Monday, August 26, 2013

Who is Homeless?

When people think of homelessness, an image usually comes to mind. Not usually any of the following images.


When one google's the word "homeless" photos of mostly men show up.  Dirty, no shoes, raggedy on the streets, storing worldly belongings in precious shopping carts.

One can become homeless overnight if you are living paycheck to paycheck.  If you don't have a permanent address, you are homeless.  So, you are sleeping in the back room of a friends house?  If it is not permanent, you are homeless. It feels like shit. It feels like you are invisible...doesn't it?  Don't make waves...sneak here, sneak there. Have lunch with old friends and choose a salad only...make it up as you go along.

You could be just out of high school or still in elementary school.. or just entering retirement where at one time you dreamed of leisure, at last.  Nobody can tell.  You feel shame about it and it is your biggest secret. 

You've done everything right..except be born to parents who lost their jobs or were into drugs so you got out of the house as soon as possible. Maybe you got really sick and it took all of your life savings to fight to stay alive..only to wish you were dead.  

Your car is filled with what you have left..your furniture is in storage until you find a place but you are behind on the rent there.  You carry with you your most beloved "stuff".  A few cookbooks, a couple of well worn cast iron pans, a grate from your oven, a rolling pin, layers of clothing but you don't wear them all at once.  Thinking about it makes you laugh.  At least you can still laugh.  You have good underwear too..very important in case you end up in the ER.

You wander through the sunny farmers market in your good jeans and Talbot sweater, Marc Jacobs sunglasses, and that hat you bought in Spain eons ago.  You have just enough gas in your old car (sold the Acura for money over a year ago) to get to the room you rented for 3 weeks. "I'll buy some tomatoes and peppers.. serve it over microwavable rice".  

Many people are homeless.  You pass them on the street or at the farmers market..or in the park as they swing..or on the bench as they rest.  Many, taking a break from the constant worry and humiliation that comes from finding yourself in this precarious position in life. You...the planner and most generous friend to all.

  "Well, I survived cancer"....and you begin to laugh until warm tears roll down those rosey cheeks.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Designing Menus

It was so nice to be asked to do a "Jewish" menu again for next fall for Oak Cafe at American River College.  After blogging through Marlena Spieler's Jewish Cooking a few years ago (with lots of help from my *co-bloggers), I was asked to do a menu for them.  What a blast.

If you've never been to the Oak Cafe you MUST go.  All of their menus are excellent.  

The food is carefully and expertly prepared by the culinary students under the guidance of Chef Teresa Urkofsky.  She is a peach of a woman.  A real mensch.  The ingredients are top notch.  The cost for a 3 course meal with beverage?  $15.00 bucks.  Make reservations though!

I decided to honor my grandmother and use several of her recipes that we grew up eating.  Of course, we didn't know it was traditional "Jewish" it was quite the secret that her folks were Jews. My grandmother came from Romania at age two..through Canada and then down to the Dakotas. Her folks (my great-grandparents) came from Poland, through Western Russia and then onto a slow boat from Romania. 

We had the holishkes, the fish fritters, the matzoh ball soup...sometimes with noodles.  We had the brisket, the cholent, the challah, chopped liver, and lot's of fermented stuff.  Did I mention the rugelach?

So..coming up with a menu is fun and a challenge too.  I have to come up with the instructor and students can choose what they want to make.  No dairy with meat?  I admit, I don't know all the rules as we surely were not Kosher.  I learn.  I learn.  What else am I gonna do?  I hope I don't plotz over it.

*Eileen Makishima Thornton

*Shankari Ascot