"We’re celebrating Rosh Hashanah, ya know." I meant it less as a statement and more of a "Yay, you want to right?" His answer came in a blank face followed by a roll of his eyes. "What? It’s not like I’m going to force you to go to synagogue." As if I could. I like being a Jew, especially when I’m not in New York. At summer camp, in Massachusetts, we were always given the option of attending Friday night services at a nearby shul. Some campers opted to go mostly for the grape juice and challah bread. I went because being Jewish felt special there. Only a handful of us went, and I found something comforting in the tradition, in knowing the songs and most of the prayers. When I returned home at the close of summer, I never went to services. It’s common to be a Jew in New York, so I figured the people who went to services got the Jews sort of covered. Like, eh, someone else will go. In Massachusetts, I felt like I at least needed to be a body in a seat. I also wanted to be there. I feel a sense of obligation and pride when I’m somewhere "where the Jew’s are not." Yes, yes, there are Jews in Austin. Michael Dell has spent quite a bit on the Jewish Community Association of Austin. Still, they’ve got Christian radio stations and well, the bible belt. Here’s what they don’t have: FLANKEN.
Flanken is a cut of meat, basically short ribs, but cut across the bone. In Forest Hills, NY it’s hard to come by this time of year. Jewish grandmothers make friends with their butchers and beg for rations. They collect their cuts from several different butchers, each only allowing a pound or two per customer. Then it’s taken home, heavy in waxy paper, prepared for a pot with baby carrots and dried fruits. This actually sounds a little disgusting, but I promise, it’s heavenly in that comforting grandmother way. It’s like a quilt from a country store that sells brown eggs, rooster salt shakers, and has clear glass jars of jelly beans swizzle sticks. Flanken becomes sweet candied meat. I’ve made it before, but I never make enough meat. I think you need at least seven pounds of it (the bones are heavy) to get a proper fix. The real problem is… I have no one for whom to cook. I want to make matzo ball soup (with a touch of nutmeg or with fresh dill), but sometimes it’s pointless when there’s no family around to appreciate it. Philip doesn’t care about the Jewish holidays, which makes me a little sad. Not a lot sad, but some. I want someone to be a good Jew with me, here, in Austin, where it counts! And by my estimation, being a good Jew means enjoying (or at least trying) gefilte fish with horseradish. It means lighting candles and reenacting what came before you, in your own special way. And for me, that means fine china, candles, a dutch oven filled with meat, a basket full of yellow glossy challah, and some kind of kugel. Apple cake or something with honey, certainly, but according to my sister, being a good Jew is all about chopped liver. I wish I had more family around. When the kids come, plus a few years, I’m going to put them to work in my kitchen. Until then, I’ll be making zwetschgenkuchen all by myself… all for myself, since Mr. Phil refuses to have any fruit in his dessert. Oy.