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Posts Tagged ‘experience’

How To Cook Without Measuring

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

There are two primary forms of measuring when it comes to cooking, and our goal is to wean you away from both of them to the greatest extent possible. (There is also a third form of measuring, but doing without it can be risky and, based on my own disaster-stories, I don’t advise it.)

The first is reading a recipe. The process of looking at the recipe, cooking, looking back at the recipe, going back to cook, is time-consuming, and, unless you’re aiming for perfection, often unnecessary.

The second piece of measuring is utensils, i.e. measuring cups and spoons (or weights, if you’re not American). Ditch them. We want to minimize dishwashing time and all the effort it takes to bring utensils out from the cupboard. In the next chapter we’ll go over tools to estimate measurements, like tablespoons and cups, which will be helpful if this step makes you nervous.

The third piece, which we don’t advise eliminating, is measuring time, as in checking the clock and using a timer. Because this is the least cumbersome and most risky measuring tool to do without (think burnt, inedible food), it’s advisable to hold off on eliminating this tool for now. I tried cooking without it for several months, attempting to get a feel for when my food was done, whether it was pasta, meat or chili. Well, the pasta was soggy, the meat was chewy beyond belief and the beans in the chili had an overcooked, ghastly flavor. (I didn’t even know you could overcook dried beans!) So if estimating time worries you or has burned you like it has me, focus on the first two pieces for now.

Getting Comfortable with the No-Measure System

In case you feel skeptical about your ability to discard recipes and measuring spoons, consider that you already cook without measuring in many ways. Have you ever made a sandwich? Scrambled eggs? A smoothie or a milkshake? You probably dumped together some ingredients, waited until they were done and served or ate it straight.

Take it further: if you ever made mashed potatoes, you probably didn’t measure the amount of butter, milk and seasonings that you included. Or when making French toast, did you calculate exactly the amount of eggs, milk and vanilla? (If you did, don’t worry. We’ll help you get more comfortable in your cooking skin in the next section.) So put your fears aside. You have what it takes to cook and prepare food using your own taste and senses.

No-Measure Recipe Number 1

To get you started on your journey to no-measureville, here is a non-recipe that explains how to cook a basic dish without using measurements. I wrote this recipe as if I’m standing with you in the kitchen, telling you what cooking moves to make. If you’re an experienced cook, much of what I write is already second nature to you. But if you’re new to the kitchen, read the instructions carefully and take your time while cooking.

Master Chili Recipe

Solid standby at tailgating parties, barbecues and hearty winter meals, chili is super-versatile and satisfying. This recipe serves four to six.

Ground beef, about 1 and 1/2 lbs.
Oil, a spoonful
Onion, about 1 medium, chopped
Green pepper, about 1/2 chopped
1 medium can of diced tomatoes or 4-5 chopped plum tomatoes
Kidney beans, about 1 can, drained (or cook your own from scratch! Use about 1 cup)
Chili powder
Cayenne pepper
Salt

Brown the ground beef and chopped onion in a spoonful of oil over medium heat. Stir often, breaking up the chunks, until beef is no longer pink. Remove from heat and carefully pour of fat. (A good way to do this is to position a pot lid over the beef, keeping it from coming out of the pan, while you tilt the pan to pour out the liquid.) Add the chopped green pepper, kidney beans and tomatoes (if using fresh tomatoes, you will need to add some extra liquid like tomato sauce or marinara sauce; just a pour) to the pan and cook over medium-low heat, seasoning with a good sprinkling of salt and a small palmful of chili powder. Add a dash of cayenne pepper; use caution as it’s very spicy.

Jerusalem Festival of Lights: Exercise in Overselling, Underdelivering

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

We joined tens of thousands of Israelis and tourists in the allies of the Old City of Jerusalem, seduced by an incredible promotional campaign, only to realize how thin was the connection between the people who designed and executed the event and the talented group that sold it.

Who wouldn’t have fallen for this kind of fantastic copy:

“The Festival of Light in the Old City will provide through the use of light a dramatic and artistic dimension to the Old City’s nights. From the illumination of architecture to light statues, the festival will be a public and family oriented celebration that artists from different fields will partake in.”

Despite the somewhat pre-edited copy, the website offered so much in live action and exhibits, my small family and I were certain it was going to be a tasteful, Jerusalem version of some of the better Disneyland rides, like Pirates of the Caribbean: dark, with stunning images and light displays and haunting music.

There was so much promise being promised:

Festival of Light exhibits: The artistic light creations, designed by leading local and foreign light artists, will be displayed throughout the Old City’s public and restricted areas, as well as at tourism sites. Free admission.

Events: Street events and performances will take place among the light creations and will enhance the visitor’s experience. Free admission

Outdoors special performances: Mayumana’s “Currents” in Habonim Garden, and    Pyromania in Zedekiah’s Cave.

Lighting Fair: A fair displaying artistic lighting fixtures will take place at the Hurva Synagogue’s courtyard.

We left our coastal Netanya around 8:30 PM, drove really fast, picked up our Rechavia friends who would never have gone to anything in their own city if not for us, and found parking (in Jerusalem!) under the Mamila mall near the Jaffa Gate. By 10 PM we were there, ready and eager to watch the light show.

As were half a million Israelis and tourists (or so it seemed), who moved with great difficulty, like sardines pushing through a particularly rough reef.

Colored-light cables in orange, blue and green ran the length of the Old City’s alleys, and we followed them obediently. Now and then we stopped to appreciate the works of light-driven art. There were black-light paintings on the side of walls, statues, shadow-theater exhibits, a large face on the side of a wall, with imaginative projections that changed and transformed its expressions, colors, patterns and everything else, with seemingly unlimited variations.

My daughter Yarden snapped the images accompanying this story. They’re hauntingly beautiful. But don’t let that fool you. They don’t look nearly as enticing in person. Mostly because there were so few of them – a few dozen “attractions” altogether, most of them quite small and understated.

Some exhibits were sweet, some kind of under-developed. In many cases you wondered how much better the piece would have been if the artist had spent an extra couple of days on it, pushing the limits. Several items, especially the shadow-screen images, could be outright whimsical and funny, but instead were kinda basic.

Now, here’s what the five of us, visitors to the very crowded festival of lights: It would have been a lovely experience if the advertising had invited us to a quiet stroll in Jerusalem’s old alleys, with a few light images here and there. Because as such – it was fabulous, the best, honestly.

But the multitudes charging through the Jaffa gate this week were sold on a Disney ride – and that they decidedly did not receive.

And all the live performances were off the night we came. Just our luck. But is it really a festival if you come on a Tuesday and no one’s performing a thing?

Next time – less selling, more doing…

And now, for some hauntingly beautiful images, all shot by Yarden Yanover for JewishPress.com.

Part VII: The End…The Beginning

Friday, June 8th, 2012

The first six sections of my story have focused on my struggles adapting to a strange college environment forced on me against my will. While that story is self-contained, I thought it would be worthwhile to at least partially answer the main question my book will address: What ended up happening to me? This is a fast-forwarded account that describes my watershed moment as a college student.

It is not often that someone can look back and divide their life into two separate and distinct sections—a before and an after. It may seem that the logical dividing point in my life was when I left yeshiva and started college, but that really is not the case. It was very possible, if not likely, that I could have spent my collegiate career as an overwhelmed and uncomfortable fish perpetually stuck out of water, without experiencing any significant personal change or growth. I get a lot of weird glances when I say this, but it is 100% true: Louis Farrakhan changed my life – for the better.

While the Nation of Islam is probably not a major part of most of our lives, they are rather prominent in Chicago where they are headquartered. I had been following the extreme racial and anti-Semitic antics of Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam for quite some time. He was often in the news, and never for any particularly good reasons. The black and white world in which I lived had everything to do with right and wrong and nothing to do with race, but there were few people I deemed more radically evil than Farrakhan.

I had often seen members of the Nation of Islam on the train or handing out their propaganda newspaper, “The Final Call.” They were people I avoided at all cost.

As I became more active in my classes, it was clear I stood out. People I didn’t recognize would come up to me in the hallways or on the bus and comment about something I said in class. I attributed that visibility to my yarmulke, but the truth is I stood out because I was so actively engaged in my classes, much more so than my classmates.

The message I internalized, however, was that I was obviously different because I was Jewish, and my peers would always notice that. It was my job to represent my heritage well and successfully defend it when necessary.

I was absolutely shocked to find signs advertising a speech by Louis Farrakhan at the start of the fall 1992 semester. I could not understand how this was possible. The concept of political correctness was fundamental to the college experience in the 1990’s. We were consistently told that anything derogatory or in anyway insulting to a racial or ethnic group was forbidden and even grounds for dismissal, yet somehow, the most virulent of anti-Semites was speaking at a campus sponsored event!

To me, this was even more evidence that the persecution of Jews was unique in world history, how else can one explain the most basic principle of campus discourse being ignored to allow Farrakhan the opportunity to speak?

While the planned event did encourage some heated student discussions both in and outside of class, I chose to ignore them. I kept looking for signs and fliers about the counter demonstration that would surely take place during the speech, but none appeared.

I assumed that the protesters had taken a more secretive approach, and that there would be a major protest at the event itself, if not by the student body as a whole, at least by the Jewish students, even if I was not aware of who was organizing it.

The speech was limited to NEIU students only. While I was a student, I was having a tuition bill issue that semester (they could never read my FAFSA and I went through 5-6 revisions before we got it right—they have since moved to an online system). As a result, I did not have the stamp on my ID certifying that I was a current student.

That meant that I could not gain admittance to the speech itself. Security was tight on the day of the event. I showed up outside of the auditorium early, fully expecting to find a major protest underway, but I was sorely disappointed. There was not a single sign or person protesting. I was shocked. How could that be? How could a person like Farrakhan be allowed to speak in the first place? And even if he was allowed to speak, how could the college community ignore this provocation? I simply could not believe it.

Stepparenting – Challenge And Opportunity

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Menchlichkeit, good middos, patience and wisdom are the accolades I heard over and over again by stepchildren and stepparents when I asked them to describe the attributes of a good stepparent.

I spoke with those who became stepchildren when a widowed parent remarried. Others came from families where one of their divorced parents married a single person. Then there were those where the new “parent” had also been divorced. At times the “stepparent” had children of their own and the families were blended. But, whether the comments were coming from the perspective of the child or of the stepparent, the ingredients for a successful stepfamily experience were basically the same.

Sima’s* parents divorced when she was quite young. Over the years Sima became religious – her father did not. This had caused a great strain on their relationship, to the point where Sima had to be forced to spend time with him. Several years later, her father remarried a divorced woman with children. To Sima’s new stepmother the strain in the relationship was unacceptable. “I am not interested in being married to a man who does not have a relationship with his children.” So, she decided to take on the role of buffer between him and his children. In addition, Sima was the only girl in this blended family, and her stepmother was thrilled to finally have a “daughter.” All of this made it possible for Sima to have a dad. As far as her stepmother was concerned, there was nothing Sima could do wrong – they got along great. She also never tried to take Sima’s mother place. Once, when Sima called her stepmother “Mom,” she responded, “I’m not your Mom, but I’d like to try to be like her. She’s a wonderful woman.”

Rina showed tremendous wisdom. She was a single woman who married a widower with a large family. The children were quite young at the time of the remarriage. I asked Rina what made her such an exceptional stepmother. Her advice was, “love them as your own children,” and “never erase the memory of the deceased parent, even if some of the children are too young to remember her.”

Rina keeps photo albums readily accessible and both she and her husband tell the children stories about their deceased mother. She constantly reassures them that it is not disloyal to love two mothers. Rina advises that stepfamilies begin therapy immediately, even before the wedding, to allow everyone the time to deal with feelings and adjustments. Above all she says, never poison a child’s mind. Her feeling is that teenagers are the most difficult to deal with, even if you have raised them for most of their lives. She works hard at remembering that they are young and has full faith that they are, in general, good people. She doesn’t take their comments personally. Most special of all, she regularly invites her husband’s former in-laws to spend Shabbos with them and to always feel their status as esteemed grandparents.

Malka was already married when her mother passed away. Her father subsequently married a widow with children. Malka and her family call her Savta to distinguish between her and her deceased mother. Malka has a stepmother on both sides – her father-in-law had remarried as well. And even though he has since passed away, her husband’s stepmother remains an integral part of the family.

Malka says that what she values in both of these women are their warmth and friendly interest. Neither has ever stepped over the boundaries and every member of the family is motivated to be nice to everyone else.

Zahava married a divorced man with children; let’s call him Sholom. Subsequently, she and Sholom had a child together. All of the siblings got along very well. However, Sholom’s first wife and her parents tried to turn the children against Sholom and Zahava.

An important maxim for stepparenting is that “you cannot hate your ‘ex’ more than you love your children.” The stepchildren, who are now grown and live near Sholom and Zahava, have a difficult time having a relationship with them because they feel they would be betraying their birth mother – even though she herself has remarried and had other children. In addition, because the children did not grow up with their father, they resent having to share him with Zahava.

It’s My Opinion: It’s All in the Attitude

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

The lobby of the doctor’s office was crowded. I slid over to accommodate an older gentleman, who was moving toward me.

“Don’t worry,” he said, “my walker has a built-in seat, but I’ll sit next to you and be your guard!” He was dressed simply. His eyes were twinkling. His smile was wide.

Time dragged on. Many in the waiting room showed impatience. They glanced at their watches. They complained to each other.

The gentleman beside me sat patiently. We exchanged pleasantries. We became waiting-room friends. I asked him where he was from, and he told me he was born in Poland. Little by little, he shared his story.

He was a teenager when World War II broke out. He had been in several concentration camps. His body carried the badge of his experience. He wore the death camp numbers on his arm.

“Life is beautiful,” my new friend asserted. “Every day is a gift.” He continued to speak in a highly positive way. He had children. He had grandchildren. He was “privileged” to have visited Israel.

My name was called and I entered the office for my appointment. When I came out the gentleman was still sitting in the waiting room. I went over and thanked him for sharing his story with me and being a role model of courage and tenacity.

“You know,” he said, “what happened to me when I was young, actually was the reason that I have a good life now. I never get upset over the little things that drive other people crazy. I enjoy every day that I am alive. I know they are all a gift. I am truly happy.”

I went outside to give the valet the ticket for my car. As I contemplated my recent conversation, a woman burst out of a black Mercedes. She was elderly, well dressed and coiffed. She was muttering and sputtering as she passed by, but I could clearly hear what she had to say.

“The [expletive] golden years,” she exclaimed, “Well, they stink!” Her face was red. Her voice rose to a wail. “I’m so annoyed,” she added. “Now I’m late for my appointment!”

Yes, things happen. We are late. We are early. We mixed up the date. There are delays and mistakes and problems we deal with all the time. There are bridges that are up and computers that are down, cars that won’t start and leaks that won’t stop.

There is success and failure, joy and angst. There are fender benders and fatal crashes, big catastrophes and minor annoyances and everything in between.

Certainly we should not judge someone from an isolated incident. There is often a “back story” to explain someone’s actions. Nevertheless, I could not help but be compelled by how these two people handled the stress of life.

“Life is beautiful.” “Life stinks.” It’s all in the attitude.

Seasons Of Respite Offers Relief

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Motherhood is often referred to as the hardest job in the world. For families thrown into the nightmare of pediatric illness, normal feelings of anxiety and worry become a daily reality. On Sunday, May 6, 20 mothers of seriously ill children exchanged the daily fear they experience for fun, connection, and friendship at a day “Just for Us” at Tigertail Lake in Dania, Florida.

The daylong experience was part of Seasons of Respite, a series of four workshops designed to give mothers of sick children the tools to take better care of themselves. Sunday’s session, billed as “A Day Just for Us,” offered mothers a chance to test their physical endurance in a fun, safe environment, and offered practical suggestions for mirroring these activities into their challenging and demanding realities. The program is co-sponsored by Chai Lifeline and the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Broward County.

“The challenge of climbing the rock wall gave me a small insight into how our kids are challenged every day,” one mother explained.

“When a child is very sick, mothers often assumes full-time care-giving responsibilities in addition to caring for the rest of her family, and sometimes, working outside the home as well. They feel they have no time for themselves, exacerbating already considerable stress levels,” explained Ellen Weiss, director of Chai Lifeline Southeast. “Seasons of Respite are days where mothers not only relax, but learn how to help themselves even when they are harried and pressured.”

Ultra Orthodox Women Speak Up: The Dialogue Is Now Open

Friday, May 25th, 2012

Religious Jews have been getting more than their usual share of negative press lately. The papers have been full of allegations of sexual abuse in ultra-orthodox communities, and religious authorities concurrent attempts to silence the victims while protecting the accused. When earlier this week, the Rabbi’s chose to focus on the “dangers of the internet” with the widely publicized Internet Asifa, the move drew the ire of many, Jewish and secular alike, as misplaced energy and resources. Prior to this, Deborah Feldman’s tell all book; “Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots” spread like wildfire among blogs and papers as an exclusive, inside look into an otherwise insular world. While winning media attention in the secular world, it caused an uproar within Jewish communities who felt betrayed by her shocking and scandalous tales of abuse and oppression of women living in Hasidic communities.  These recent events compelled Chaya Kurtz to give a much needed face-lift to the public image of Hasidic women. Fed up with the negative portrayal of the ultra-orthodox Jewish community and it’s women in particular, Chaya chose to write about her fulfilling life as a religious Jew and her own sense of empowerment and independence. While her portrayal resonated with many, others pointed out that her experience did not accurately represent all Hasidic women, many of whom were not were not privileged to be born into lives where they were encouraged to make their own choices, as she was.

I didn’t choose to grow up religious. I was born into it. And by “it”; I mean an orthodox home in the Chabad sect of Crown Heights, Brooklyn. As a child I was not aware of the laws defining my life, and as a teen I would often rebel against these laws. As an adult, however I embraced these laws and the religious way of life. The good, the bad, the difficult, the easy. All of it. I consciously acknowledged the fact that this was the life I wanted to live. This is why I put on a wig the day after my wedding. I got married in May. The summer months that followed were hot and sweaty, and I really resented the fact that I had to schlep to the city in a wig when what I really wanted to do was throw my hair up into a pony and feel the cool A/C against my neck. After five years of being married, I still dislike putting on my wig and having to keep my hair covered, but it doesn’t make me feel oppressed or ugly. It’s an inconvenience but it’s the life I chose. Not all laws of religion are convenient, but you don’t live a religious lifestyle due to the convenience of it, since religion has both enjoyable and often difficult aspects to it.

I was lucky to be raised in a home where I had room to grow as an individual and see the love in Judaism. That’s my personal experience. There are many others who share that experience. And then there are those who are raised in an environment that does not nurture but rather repress. One that does not highlight the love of the law but rather the fear of breaking it. Living in a religious community there is always a struggle between balancing  communities values and your own personal values. Some communities make it more difficult. Like, a lot more difficult. Excommunication and ostracism are just two things you would possibly face if you lived in an ultra-orthodox hasidic community and wanted to do something that they did not approve of. For those people, living a religious lifestyle is not a choice but a matter of survival.

Everyone wants someone they can identify with. Someone who shares their views and can vocalize how they feel so they know they are not alone. Deborah Feldman speaks for many women who are trapped in a life they did not choose but were born into and who are ill-equipped to leave if they did decide to venture into a foreign world. Chaya Kurtz speaks for the orthodox women who are proud of the religious life they live. Who feel strong, independent, and in control of their lives and want the world to know it. They do not need the media’s pity for they are not oppressed. Both women speak the truth for in reality, there is no ONE voice that represents religious orthodox woman. Our lives are made up of a myriad of experiences, both good and bad. There is joy and pain. Triumph and struggle. You can be joyful in your service of G-d and still question the laws He commands of us.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/ultra-orthodox-women-speak-up-the-dialogue-is-now-open/2012/05/25/

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