It is impossible to ignore the way in which the emphasis on food and food preparation has virtually exploded over the last decade or so in our communities. Who would have thought there would be Jewish food writers, experts, and a virtual bursting forth of recipe raconteurs who would dominate the food-preparation industry?
And think of Kosherfest. Could anyone ever have imagined that the concept of the kosher market would expand so much and that food producers from Japan and the Philippines would travel to New York for the sole purpose of cornering the kosher market?
The kosher market today is not solely about kashrus observance, Jewish law, and Jews. A survey conducted several years ago said that over 30% of consumers in the United States look for kosher symbols on the food products they purchase. They do that because the impression exists that kosher equates to health and cleanliness. So, in a country where there are six million Jews residing and with only perhaps 20% of that population scrupulously observing kashrus, there may still be nearly 100 million people interested in kosher.
Here in our sliver of the community, good food is king. And that is just one of the reasons that in the next few weeks we will be reformatting and expanding our food pages here in the 5TJT. Let me first say that after five years of weekly tasteful and valuable contributions to these pages, one of our food writers, Elke Probkevitz, is moving on and this is the last week that her column will be appearing in these pages.
Going forward, we will be featuring an array of food-creation ideas and recipes from some outstanding chefs, food stylists, and good old-fashioned balabustas. We also are endeavoring to feature food ideas and recipe contributions from men who are at home and quite adept when it comes to knowing their way around a kitchen.
The recipes and food ideas from men are all part of a new cookbook and work-in-progress that features regular, everyday guys who defy the misunderstood stereotype and are able to create some extraordinary dishes, whether for Shabbos, yom tov, or just a weekday dinner.
The cookbook is titled as this article is, “Cooking With Gas,” with recipes by men to be enjoyed and emulated by everyone. There are several surprises in the book, as it is a departure from the usual cookbooks that feature some attractive and fancy photography of food items and the way a dish should look at the end of the process.
The book will also feature a section or two on would-be food aficionados–that is, men who enjoy good food and wish they could create some of those delicious dishes, have tried to do so, but are just not there yet. To this writer anyway, the kitchen is like an operating theater, and not everyone belongs there. I have limited kitchen experience and cooking abilities–though on occasion, usually when I’m home alone, I have tried it over the years.
Many years ago, when my family was up in the Catskills for the summer and I was home alone at night, I thought it might be a good opportunity to try to cook up whatever it was my heart desired. I always had fond memories of my mom cooking up liver steak, which I had an affinity for but, for whatever reason, was difficult to come by.
One night, I went out to Glatt Mart on Avenue M–we were living in Brooklyn at the time–and bought a frozen liver steak. That was the easy part. Don’t forget it was the 1980s–no Internet, cell phones, or Google. If there was a cookbook in the house at the time, I would not have known where to look.
So I did the sensible thing. I took out a fleishig frying pan, put it on the stove, lit the flame, let the pan warm up, and then placed the frozen liver inside the pan. This was looking good, it was exciting. My plan was that after this one side would get done, I would just flip the steak over and let the other side get done before slicing into it.
After about ten nerve-racking minutes, I thought it was time to try the other side. I attempted to ease the liver out of the pan with a fork, but it would not move. It was stuck like Krazy Glue to the pan. I thought I might shut the flame off and then let it cool before trying to turn it over by hand. Nothing doing; the liver would not move. Finally I took a screwdriver out of a nearby drawer and wedged it under the liver, which started to lift, piece by piece, until the only thing I could do was toss the remnants of what was going to be dinner into the garbage.
Thankfully, there was no one else home (I’m sure I would not have even attempted this if there were), so I had a few days to figure out how to get the pan cleaned up and dispose of any other evidence.
That was the last time I tried to cook anything indoors, other than eggs. I can make a few types of eggs. The easiest are hard- or soft-boiled. With those, you don’t have to do much except fill a pot with water, place it on the fire, and place the eggs in the pot in a manner so that they do not crack. Sometimes if an egg has even a hairline crack, it can cause all kinds of problems.
How long to allow the water to boil is not something that you can measure with any precision. It is just a sense that you develop over time. If you want really hardboiled eggs, I suggest you leave them in the water a few minutes longer than you think is sufficient. If soft eggs are what you desire, just do the opposite–get them out of there early.
But those types of eggs present a minimal challenge. It’s the sunny-side-up, omelets, or scrambled type that require a keener culinary sense. Over the last few years, I have somewhat perfected my ability to flip sunny-side-up eggs in the pan and have them land the way they are supposed to. In the book, I’m going to suggest that you go with three eggs. This way, when you finally flip them, if one lands outside the frying pan, you will at least be left with a meal consisting of two eggs.
On the egg front, I am also adept at preparing eggs for the Pesach Seder and, if required, for an eruv tavshilin. Peeling eggs is an art form in and of itself that people seem to take for granted. It is inconvenient when the shells do not allow themselves to be removed properly from the egg. Cooking at the right temperature and for a precise amount of time means that the peeling should go easy. Cracking soft-boiled eggs is another story. This could require some surgical acumen or at least a few hundred hours of viewing those crime scene investigation programs.
Thankfully, I am blessed with a talented family, including quite a few culinary masters. My wife, Esta, continues to work wonders, and my daughter Malkie has taken her skills to a new level with her “Kiss the Kosher Cook” Facebook group of almost 1,000 members sharing ideas, asking questions, and posting delicious-looking pictures. Malkie has decided to turn her success into chesed by working with Breezy Schwartz Beckerman and Sharrone Glick to create food-tasting events to benefit Tomchei Shabbos. The events are an incredible success–in my unbiased opinion–and one is being planned for March 7 in Woodmere. Order tickets now (www.eventbee.com/event?eid=128239665) and be prepared for a lavish feast and a fun night.
Is it possible that in this day and age eating food has taken a backseat to preparing a dish? I look around on our kitchen bookshelves as well as online, and all I see are food-oriented ideas. It’s time for us to dedicate more space each week to this burgeoning industry. That time starts now. Join us; dinner is served.
Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.