Is it at all important to know that I am not a chef? I’ve never been so much as a server, unless you count delivering cold lunches to tables of toddlers at day camp—I don’t. If your judgment of someone capable of writing about food is seeded in that person having delusions of grandeur about their lackluster knowledge of food, then we’re in a good spot right now.
My first foray into the culinary tundra wasn’t necessarily normal.
Like most folks who grow up to have an unyielding passion for food, it started at home. How many times have you heard someone talk about pulling up a stepstool to watch their mother cook? A family’s food culture can greatly influence or inspire a young child. That person doesn’t always turn into a chef, but it gives them an anchor. It’s a Friday night and you’ve just had your heartbroken so you wander around the city streets while all the people who have it all figured it out mock you, and force you to crawl back home alone, in the rain because stories sound sadder in the rain and so I’ve made that creative choice. Back in your studio apartment, Jefferson Airplane hums in the background as you throw paprika-coated basar kubiot (beef cubes) into a 50-year-old pot your grandmother lugged from Israel to Brazil to America and passed down to you. Drown the beef in tomato sauce like you’ve drowned your sorrows in gin. Salt, pepper, garlic. The smell takes over your apartment, and you’re instantly home.
I have that.
But that took a while.
True my food journey started at home, and true I’d cook with my Ima (grandmother). But my first memories of food are deeply tied to anxiety. My Ima was always afraid their wouldn’t be enough. Enough for the meal, enough to go around, that the grocery store would run out of tomato sauce. She never said any of that, but she stocked up on rice, filled her sewing room with cocoa and seltzer bottles. She bought four dozen eggs at a time, and asked what everyone was going to eat for dinner during breakfast the day before. During our Friday phone conversations, her first question is always, “You have what to eat?” Usually, I lie and ramble off enough dishes for a tasting menu, I don’t dare tell her I’ll cook on the fly, or order a pizza.
As a kid, or even a angsty teen, I wanted to swallow my challah before my grandmother asked if there was one in the freezer for next week, or to tie up the bag “before it dries up” while my father was still cutting off pieces for the rest of the table. It took me a long while, embarrassingly long, to figure out that everything that happened in in my Ima’s kitchen, the sacks of flour I’d constantly stub my toe on crowding her spare bedroom, all the worrying was because she’s a Holocaust survivor, and the idea of having a full plate one moment and in the next starving for a year is something that never left her. My anxiety is obviously not about that, mine is about the process.
Breakfast with Myself is not just about breakfast (sorry, folks), it’s about my personal journey with food. Here you will learn about my connection to it, follow along with what I cook to stave off the panic, about how sauteing onions is my armchair therapist. I’ll be cooking for myself, cooking for those I love, and most importantly taking my grandmother’s recipes that she collected before World War II and the ones she gathered around the world as a refugee. If that all sounds good to you, then please have breakfast with me.
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