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baby pisetskaya

My mother and I cooked delicious food. We often had guests and life was fun. We helped and supported each other. When our relatives' children were getting married we went to their wedding parties.
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They had a big house that could easily accommodate all members of our big family: my mother's brother Foma, his wife Genia and daughter Asia, Aunt Rachil, her husband David and their children, Boris and Ania, and us. At Pesach my mother baked matzah, cooked gefilte fish and chicken broth and made keyzele [matzah pudding], and brought it all to Luba. We spent the seder, led by Luba's husband Michael, all together.
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My grandmother made ground horseradish and cooked geese for the seder. I also remember that at the beginning of the seder at Pesach my grandfather put the afikoman under a pillow and I had to find it. I was too small then to remember more details about it. At Chanukkah my grandfather made little bags into which he put golden coins and hung those bags around our necks.
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At Sabbath my mother baked challah. My grandparents had special crockery for Pesach.
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We all lived in Grandfather Menachem's house. Daughters and daughters-in- law helped my grandmother with the cooking, and my grandmother also had housemaids to help her around the house. I remember one called Nastia and another one called Asia; they were Ukrainian girls.
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My mother was good at housekeeping, knew all Jewish traditions and could cook traditional Jewish food.
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rena michalowska

I remember her gorgeous strudel, pastry made without eggs, with flour, olive oil and water. It required a tremendous amount of work. You had to knead the dough long and well and then roll it out very thin. You then stretched it on a tablecloth until it was thin like paper. The pastry was filled with: cherry preserves, nuts, raisins, a little bit of apple went in as well, sugar and vanilla. The richness of this filling was unbelievable. After you sprinkled it with bread crumbs and laid it out on paper, you rolled up the pastry and put it in the oven. My mother's cooking was typically Jewish. I think she didn't cook pork, she was simply not accustomed to it.
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I remember broth with dumplings which simply dissolved in your mouth. And matzah. Matzah was always fresh for Pesach, as there was a Jewish bakery in Tysmienica, near the town square. If there was matzah left from Pesach, my grandmother made 'matsebray,' pastry made from matzah crumbs. I know the recipe. Matsebray: dampen the matzah with water and mix with beaten egg. If you want it spicy, you can add salt and pepper, or you can make it sweet, with sugar or fruit preserves. Fry it on a pan.
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Arnold Fabrikant

I cannot say how religious Grandmother Gitlia was, but she always thoroughly prepared for Pesach and had special crockery for the holiday. She served festive food and bought matzah. She didn't go to the synagogue often. Once, when I was small, my grandmother took me to the synagogue to show me the place.
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I remember my grandmother as a very thin and quiet woman, always busy with the housework. She cooked delicious food. I don't know where Grandmother Gitlia studied, but she had some education.
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Renée Molho

During Sukkot, of course, we made a sukkah. My uncle Sinto, my father's brother, had a very big balcony, almost like a room; he made the sukkah and we all went there. They used to put blankets all around, in order to create a small room and then white sheets and pin white flowers all over. We sat there, we ate there, we saw each other, we talked, and it was very nice but we didn't sleep there.

My father went to the synagogue for every festivity, and we used to wait for him to come home, bring sweets and turn on all the lights in the house, for good luck. He brought home 'baissées,' special sweets made with eggs and sugar, which are completely white. He bought them at Almosnino, the Jewish pastry shop that was near our house and he came home. Then we went to our grandmother's, to kiss her hand and receive her blessings.

Sweets that we made at home were almond sweets, and quince sweets, as I told you. Now we don't make that kind of things any more. To make almond sweets you take a kilo of almonds, you boil them a little and then you peel them, so they become white, and then you mince them and you add half a kilo of powdered sugar, and the white part of two eggs, that you beat up so that they become fluffy as snow, and mix all of it well. Then you wet you hand with some water and lemon, so that the dough will not stick, and shape it into small pieces like children's fingers.

We also made Sotlach. We made a cream with rice flour and milk and sugar. We made this cream and then we put sugar in a pan, heated it, and let it become caramel and then we poured this hot cream inside the caramel and let it burn a little. It was very, very tasty.
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For the Jewish high holidays there are many books. The book I have, 'Jewish high holidays,' gives you an explanation at first and then tells you what the Sephardic Jews eat and what the Ashkenazi Jews eat. Gefilte fish, we don't know. Gefilte fish, is the fish they, the Ashkenazi Jews, eat.

The Sephardim eat, instead of gefilte fish, what they call 'sazan,' which is fish in sauce. Sazan is a lake fish. They put the fish in a thick sauce with vinegar and leave it there. Also they used to take the caviar of the fish and make small balls and they put it with the rest of the fish. It is something that you eat whenever you feel like it. It is something you eat also cold. I never did because it is very heavy on the stomach.
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Pesach, I don't remember any more. We ate what you traditionally had to. The first night of Pesach my mother's brothers, Uncle David and Uncle Pepo, went to Aunt Rachelle and the second night, they would come to our house and we would have Pesach all together, and read the Haggadah, just like the first night. We read the Seder in Spanish, as we spoke in Spanish among us: 'He who says, this bread of slavery that our fathers eat in the land of Egypt.'

We eat matzah because on Pesach we don't eat bread. Matzah is bread that doesn't rise, and now we buy the matzah from the community. There used to be bakeries that made matzah in Thessaloniki when I was a child. It is not like now, that we have to buy matzah from the community. The Jewish population was so numerous that they made it here. They brought the matzah from the bakery, to the house and the pieces were so big that we had a special trunk to put it in, big pieces like 40 by 40 centimeters. and for eight days, during the whole period of Pesach, there was no bread in the house.

On Pesach we also make charoset. To be honest, nowadays I buy it ready from Daniel, a Jewish delicatessen shop and then at home, I taste it and say, 'Ah, what is missing? And I will put a little bit of this, of that, of orange peels ... because the one I bought is like mud, let me add a little bit of...'

Charoset is very complicated to make. There are a lot of things that you put in. In the old times we used to make it. You put orange peels, figs, plums, cracked nuts and dates, but no almonds, and a little bit of honey and sugar.

On Pesach we used to make burmoelos. When we finished dinner we had to have sweets and those were burmoelos; they are like donuts. First, you put a small cup of oil and a cup of water and you make them boil. When it is boiling you add a cup of matzah flour and take it off the heat and slowly you put six eggs until you get a firm dough and then you deep fry them. We fry them in olive oil.

When I was a child we had special frying pans that had hollow places in them, to put each burmoelo separately, but now we just put a spoon-full and it shapes itself on its own. Those are the burmoelos, and when they are well colored, we put them on a piece of paper, to absorb the oil, and then we put them in syrup and on a nice plate to be ready to serve. Many people put honey, but we make syrup. We also serve syrup separately so that everybody can add to his taste. The syrup is made from three quarters of a cup of sugar, 1 cup of water, 1 cup of orange juice and half a cup of lemon juice. You boil it until it is thick like honey and it is very, very tasty.

With matzah, people also make pastel [pitta]. You put one layer of matzah in a baking tin, wet it with water and some oil, and then, you put one layer of whatever you want - it can be minced meat or cheese with eggs, or something else you like - and more matzah on top and bake it in the oven; but in my house we didn't like it. It is heavy on the stomach.

We also made matzah soup. For the soup you take the juice from a chicken or lamb that we usually eat for Pesach and you break the matzah into pieces with your hands - not very small pieces - and when the juice is boiling you put it in. One minute is enough.

And after diner we sang many songs, all together, such as: 'There was a lamb that my father bought ...'

During Pesach we also baked eggs [huevos enchaminados]. There was a custom in Thessaloniki to visit relatives before Pesach. Visitors would come with their pockets already full of eggs that they were already given in the other houses, and by the end of the day, at their home, they had at least 15 of them. We didn't go to visit other houses. Girls didn't go, only men.

We prepared the house, we spread new embroideries, beautiful things, my mother put her jewelry on and visitors would come, dressed formally, and the house was shining. Everybody was in a hurry because there was another visit to make, and another, and another, but at least they came, and we saw each other, and we never lost contact.
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Matilda Cerge

Grandmother was an expert at making cakes; she was a wonderful housewife. She made such fantastic baklava and cakes in general. She made all sorts of Turkish things. Not torta [rich layer cakes] rather baklava. No other housewife ever made flaky dough like she did.

I remember very well when she kneaded it with butter, then she banged it with the rolling pin to mix the butter into the dough and flour. She made those banicika, pies. Banicika is what we called those Spanish pies. The pies were from meat, milk, spinach or as we used to call them in Spanish di karni, di leci, etc...

There was dough, filling and on top more dough, all put on a tray, and then cut. It wasn't rolled like the pies we eat [in Serbia] today. Never again did I eat pies as wonderful as those made by my grandmother. Not one housewife knew how to make them as well as my grandmother.

Grandmother prepared food for the winter and all kinds of preserves. My sister loved sweets and there was never enough for her. I don't like them as much. When fall came grandmother would make preserves out of all kinds of fruits. In the dining room we had a big cabinet. Above there were two drawers and above the glass [doors] and below there was empty space.

There, Grandmother jammed in all the jars with preserves. Every day when there was no one at home, except that woman who worked in the house, who did not dare say anything, my sister would open one jar, take a little preserve and return it. With time she had opened every jar and taken a little from each. Grandmother would have had a stroke if she had known.
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Amalia Laufer

My mother had a poultry yard. She sold eggs and geese. She usually kept one goose for the family for Pesach and other holidays. She also left a bucket full of eggs for holidays. She made dumplings from eggs and matzah, pancakes and sponge cakes from matzah meal at Pesach. We also had cream and milk on holidays.
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