Every day for the past eleven months I have recited the Mourner’s Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, for my mother, who passed on April 16, 2021. I’ve been very lucky to have been able to say it with at least nine other people, in person or on Zoom, who have supported me during this time. My last day of saying kaddish is today and it’s been an amazing experience.
I’m sorry for taking so long to return to my little blog. It never felt like the right time to announce my mother’s passing so I kept on pushing it off. In between writing for my column in The Daily Hampshire Gazette, I’ve started to make TV appearances on Mass Appeal, the morning lifestyle show in Western Massachusetts. Those have been a lot of fun, although my last appearance, where I demonstrated making a beet reuben, takes the cake. When I arrived at the studio all the guests were informed that we had to promote that night’s new reboot of Law & Order. It just happens to be my favorite TV show of all time, so it was kind of like a dream moment to talk about beets and Law & Order at the same time!
My mom passed the day before my birthday, and yes, birthdays since have been kind of a mess for me. Please don’t take it personally that I haven’t called or sent you a greeting through Facebook. It’s been…hard. I wrote about my mother’s death in my There is a Season column for The Daily Hampshire Gazette. (Bonus artichoke recipe for that one.)
Near the cemetery where my mother is buried in Springfield, Massachusetts, is a Latin American grocery store. I can almost hear my mom saying, “Molly-Dolly, let’s go get some plantain chips!” something she discovered in the 1970s, during her years of teaching in the first bilingual classroom in the city. My mother was an educator, through and through, having taught in the public school system and Hebrew school classrooms for 50 years total.
I do go to the market to buy plantain chips, but also fresh plantains that I’ve been frying up and eating with crema. (A new addition to our Chanukah table.) I tend to stock up on spices, Mexican cheeses and other treats that are a touch harder to find at the regular grocery store.
The Mexican oregano has been used in some hearty Italian soups this winter, much to the enjoyment of my family. A few weeks back I made Salvadoran papusas, served with a side of the traditional curtido, the fermented cabbage slaw that is spiced with oregano, and creamy horchata to drink, because why not?
The curtido, a simple slaw made from some shredded green cabbage, shredded carrot, some vinegar and oregano, has found its way into countless dishes since our original papusas. It’s topped many sandwiches, lent a little something extra to regular salads, and has been great, just on toast. I think of it as a replacement for sauerkraut or kimchi, or anywhere you’d like a taste of something a little pickled and spiced.
½ cup water
¼ cup white vinegar or cider vinegar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon dry (Mexican) oregano
A pinch of crushed red pepper, or one thinly sliced jalapeno pepper
¼ head of green cabbage, finely shredded
1 medium carrot, peeled and shredded
¼ red onion, sliced thin
Whisk together water, vinegar, salt, oregano and crushed red pepper together in a large bowl. Add cabbage, carrot and onion. Toss to combine and coat evenly. Let stand 30 minutes.
Either serve immediately, or place in the fridge. Honestly, for best results, let it stay overnight in the fridge. This slaw is good for at least a week.