Eight Crazy Nights
Menorah in the front window. Latkes. Sour cream. Green beans (more on them later). And jam roll, to take the place of the sufganiyot. Jam Roll which Little Sunshine turned into a zombie, because she’s like that. Silly girl.
Here’s a more dignified photo of the Hanukkah table:
Among the holidays we celebrate here at home, Hanukkah is a front-runner for favorite. It’s easy to be enthusiastic about.
See, I’m not Jewish, wasn’t raised among Jews, and so am completely ignorant about the lived details of Jewish celebration. When Joan decided to de-assimilate, I was all for it, but without any particular notion of how that might work.
Have I told you this story? It seems that the Polish-Ukrainian side of the family were Jewish, but converted to Catholicism at a particularly harrowing late-19th-century moment, before immigrating to Detroit by way of Montreal. They’ve maintained the fiction of Christianity ever since. But in a weak moment in the church kitchen at a wedding, Grandma told Joan. And that was that. At the time, I was still a Quaker, and had no interest in converting, but was delighted to embark on a retro-actively mixed marriage. (Later, this led to a surreally hilarious situation in which some guy Joan met online wrote her some hate mail announcing that she shouldn’t dare to call herself a Jew, since she’d married a Gentile and had kids with her. When she pointed out that she was already married to me when she converted, he apologized. For reals. Lesbian, shmesbian–just don’t marry a shiksa!)
Anyway, back to my point, which is this: I have no Hanukkah performance anxiety. Because I have no idea what my performance ought to be. It’s very, very liberating, especially when Christmas is in the offing.
Over the years, I’ve gathered considerable Christmas anxiety. I’m haunted by my own Christmas Carol-y apparitions: Martha Stewart, clicking her tongue and shaking her head at the state of my achievements; Elizabeth Fry, sighing that gentle, poisonous Quaker sigh and wondering if it wouldn’t be more Christian to alleviate the terrible sufferings of others rather than celebrate a pagan feast; and the brooding dark-robed specter of that Christmas two years ago when Joan broke down as spectacularly and completely as the Roman Empire and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Add to that the general state of world (and domestic) finance, the complexities of (extended) family life, and a fairly demanding job, and it’s no wonder that drinking a gin and tonic-ah, playing a little dreidl, and eating more fried stuff seems like the best possible idea.
Oh, the green beans! I almost forgot. So, as usual, no-one ate the green beans. And rather than heat them up again, I decided to try something so impudently implausible that it made my hair stand up on the back of my neck (which is called horripilation, in case you didn’t know): Faux Chopped Liver. Yes, I read in one of my many Jewish cookbooks that it is possible to make an excellent vegetarian chopped liver out of greenbeans.
You, like me, may be calling bullshit at this moment. Green beans? Chopped liver? Like hell!
True word: it’s scarily close. I’m not saying undetectable, but still. And while I LOVELOVELOVE chopped liver, I sometimes hear my friend Eric-the-vet-student saying, “The thing is, filtration organs. You know?”
So here’s how to make delicious, safe(r)
3+ tablespoons vegetable oil (don’t be stingy about the oil)
1/4 cup finely-chopped onion
1/4 cup walnuts
2 cups green beans (leftovers are excellent for this)
2 boiled eggs, peeled
Saute the onion in the oil till it is brown and delicious. Add the nuts and toast them for a while, till they are fragrant and brown. Add the green beans and saute them, too, till they’re on the olive-khaki side. Scrape the whole mess onto a chopping board and chop vigorously with a large knife till everything is finely minced. Add the boiled eggs and chop some more. When it’s a well-combined goop just shy of a paste, swoop it into a bowl, salt and pepper with abandon, and eat on crackers. It’s delicious, nourishing, and frugal: in a word, heimisch.