There are a plethora of blogging friends I’ve made through Cake Duchess these last few years. Each friend is talented in different ways. One thing we all share in common is our love of great food and some of us even love to share a little bit more than the food. Some of my friends are great story tellers. An excellent food story will transform you in time and bring you to the table with the writer and their subject.
For continuing my #FoodMemory series I reached out to my friend Shulie from Food Wanderings. She right away stated she wanted to write a little about her dad and gave me a brief idea of what her story would entail. I was fascinated and couldn’t wait to hear more. There were different recipes that reminded Shulie of her dad. It was so intriguing to hear that shakshuka was something he made when Shulie was growing up. It was even more special to me to have this as the recipe she is sharing because if I had to say what is Shulie’s favorite recipe of mine, it would be her shakshuka. Here is Shulie and her Shakshuka story…
When I wrote my very first post, Shakshuka, For Every College Kid’s Hot Plate, I didn’t really contemplate whether or not four years later, coming this November 4th, I would still be here at this space or not. Beginning this journey was a way of purging, cleansing. I had no idea if anyone would read it nor did the thought even cross my mind at the time. The writing of my stories and recipes were healing. A cathartic process. It was my therapy of sorts. Little had I known I would have you all with me on this journey and it makes mine the more special.
One of my earlier friends on this journey, as I mentioned in the introduction of her Baking with Heritage guest post
on my site, was Lora of Cake Duchess. When Lora lost her dad, she wrote a heartfelt post, An Italian Cake and Grief
, which kick started her ‘Food Memory’ series
. When Lora asked me to guest post in the series, her heart was set on Shakshuka. When I wrote Food Wanderings inauguration post
about shakshuka I photographed with an old point and shoot camera. I was also going through some reconciliation about my only kid, my son leaving home for college. What I didn’t share at the time was that three years earlier when my son was a Freshman in high school I lost my dad. That shakshuka was one of only two dishes my dad made from start to finish while we were growing up.
100% Cotton Pajamas and Shakshuka
My dad was an orphan at a very young age (5) while growing up in a village just outside Mumbai, India. Family members who took him in were not too kind to him. He never spoke of it. I heard it from my mom. It was probably, to him, too painful to rehash. He was the youngest of three kids, with an older sister and a sandwich brother in between them growing up on the streets during prohibition times in India. We were not close to either of my dad’s siblings and their families, although we all lived in the same town in Israel. My dad and his siblings moved to Israel in 1960 or just before. With no birth certificate, or any other official records of my dad’s actual birthday, an approximate date of birth was recorded on his passport. He met my mom in Israel and it’s a story on its own. All six kids, me being the first, were born and raised in Israel.
Only thing my dad would ever say while we were growing up was how I was a carbon copy of his mom. I am not sure if he had real vivid memories, quite possibly, or just an imaginary sense of what his mom looked like and who she really was?! We have never seen any photographs. I wonder if any are even in existence?! Not being chummy with my dad’s side of the family, I disliked the notion and rejected the idea, quietly. I was a child, and resented only as a child could the comparison with what seemed to me at the time like, grandparents or not, dead strangers. I would have stomped in defiance if I could. We were closer to my mom’s family and I was convinced I looked like them. I still am, convinced, that is. While I don’t have any convictions and beliefs about the afterlife, for my dad I hope he is now re-united with his mom and dad. Engulfed in their parental glow and embraced in their warmth.
My dad grew up to be a joker and a charmer. He playfully cheated when playing with us a game of cards. It might have been poker. He was testing if we were on our toes, sharp. When we caught on to his shenanigans, and it took us a couple, actually more, rounds to realize we were being duped, he threw in the towel so to speak and called off the game before we had a chance to do so. He carried on the same playfulness with his grandchildren whether playing cards or backgammon. They adored him for that. He tickled them silly with his mischievous play. They admired and adored him, still do, for who he was and his tough life story. He is to them Sabba סבא, grandfather in Hebrew.
My dad was a hard working day laborer earning an honest meager pay. My dad displayed characteristics telling of his personality. He was meticulous about his clothes and personal hygiene. It’s funny to mention personal hygiene, but it’s true. He had his routine after he showered all the dust off, moisturizing with ‘Velveta’ (the cream not Velveeta the cheese) and putting on fresh smelling cologne. He chose the fabrics and had tailor made fitted button down shirts and suit pants. He liked v neck undershirts vs round collar or was it vice versa?! He also liked 100% cotton pajamas. I think he was allergic to polyester though they didn’t speak in those terms back then. They didn’t have the awareness. As my mom put it, “he gets itchy and uncomfortable when not wearing 100% cotton,” plain and simple.
Every year before I flew back to visit Israel, there were only two items on my dad’s wish list. 100% cotton, now I am convinced, round neck undershirts and 100% cotton pajamas. Not as easy a feat as you might think. 100% pajamas are a rare breed. 100% cotton is extremely flammable, so sleepwear by some sort of code had to be a blend of materials. My friend Geri got such a kick out of this that every year before I was heading home to Israel she insisted on joining me on my buying spree and adventure for my dad. She thought it was a hoot and was tickled silly especially when we saw some of the patterns and colors on those said pajamas. He did like blue and some other specific colors and that too amused Geri terribly.
100% cotton pajamas were my father’s lounging wear. That is what he wore around the house at all times. He had quite the collection. He wore pajamas mid-afternoon on Fridays as we kids collected into the apartment for Shababt dinner. He wore his 100% cotton pajamas when he prepared us starving kids Shakshuka to hold us over till dinner time. Then my dad would change to his button down tailored shirts and suit pants just before Shabbat dinner. Sometimes, he just would stay in and sit down for dinner in his 100% cotton pajamas. Did I mention they were Nordstrom’s?!
Thanks Lora for inviting me to write this post. This is the second time I wrote of my dad. The first time was in Indian Shakshuka – Poached Eggs in Curry Sauce
post that was published in The Jew and the Carrot.
This Shakshuka version is similar, with some twists to the original, authentic Israeli Shakshuka from my first post on this site. Wouldn’t you know it, the timing could not have been better as I just received a copy of ‘Book of Jewish food’ by Claudia Roden in the mail this weekend. It inspired me to add a red bell pepper to the shakshuka just like Claudia Roden does.
Thank you, Shulie, for sharing this beautiful story about your father. It really was amazing to hear so much about him and his life. I hope to make your shakshuka one day soon and I will think of him and your family dinners together when you were younger.
This is where else you can find Shulie:
Shakshuka- #FoodMemory Guest Post with Food Wanderings
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 bell pepper, cored, seeded & sliced lengthwise into thin strips
- 1 jalapeño, stemmed, halved & sliced lengthwise into thin strips
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 Roma tomatoes, diced
- 4-8oz tomato sauce
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 4-6 eggs
- Add the oil into a large deep frying pan or a cast iron skillet. Turn the stove to low-medium heat. Add the onions, bell pepper, jalapeño and garlic and sauté for 5-10 minutes while occasionally stirring with a heat resistant rubber spatula. Mix in the diced tomatoes and continue cooking on low-medium heat while stirring occasionally for approximately 5-10 minute longer. Add the the tomato sauce, paprika and salt and cook for 3-5 minutes longer while stirring occasionally. Crack each egg and add to the tomato sauce. Cook doneness to taste.
- Cook Note: Most like runny yolks, but I don’t, so I cover with a lid and let the eggs yolks cook through.
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