Contact Me

Any time - drop me an email
miriamhendeles@gmail.com
1-323-243-7116

Contact Me

Any time - drop me an email
miriamhendeles@gmail.com
1-323-243-7116

[breadcrumbs]

Farewell to Challah: An Open Letter

Dear Challah,

After many weeks of deliberating on my relationship with you, I’ve decided to say good-bye to you. I am putting this letter on a public forum in the hopes that others may also gain insight in what works for them.  I think it’s crucial that I finally address our co-dependent relationship. Hopefully, this will be the first step toward my recovery.

First, let me say that I appreciate all you have done for me over the years. Every Friday night at our Shabbat table, since my childhood, you’ve provided me with comfort, warmth and excellent taste. As my father would make the blessing on the bread with our entire family around the table, then cut you into even slices, and pass around a piece to each one of us, I’d wait with my mouth watering and eyes glazed with love.

Then, invariably, after everyone took their first bite, the compliments would flow. First my father would praise my mother for baking you so perfectly. My mother would smile and shrug, and kind of humbly say, “Oh it’s the new oven” or “It’s my friend’s recipe.” But we knew she was just being modest. You were great. Maybe she brought out the best in you, but still you were great and we all knew it.

Truth is, you were special and you excelled on your own, without anyone to help you out.  Your recipe was quite simple and accessible that when my mother bought me as a wedding gift a Kitchen Aid mixer, I learned quickly how to bake you almost as well as my mother.  Yea, I compared myself to my mother when around you, which was also a problem. But still, I felt good baking you so well and of course you were yummy to eat.

Your ingredients were so basic and earthly: flour, oil, eggs, salt, sugar, yeast. So even when you had a bad day and didn’t turn out as well as other times, you were still great to have around. Soft, sweet and tasty. The best comfort food around.

Over the years we’ve become attached at the hips – (mine, not yours).  I’d eat one piece, then two, then three. My mother would look at me with that expression of “control yourself, there’s a whole meal ahead of us.” But I was on a roll and I couldn’t stop. Back then, it didn’t matter that gefilte fish, chicken soup, brisket, salad, chicken and potato kugel were to follow. I wanted you and only you. I was willing to share my stomach with the others, but you came first.  Your aroma was enticing, your flavor and texture were wonderful. But you became addictive and  your calories were  way beyond my allotment for a meal.

These days I’ve evolved and have become more introspective than I was back in the day. But at some level, I’m still that little girl. I may tell myself that I’m big and grown-up and I can eat “just” one piece and stop. I may try to convince myself that “come on, just have the crust or end of a piece and stop right there.” And here’s the thing: I really like you. I think you are good.

But you don’t work for me. At least not right now. Dear Challah, no matter how many times I promise myself that I will just have one small challah roll (the equivalent of a few points on Weight Watchers) or just one end piece, I always go back for another. And another.

You’ve been calling my name for so long that I hear your voice calling out “Eat me, eat me…I’m here for you…” every week at our Shabbos table. I’m a mother and grandmother and I still find you very seductive.

I can no longer succumb. I have to say good-bye. Just as an addicted alcoholic says, “One drink is too many and a thousand is not enough….” I say the same about you.

“One slice is too many, and a thousand is not enough.” You are an addiction and I must let go.

A few weeks ago, I was at a wedding and a friend and we made a pact. We both promised ourselves that we would not eat the challah bread at the wedding. We were going to hold back, and just eat the meal. No challah for us. Well, it didn’t work. I found myself washing my hands, making the blessing and then eating it. I didn’t ask my friend if the pact worked for her, but for me, it was a no-go.

And so dear Challah, in spite of my efforts to cut down, to use portion control, to enlist a buddy to do it together, nothing has worked for me. Our relationship has become toxic.  We need a separation. I need to make that difficult decision to not even have a tiny piece of you. Because as much as you arouse those warm and fuzzy feelings of childhood, and as much as I adore you, our relationship is not working out well at this time.

I say this all with sadness. I admit you are delicious, charming, charismatic, warm and inviting, but I can no longer hang around you. Ironically, I can still eat your cousins – certain kinds of whole wheat breads and matzoh. For some reason, I am able to have them in my life in moderation. But not you.

You – my dear challah – I can no longer have you in my own life. Not for now.  Not when you’re clothed in whole wheat, spelt, white flour, or poppy seeds. Not your water recipe, nor your egg recipe. Not your raisin toppings, nor your sesame seed toppings. Not your round ones nor your oval shape.

None of you. I say good-bye.

Good-bye Challah. Farewell.

Your friend,

Miriam


Klempner’s blog today: (Oy – I’m sooo farKlempt!)**

Nachas from friends

by beccakinla

**  In my original version of this post, I had attributed Rebecca, the wonderful reviewer to being Farklempt, which is German  for being choked up, touched, emotional and basically all flattered. Well actually, I am the one who is farklempt (choked up, touched, emotional and flattered). Why?  because Becca wrote this beautiful review for Judy and me.  I’m so touched. See below why I am  FARKLEMPT, or VERKLEMPT (a la Mike Myers from SNL)

So without further ado….

HERE ARE 2 REVIEWS MY GOOD FRIEND, REBECCA KLEMPNER  WROTE ABOUT JUDY GRUEN’S AND MY NEW BOOKS: READ ON:

A couple months ago, I published about being farginen–taking pleasure in other people’s success. So today, I’m going to share reviews of two of my friends’ new books:

I’ve known Judy Gruen for at least a decade, and she’s as funny in print as she is in person, which is saying a lot. Her articles on Aish.com and in magazines are not only funny, but touch the experiences of women everywhere, which is one of the reasons her writing is so effective. Readers can’t help but identify with Judy.

Judy’s <Till We Eat Again> is a rollicking trip through Judy’s attempt to shed 15 lbs prior to a reunion. We follow her struggle with conflicting and often wacky weigh-loss advice, the apathy of her spouse, and her children’s hatred of health food. Her self-deprecating humor allows us to laugh at our own propensity to cheat when confronted with chocolate or be jealous of the effortlessly and relentlessly thin among our friends. Fortunately, Judy survives her fight slightly thinner, but with her humor completely intact.

Note: this book is not even remotely an attempt to give accurate weight-loss advice. It’s more like a stand-up act. Fellow warriors in the battle of the bulge will, however, appreciate the humor and may even loose a couple ounces laughing (I almost fell off my bed at one part). Also, some very conservative (little “c”) readers might not approve of a few very slightly racy situations. Until We Eat Again can be found on Amazon.com.

I’ve admired Miriam Hendeles’s work ever since she started out in the late magazine, Jewish Life Los Angeles. After she moved on to Binah Magazine, she became a friend, too, so it’s with great excitement that I’m reviewing her first book, Mazel Tov! It’s a Bubby!

Mrs. Hendeles is a native of New York, but has been an active member of our L.A. community since her marriage. A former Bais Yaakov teacher, she currently works as a music therapist. Even more importantly, she and her husband have—bli ayin hara—raised a family of several boys…boys who are steadily growing up, marrying, and starting their own families, providing plentiful material for her magazine columns. Mrs. Hendeles’s new book is a compilation of those columns, along with additional material touching on the life of the contemporary Blackberry-wielding, Skype-viewing, master’s-degree-holding mother-in-law and grandmother.

Mazel Tov! It’s a Bubby!  is an upbeat book about a topic that is fraught with anxiety: the transformation from daughter-in-law and mother to mother-in-law and grandmother. Mrs. Hendeles’s self-deprecating humor and positive outlook set this book apart. She invites us along in her attempts to be a “Model In-Law” and “Model Grandparent.” Her efforts are usually successful, but occasionally flounder. She takes the missteps in stride, poking fun at her foibles, but also seizing the opportunity for introspection and improvement.

That’s not to say that Mazel Tov! It’s a Baby shies away from tumultuous emotions. We waver right along with her when she knows her “new couple” needs space but her hand keeps reaching for the phone. We see her mixed feelings about giving her adult children independence when her opinion just wants to leap out of her mouth. And we witness her nostalgia for her children’s youth as well as her hopes for their future. This is a book that touches the heartstrings as well as tickles the funny bone.

There is another common thread among the essays in Mazel tov! It’s a Bubby! In Judaism, particularly in the mussar tradition, we see the events and the challenges of life as opportunities for personal growth and character development. When the author writes, “Often, individuals refuse to think out of the box, since that may imply a perceived weakness…When we sense that we are spinning our wheels and getting stuck in the same patterns of thinking, perhaps we should ask ourselves, ‘Is it time for a change?’” she’s planting her book squarely in the mussar tradition. Mrs. Hendeles is urging her fellow in-laws and grandparents on to further self-improvement at a stage in life when some give up.

The opening chapters of Mazel Tov! It’s a Bubby! depict the typical milestones that follow the marriage of one’s first child. We smile as the entire Hendeles family debates the various merits (and demerits) of “Grandma,” “Oma,” and “Bubby” before the first grandchild is even born. Our heart flutters when the author reflects, “…something inside me longed for the good ol’ days of PTA meetings, play dates, Mommy-n-Me’s, and strolls to the playground.” And we giggle when the author suggests her teenage son lie down next to her grandchild to help the latter tolerate “tummy time” or when a well-planned, first-time sleep-over goes amok.

As the volume progresses, the stories branch out a bit, with increasing hilarity and insightfulness. The author struggles with keeping family traditions of letter-writing and multi-lingual proverb-spouting at the same time as embracing emails and text messages. She juggles the needs of her teenage son living at home with the young grandchild visiting there. I laughed along with Mrs. Hendeles’s list of preferred traits in mechutanim and her “Diary of a Shadchan Wannabe.” Mrs. Hendeles discovers that middle age—with its less rigorous daily demands—offers opportunities to branch out into new hobbies and professions.

Mazel Tov! It’s a Bubby! would make an excellent gift for the new—or not so new!—mother-in-law or grandmother in your life. However, it isn’t limited to that audience. As a woman whose oldest child is still in elementary school, I found plenty to enjoy in this book.

Mazel Tov! It’s a Bubby! is due in Jewish bookstores and at http://www.israelbookshoppublications.com on September 5th. (A version of this review appeared previously in CitySpirit Magazine.)


Warrior Woman

I had arrived at a huge event of the “Siyum Hashas” last week on Wednesday. My husband came home from work early, so we could leave at 3:30 for the program that began at 4:45 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Downtown Los Angeles. There was no traffic surprisingly, and we parked, ate our lunch in the courtyard, rented binoculars, and submitted our pre-purchased tickets to the uniformed doorman by 4:15 pm. We were ready to go into the theatre and the doors were still not opened.

No problem. We sat in the huge lobby and relaxed. I heard my cell phone beep, and noticed a text from my mother who lives in New York. Noticing that she had sent me a picture attachment, I opened it, expecting to see the counterpart Siyum that took place in the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.

Instead, to my alarm, was a photo of my mom in a hospital room. Her face was all bruised and bleeding. She had bandages on her forehead. My mom was sitting on what appeared to be a hospital bed, fully clothed. Her eyes were as  blue as ever, against her flushed face. Except for the black and blue marks all over her face, she didn’t look too bad. (I guess……). If not for her huge smile, I might have fainted. But I stayed strong.

I called my mom. She didn’t answer. I sat there – glued to the plush bench, feeling quite worried. Here I was  in the expansive lobby, waiting to enter a theatre and watch a momentous exhibit of Jewish men celebrating the completion of a 7 1/2 year Talmud learning goal, and my spunky mom just sent me a scary picture of herself. Continue reading


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