Sunday, April 1, 2007

An April Fool for Fame

Here is the Time article:,9171,1604905,00.html

And La Bimba is back on track! Eleven and a half hours of uninterrupted dreamland. Brava!

I've been preparing some dishes in advance for tomorrow's seder: carrot tzimmes and the charoses (or charoset if you are into the Sephardic pronunciation; the s ending is Ashkenazi Hebrew, and also Yiddish).

All this talk about Sephardic (also modern, i.e. what they speak in Israel today, Hebrew) vs. Ashkenazi Hebrew brings me back to Oxford circa 1989. I did a year abroad there, a bizarre year at the Oxford Centre for Postgraduate Hebrew Studies (note British spelling of centre...looks so French...don't the British hate the French?...I guess not as much as the Pilgrims hated the English because they changed the spelling...those crazy Pilgrims, self-hating English...I don't actually know who was responsible for changing re to er, our to or...just asiding away here). Of our group of ten? twenty?, I don't remember, students, I was the only one who chose to study Yiddish. There was the modern Hebrew group, the Biblical Hebrew group, and the Yiddish lone wolf in sheep's clothing. I studied one-on-one with Professor Dov Ber Kerler, a very hairy Russian man who had me writing short stories in Yiddish by the end of the year. Now I don't remember anything. Sorry Dov!

Dov Ber and Dovid Katz, one of the most important Yiddish scholars in the world (a Brooklynite...from Borough Park, methinks...that was some Shakespeare for you since we're in England...are feeling condescended to, dear reader?...should I let you figure out my brillilant strokes of brilliance by yourself?), the two big, raving Jews, would get together for lunch at the St. Giles cafe next to the Hebrew Studies department. They would order all sorts of treyf (non-kosher food) like bacon and cheese together, and sit at the tiny table screaming in Yiddish. I loved the balls of it all.

I never did get used to Jews speaking in English accents. When I told one of our fellow students, a Jewish Londoner, that my grandmother's name was Daurcy Schwartz, she said, "What? Dancing Plants?" (remember you have to say that with a British accent, dahncing plahnts).

Speaking of meat and cheese, I remember going to my local deli with my first boyfriend B. Brooklyn 1986. Adelman's on Kings Highway between Ocean Avenue and East 19th Street. Adelman's is a kosher deli, so that means no dairy, just meat. (There are also kosher dairy restaurants, but those are gross). B. ordered a cheeseburger. The waiter looked at him like he was with the gestapo. How could a boy, Lutheran minister's son notwithstanding, grow up in Brooklyn and order a cheeseburger at a Jewish deli?

I am also fondly remembering a seder during which Grandma Daurcy Schwartz told us the story about having sex with Papa Myer under the Brooklyn Bridge. I am sure it never happened. Either way, it is not a story for the dinner table. I miss my grandma, Big D. She had a t-shirt that said "75 and Still Sexy" and another one that said "Daurcy is my name, sex is my game." I'll have to find a way to post a photo of her so that you get the picture (pun intended however lamely so!).

I remember fasting with my mom during Yom Kippur. We would fast and watch cooking shows at the same time. We thought we got extra credit from God for that. My father never fasted. He would show up in the bedroom where mom and I were starving, half a bagel hanging out of his mouth. Heathen!

I used to like to watch the parade of Sephardic women on their way to synagogue on the high holy days. They wore Versace and Gucci to synagogue. Ocean Parkway, a wide Brooklyn boulevard with a synagogue on every block, became a catwalk. The Hasidim were much less interesting to watch except for visitors from the midwest. For the midwesterner, the Hasidim were like martians or a lost tribe from the Amazon jungle.

Obviously, I am not an obersvant Jew. Jewishness is my culture, Judaism the religion I don't follow. Passover seder is like Christmas dinner, fasting on Yom Kippur is a habit (one I gave up since moving to Italy...I conveniently never remember about Yom Kippur until it has already passed). I just want La Bimba to experience the matzoh half of her genetic make-up since she is growing up in the pizza.


Lisa said...

Actually, the Pilgrims weren't self-hating English. Chalk the American English changes up to good ol' Noah Webster, of the dictionary fame, 2 centuries after the Pilgrims (I'm from Plymouth, originally "Plimoth" if you want to discuss spelling changes, landing place of the Pilgrims and although I'm in no way, shape or form descended from them, I still feel like I have to defend them!). Apparently there'd already been a lot of changes in the English spoken in the States and there was the general feeling that Americans shouldn't speak the same exact English as in England. And so Webster just decided to change those famous -re, -our etc. spellings as well as making other current vocabulary differences official in his first dictionary. He predicted that American English would become a completely different language from standard English with time. And plenty of Italians I've met who say they don't want English lessons from me because I, as an American, only speak and understand "American," and not "English" would agree that this has indeed happened! Just to back up your point about Internet point Roberto and your English language credibility!

Doug said...

Dude, cool article, but they didn't mention your book!

Also, I got the feeling from that article that Naples is still a hotbed of violence, which I find hilairious, living in the US. Some comparison of murder/violent-crime rates to major US cities might have suported (or not) the implication....

Anonymous said...

Petto di Manzo and Charoset were great!

Chicken Soup even greater...

The lack of chopped liver was definitely worth the story of your experience at the butcher, and...

seeing as the superlative is still waiting to be used as twas was intended - THE GREATEST - was the warmth and hospitality and finding a my place at said smooshed table to share a seder (my first ever in Italian).

As the other Jew (beautiful daughter of host not withstanding) at the table.. I can vouch for the familiarity and warmth with which this Pesach was both given and received.

I got to read (badly and slowly) from an Italian Haggadah, but still got a spontaneous round of applause all the same (from Italians too who know how it SHOULD be pronounced, no less - that made my night!).

Such was the enthusiasm around your happy table for your Seder

Thank you so much - next time I'll bring matzo balls. A gap in the marked here? Importing Matzo meal to there's a thought..