Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Christmas & New Year’s Around the Corner...


How are this year’s holidays different for you?

Nearing the end of a calendar year, the inevitable lists come out: best movies of 2020, most memorable images of 2020, most memorable people of 2020, and so on.

What is certain is that this year had such momentous events, those who survived them can attest that the year twenty-twenty was different.

I am recalling a certain week at the end of August, where a record heat combined with freak dry lightning caused fifteen hundred wild fires in northern California alone. The air was seriously unhealthy, in addition to the masks we wore for a pandemic that had kept us sheltering in place for over five months. Between the pandemic and the fires, family members lost their homes and jobs.

Then, in just one week (that same end of August) both Facebook, Blogger and my website host— decided they were done with their old formats and forced a conversion to a new one. The latter seems so trivial compare the existential challenges all around. But the confluence of the *all of it* nearly broke this camel’s back. It’s hard to try to build a website and adjust to new screens (when most of life has moved to screens) as you literally can’t take a deep breath.

And just then, I had one of those illuminations: I realized I and most around me were more alive than we’d been. As the mounting challenges pressed, we were awakened. From then on, days felt blessed rather than cursed.


I hope the coming holidays are the same for you. When listing the year’s personal highlights, may you see how very blessed the year twenty-twenty has been.

©Silent Night by Shelagh Duffett

(Passed away June 24th  2020)

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Speaking of LATKES...


The point (or excuse) of filling the house with the smell of frying is the miracle of OIL. It was only enough for one day but lasted for eight when the Maccabees liberated the defiled temple and the eternal light at its center was re-lit with special sacred oil.

It’s about OIL. It’s a downright greasy-fatty-oily festival.

So while latkes are potatoes fried in oil, and Israelis gobble sweet dough fried in oil (sort of strawberry jam filled yeast donuts), lets focus on the oil here.

This means the classic latkes can be made with any vegetable, so long as you fry them in oil.

So I take the classic potato latkes recipe and...


·         1 1/2 pounds baking potatoes (3 to 4 potatoes)

·         1/2 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered

·         1 large egg

·         2 tablespoons matzo meal or unseasoned dry breadcrumbs

·         1 teaspoon kosher salt

·         1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

·         1 cup oil

·         Applesauce and sour cream, for serving


Instead of the potatoes, you can grate zucchini, carrots, parsnip, yams, or chopped asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, or the king of all oil gobblers, the thirsty eggplant.


{You’ll have to adjust the amount of binder, i.e. breadcrumbs, to the moisture of the vegetable you use, likely increasing it a bit}

Happy oleaginous eating to us!


Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Let There Be Light


There is something powerful about bringing light into darkness.

When I was growing up in Jerusalem, Hanukah held special charms for me. My family was not religious, and Hanukah is “religion-light” in that all work is permitted and there is little by way of ritual, save the nightly lighting of candles.

And so it was less of an exterior event, and more of an interior one. Hanukah happened at home. This suited me and mine just fine. In Israel at that time there was nary a hint of the competition with Christmas, so ubiquitous in the USA.

When my kids were little we had a yearly Hanukah party, and shamelessly did compensate for our no-Christmas home with presents and decorations I never saw in my own childhood in Israel.

But I returned to my roots. Hanukah is no more party-time, or presents time, or any other whoopty-doo time. Hanukah is, once again, the smell of frying latkes and most of all, candles. If nothing else, the pandemic returned all of us home, and reminded us how this is our anchor.

A slight modification (because my roaming ever-curious cats will surely burn their whiskers) requires strategic placing of the menorah. We don’t get to put it in the widow, as is customary. But candles it is.

Their charm is undeniable.

“...One for each night

They shed a sweet light

To remind us for days long ago.”

From Hanukah Oh Hanukah

{Last year’s 8th night^. Hanukah this year begins the evening of Thursday, December 10 and ends the evening of Friday, December 18}

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

This Day, DECEMBER 1st, in History

December 1, 1955 - The birth of the modern American civil rights movement occurred as Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to give up her seat to a white man and move to the back section of a municipal bus. Her arrest resulted in a year-long boycott of the city bus system by African Americans and led to legal actions ending racial segregation on municipal buses throughout the South.

The struggle to confront and make amends to a racist legacy continues to this day. Rosa Parks was one punctuation point on a long, continuous timeline.

To young’uns, born at a time of an African-American president, this seems like ancient history and yet they sense history’s long shadow in various ways even now. It’s impossible to understand today’s grievances without remembering and reminding what is, in historical context, a blatant disregard for the full humanity of others.

A much wiser person than me, who is also a renowned psychologist, put it this way: “Humans are hardwired to think in terms of ‘us’ and ‘not us’, with all the defensiveness this implies.” This served for self-preservation under threat and did, at times of great scarcity, have a function. But, I only hope, we are slowly evolving to override this and to understand that race and religion do not make anyone “not us.”

Remembering Rosa Parks today.