When my dad told me a few years ago that my great-grandmother worked as household help for a Jewish man when she first immigrated to the United States from Austria, my world suddenly made more sense. Why else would “our” chicken dumpling soup so closely resemble matzo ball soup, and our apple crisps look so much like Ina’s? My great grandmother, Little Gram, made rye bread, potato pancakes, and peach dumplings, too. That side of the family is heavily Catholic, but the more I learned about Jewish cooking, the more I saw strains of our own family recipes. My parents told me that Little Gram even went over to the Jewish man’s house to stoke the fire on the Sabbath, since he was prohibited by his religion from doing any work that day.
So, I thought of my little Austrian babushka as we made Ina’s potato pancakes (from Cooking for Jeffrey) on the fifth night of Hanukkah. We also happened to light five candles in our Advent wreath that night as we continue or celebration of the Christmas season.
Later that night, my brother and his crew arrived from Dallas. I *love* that we have Texas family that is now close enough for visits like these. In addition to the usual baking that my brother loves, we also decorated an “ugly Christmas sweater” cookie kit (a gift from our sweet friend Dennis, reportedly available at Trader Joe’s). The cookies were anything but ugly because my beautiful and talented sister-in-law makes everything look amazing. That’s true even after a few drinks. I had Ina’s grapefruit champagne granitas (from Cooking with Jeffrey) ready after their long drive. The grapefruit came from a local friend’s tree, and the granita was delicious. It was like a grownup sno-cone.
Happy Hannukah and Happy New Year and Merry Continued Christmas, everyone!