Celebrating Modern Jewish Living Through Food, Tradition, and Family
The picture above might just look like a plate of bakery cookies, but to me, they mean so much more.
I was actually compelled to buy these cookies, put them on one of my finest plates, set them on my Shabbat table, and could not wait for my husband and children to enjoy them.
When I saw them at the Kosher market a few days ago, as I shopped for that evening’s Shabbat dinner, the tears welled up in my eyes as I moved them from the bakery counter to my shopping cart, knowing that if my dad was still here, we would have torn into the box the second we got into the car, and they would never have survived until dinner time. At which point, I started to laugh.
This is how I remember.
My father and I loved these cookies. He loved the cherry ones (but only if the cookie was a real butter cookie from a good bakery. The kind that literally dissolves in your mouth on contact). I love the long oval butter cookies with the chocolate and sprinkles on the end and the best part–the chewy raspberry filling in between the layers. When I would work with my dad during the summer, he and I would stop at a French bakery not too far from his own Brooklyn bagel bakery, just to buy these. We would valiantly try (try is the operative word here) to keep the box closed until we made the trek back to Staten Island, so as to not get crumbs all over his car. Typically, we failed. We ripped open the box and brought whatever was left back home for my mother and brother. Essentially, crumbs.
Whenever I bake chocolate crust cheesecakes at Thanksgiving and make Challah French toast on the weekends with just a little too much powdered sugar, that’s how I remember my father. When I tell my kids crazy “Grandpa stories” and many of his terrible jokes (my father fancied himself a Henny Youngman type except his jokes often were delivered with an Archie Bunker affect, as in “Take my wife, pleeeaase, Edith...:” hilarious), that’s how I remember my father. But more likely than not, I remember my father when I’m baking or serving said baked goods to my family.
My dad had one helluva sweet tooth which he passed down to yours truly (thanks, Dad). We bonded over many things like really cold Mallomars (heaven in cardboard box), soft-serve vanilla Carvel cones, confectioner-quality chocolate-covered cherries, cream cheese brownies, chocolate cream pie, black and white cookies, and oh, the list goes on. (Amazingly enough, he also had a lot of discipline which he regretfully, did not pass on to me. He could have one piece of cake or two cookies and then put the rest of it away until the next day. I’m still waiting for the rest of that gene to materialize.)
I made many of these things for my dad as I learned to cook in my twenties and especially when I finally had a home of my own. His favorites were my cheesecake, brownies and French toast (mentioned above) and iced cinnamon raisin bread (which works obscenely well in French toast and should absolutely be done).
But pretty much anytime my parents were visiting and I set out in my kitchen, armed with my KitchenAid, some flour, a few eggs and some sugar, all I ever wanted to do was make something so delicious that it would bring joy to my dad. It wasn’t about winning approval or affection–my father was the most unconditionally loving person in the world. I just wanted to give him something to enjoy. This was a man who could really appreciate baked goods done right and he would always tell me how to make something better, softer, less sweet or tough, or whatever needed tweaking.
Making him go weak in the knees for a cream cheese brownie might not sound like much, but to me it was the equivalent of hitting a home run or winning the school spelling bee. And so this is how I remember.
I bake on.