The Crew Gets a Taste of Shabbos
Nechama means “to comfort”, and the name is very fitting for a mother who loves to take care of her four daughters and show them love through food. The youngest is Dishing Up the Past’s own Myrite who, upon moving out, began getting “care packages” of food from her, including shabbos Chulent.
Her sister Netta’s face lights up at the mention of Chulent, as she recalls the scents of Saturday mornings growing up. Whoever went to bed the latest on Friday was the one responsible for checking on the Chulent and adding more water if necessary. The stew would cook overnight on a low heat, covered with layers of towels to keep it insulated, and then it would be enjoyed for lunch on Saturday.
Nechama, mostly followed her own mother Hadassa’s method for the utmost Ashkenazi bean, potato and barley stew, but every so often her curiosity led her to try a new addition: Garam Masala, Ketchup, Soy or Worcestershire sauce.
A funny memory the sisters shared was when they discovered a new element in their chulent. They asked what it was and Nechama replied, “new beans”: Being Israeli she didn’t know the name for wheat berry. For years her daughters thought “new beans” was a type of legume, until they started making their own Chulent and asked the grocer where the “new beans” were! There was even a period when Myrite was vegetarian and Nechama tested out a meat-free version that the rest of the family approved of.
“I felt left-out of the family’s comfort food because she always added in bones and pieces of ‘flanken’. I thought it was a really sweet gesture for her to change the traditional recipe around to accommodate my needs. It tasted just as delicious as I remembered.”
But there is one thing that hasn’t changed: all the different beans are neatly separated by onion halves within their own bean section, “so that it doesn’t look like a tornado came by”. The other reason for this method is that it allows everyone seated at the table to choose their favourite combination.
Feeding her family and friends is one of the things that this intuitive cook and gardener does naturally. As for Cholent, she is convinced that there is something magical about it. She remembers growing up in Israel where, after synagogue, her parents opened their home to guests. No matter how many hungry people would appear, there was always enough warm stew in the “miracle pot”.
Nechama always welcomed her young daughters into the kitchen, so it was only natural that for the taping of our episode on Cholent, Netta and Myrite would be cooking with her. It was the first time Nechama measured the ingredients. It was also the first time she made Cholent on a weekday and served it without challah.
Time stands still when you sit with Nechama. She is known for being the slowest eater in the family and her daughters joke that “God help the waiter who might try and clear away everyone else’s plates before she is finished eating.”
She managed to persuade the whole crew to slow down, encouraging us to beat traffic by staying well after rush hour had passed. She used this time to tell story after story of her youth: when carp for Gefilte Fish was kept in the bathtub and she fell in while trying to touch the fish; when her mother taught her how to make Kishka (stuffed tripe) to put on top of the chulent so she could impress her in-laws at her husband’s Oif-Ruf.
Nechama made sure the whole crew had a place at the table, and fed us all not only with the heartiest most delicious Chulent, but with her inherently gracious and comforting company.