.

The body’s metabolism is much higher at midday than at night. At 1 PM, there is still have half a day ahead of you and your body needs the calories to get you through it. Sandwich and fruit are just not enough to stave off hunger till dinner, so many people find themselves craving for snacks.

By the time we get to the dinner table at 5 or 6 PM, the metabolism is getting ready for bed (just as we are). With no chance for activity, the calories transform into fat that stays put right where we least want it. On the other hand, eating the main meal at lunchtime will provide sufficient energy for the rest of the day and eliminate the need for snacking. If you have had difficulty loosing the extra pounds or maintaining your weight, this could just be the answer.

The switch also makes financial sense. Gone will be the days of panic-stricken dashes to the fast-food place. Less snacking will not only translate into fewer pounds, but also fewer dollars.

What will you serve at 5 PM? Your usual lunch fare. In my family,  standard dinner options include tuna, eggs, pancakes, and a large salad. Bread, cheeses, and spreads supplement the meal.

As with any lifestyle change, your family will need time to get used to the new meal order. Try switching the meals around once or twice a week and see how you like it. If everything goes smoothly, you will be able to push the “dinner hour” up to one o’clock and regain some of your sanity.

Bon appetit!

A different Shabbat fish

When my Yemen-born mother-in-law first came to Israel in late 1940s, her parents decides to build their house apart from the rest of the community, so as to protect their children from unwanted social influences. Little did they know that within a decade they would be living in the midst of a vibrant community of Moroccan immigrants that arrived to Israel during the 1950s.

This is how my Yemenite mother-in-law came to cook the traditional North African chreime fish stew for Friday night dinner. Today, my in-laws Shabbat table is unimaginable without chreime. From there, the recipe has made its way into our kitchen and even to my mother’s recipe box, where it’s a great hit with her New Jersey neighbors.

I have made several changes to the original recipe, which is quite spicy. Unlike my mother-in-law, who uses carp or tuna steaks, I prefer salmon fillet. You can use any fish fillet or steak. The rich sauce is very dominant and will make up for the taste of the fish.

Finally, bread dipped into the sauce is the best part of this dish, so make sure to cut up a large loaf to go with the stew.

Moroccan Chreime Fish Stew

Mothers' Guilt

Julia over at The Jew and the Carrot explores how guilt shapes her choices as a mother. The topic is not new to me. A couple of years ago, I took part in a workshop together with half a dozen of my friends, all women in their 30s, raising 5-7 children and holding day jobs. Incredibly, when asked to talk about themselves, each one felt compelled to talk about a certain weakness, something she didn’t do so well. My next door neighbour (who in addition to teaching special education and rearing 5 kids was studying for a degree in speech therapy) knocked my socks off by saying she felt guilty because she was not sewing her family’s clothing as her mother had done.

Since then, I have noticed that guilt is especially prevalent in the experiences of religious Jewish women. Between bringing up kids, working, maintaining healthy marriages, contributing to the community, trying to grow as people, and keeping wits about, women feel just a tad overwhelmed. Augment that with a constant stream of newspaper and magazine articles showcasing super-achiever moms with dazzling careers, and the stage is set for a penetrating sensation of not being good enough at keeping up with such a huge load.

By necessity, something just got to give, so most women make choices and set priorities. But social pressure and an innate tendency to keep options open supply yet another reason for guilt. So long as we reproach ourselves for not devoting time to a certain task, we maintain an illusion of being able to get to it some day. It’s right there on our radar if not as part of the daily routine, than at least weighing down on our conscience. Although there was no way for my friend to spend time sewing, the remorse somehow kept that option alive.

The problem is that guilt is counterproductive. It eats away at our self-image and prevents us from enjoying positive experiences and successes. Moreover, it makes us doubt the choices we have made and undermines the conviction necessary to persevere with these choices.

Thankfully, it is possible to rid ourselves of the feeling of underachievement by asking ourselves some frank questions.

  1. What fuels your sense of not doing enough? (Does your guilt over not cooking homemade meals stem from the belief in their nutritional value or from your cousin’s bragging about homemade pasta she makes from organic wheat grown in her back yard?) The first step to dealing with guilt is getting rid of the measuring stick. You’ll never be able to keep up with the Cohens, and chances are they are busy trying to keep up with you.
  2. What price tag accompanies that elusive achievement? Superwomen do not exist, period. If someone appears to be a superwoman, she pays a personal price for something she does not have the time to do. Consider what your life would look like if you would make different choices. For example, if you are pining over your slow career progress, think about the effects of a promotion on your work-life balance? What would you need to give up to accommodate this change?
  3. If you feel that the missing part would answer a real need, is it possible to incorporate that task into your life even partially? Sometime, small changes can make a big difference. You don’t have to pursue a university degree or hold a full-time job to get intellectual stimulation. So if your household chores are getting the better of you, consider getting some help (or pushing them off for another day) and heading out of the house for an interesting lecture.
  4. Has guilt become a substitute for action? If you know your current choices leave out something truly important, it’s time to shut down the auto-pilot. When long office hours force us to miss our kids’ childhood years, it is possible to seek alternative arrangements.  A time-consuming parenting workshop could save hours of parent-child battles and improve the overall family atmosphere.

Finally, after taking stock of the choices you have made, concentrate on your accomplishments. A “can do” attitude will get you much farther than any feeling of guilt.

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