Grapevine: Sherry Ansky on Pessah delicacies

FOOD EXPERT, restaurant critic and author Sherry Ansky spoke with Israel Radio about the traditional Pessah delicacies of various Jewish communities.

grapes 88 (photo credit: )
grapes 88
(photo credit: )
FOOD EXPERT, restaurant critic and cookery books author Sherry Ansky spoke with Israel Radio about the traditional Pessah delicacies of various Jewish communities, and complained about the trend to simulate regular foods such as bread and pizza on Pessah, instead of leaving the current generation of young people with the nostalgia of the palate that their parents experienced. Part of the beauty of Pessah, she said, is eating foods that are different from what is eaten during the rest of the year. Ansky recalled that in pre-state Israel, in the old city of Jerusalem, Jews would invite their Arab neighbors to eat matza on the day preceding the seder, when Jews are not supposed to eat matza. Then, at the end of Pessah, the Arabs by way of reciprocity would bring freshly baked, hot pita with green houmous to the Jews, and together they would recite a blessing for a fruitful year. There was a similar custom in Morocco, where Muslims, after bringing pita to their Jewish neighbors, were invited to participate in the post-Pessah Mimouna celebrations. Moroccan immigrants brought the Mimouna to Israel, where it found its place on the national calendar. BY AND large, the generation of Jews born during and in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, did not know their grandparents. For a long time, three-generation families were rare. Then, as the parents of the 1940s became grandparents, three-generation families became commonplace and before long there were quite a lot of four-generation families. Five-generation families are still uncommon, but a relatively large number exist. Dr. Ezra Chwat, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Institute of Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts at the National Library on the Hebrew University campus became a first-time grandfather last week. Chwat has a grandfather of his own on his mother's side and grandmother on his father's side in the US. He was the first grandson in the family and his grandson is the first great great grandson. His grandfather was seriously considering coming to Israel for the brit, but couldn't make the arrangements in time. Chwat and his wife Menuha who live in Carmei Tzur, have 11 children. Their eldest daughter Odelia and her husband Udi Adler, presented them with their first grandchild who was inducted into the faith on the day before Pessah, and their second daughter Moriah and her husband Yigal Groner will make them grandparents the second time around in the vicinity of Shavuot. MAKING UP for lost time, Paul Hellyer, a former deputy prime minister of Canada, was in Israel last week as part of a private tour of the region. Before returning to Canada, Hellyer will also visit Jordan and Lebanon. Hellyer was minister of national defense from 1963-1967 in the government led by Lester B. Pearson, during which period he visited Gaza. He was deputy prime minister and minister of transport in the government led by Pierre Trudeau. Asked what finally brought him to Israel, his reply was that it was a place that he hadn't been to before, and he was interested to find out what it was like. He was particularly fascinated by Massada and the Old City of Jerusalem. WHEN SHE opened Rosebud, her Israeli concept store, in Manhattan in October, 2003, Fern Penn, a former buyer for Macy's, did not have any great business ambitions. She wanted to help out promising Israeli designers beyond showing their merchandise at some sisterhood fashion show aimed at demonstrating support for Israel. Without advertising that her store carried only Made in Israel clothing, accessories, leather goods, giftware, jewelry, art, scented candles, toiletries, handmade chocolates as well as CDs featuring Israeli performers, Penn turned her gallery-like premises into such an attractive enterprise that passers-by could not resist coming in to look around. They not only looked, they bought. Most of her sales, she said last week during one of her frequent visits to Israel, are to non-Jews who simply like what they see. Penn keeps abreast of Israeli fashion trends and developments by avidly surfing through Israeli fashion Web sites every day. She has also built up an impressive Israeli contacts book, and adds to its contents on each visit, going to out-of-the way places to find designers in different fields whose work is innovative and intriguing. Her idea is to put them on the American map by featuring them in her store. Each time she comes to Israel, she finds new people, and very often when talking about promising Israeli designers to her contacts at the Israel Export Institute and the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, she learns to her amazement that they have never heard of half the designers she discovers in her wanderings. On this most recent visit to Israel, she cut a deal with some of the designers who are part of the 6940 Collective which gets its name from the zoning registration in Tel Aviv's Gan Hahashmal, a fast-growing fashion district in the heart of an industrial zone that not so long ago was rife with hookers and drug addicts. The fashion stores are primarily located in four streets in the area: Mikve Israel, Levontin, Hahashmal and Barzilai - bright, audacious punctuation marks amid factory plants and stores dealing with heavy machinery. In May of this year, Penn is running a special promotion in her store showcasing the designs of Nait Rosenfeld, who pioneered the relatively new fashion center, Idit Barak of Delicatessen, a brand name she chose because her store was previously a delicatessen and the sign was still there when she moved in, Shani Bar, Nofar Galpaz, Yael Rosen of Kissim, Helena Blaunstein of Frau Blau, and Joanne Rubinstein, who came from Denmark four years ago. "I just want to put them out there and give them some exposure," said Penn, who noted that the merchandise in her store sells because of its quality workmanship and design appeal. "People don't come in to buy because it's made in Israel," she said. "They buy it because they like it and it's good." Her one complaint is that most Israeli fashion houses limit their sizes to below 40, even though their styles may be suitable for women who are a little more buxom than that. She's had a hard time persuading the Israeli designers with whom she works to expand their ranges by two or three sizes, but the task is getting easier, because she's sold out of all the larger sizes. AFTER YEARS of resisting her family's urging that she write a book recording part of the family's history in its migration from Hungary to the US to Israel, plus her own adventures as an intrepid journalist on three continents, Diana Lerner finally succumbed. When she started, she thought it would just be a private memoir that would be circulated amongst her many relatives and her close friends, but the feedback was so outstandingly positive, that on a recent trip to New York, where she spends at least three months a year, she took her book "I must have come out of an eggplant" to Barnes and Noble. The upshot is that it will be featured in the Internet listings of both Barnes and Noble and of Amazon. Not only that, but Lerner, who has conducted countless interviews in her many decades in the profession, is suddenly finding herself on the other side of the table and is being pursued by fellow scribes who want to interview her. She's still trying to get used to the idea. TUESDAY, APRIL 25 is going to be a very long day for Australian Ambassador Tim George. The date, a very important one in the Australian calendar is ANZAC Day, the anniversary of the ill-fated landing at Gallipoli in 1915 of Australian and New Zealand troops. The date has been reserved by Australians and New Zealanders as a memorial day, not only for those of their soldiers who fell at Gallipoli, but also for those who fell in subsequent battles on foreign shores. The ANZAC Day memorial ceremony traditionally takes place at dawn at one of the Commonwealth War Graves cemeteries in Israel - usually the cemetery atop Mount Scopus in Jerusalem. George, who lives in Herzliya Pituah, will have to get up particularly early to get to the service on time. In the evening of the same day, he is scheduled to attend a reception in Tel Aviv hosted by the Israel-Australia Chamber of Commerce in honor of Marsha Thomson, Victorian minister for information communication technology (ICT) and minister for consumer affairs, who is leading a high-tech trade mission to Israel. WHAT DO Larry King, Moshe Katsav, Ehud Barak, Mikhail Gorbachev, Yitzhak Tshuva, Galia Maor and Gideon and Yair Hamburger have in common? They've all received doctorates from the Netanya Academic College. King, who is the most recent recipient, has been associated with other Israeli educational institutions - most notably Aish HaTorah in Jerusalem, which runs a variety of programs in Israel and abroad aimed at awakening the curiosity of unaffiliated Jews in the teachings and practices of their heritage. King has publicly endorsed Aish HaTorah on several occasions.