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The Jewish Chronicle - JC Magazine - - Appetite For Life -

ISA ROUKIN, her mother Su­san Roukin and grand­mother Jackie Weintrob do some­thing ex­tra­or­di­nary. They cook to­gether. When gen­er­a­tions lived un­der one roof — shar­ing house­hold chores and sit­ting down to meals to­gether — it was less rare. Recipes were passed down from mother to daugh­ter.

To­day, with most ex­tended fam­i­lies strug­gling to get to­gether once a week, there is lit­tle op­por­tu­nity for mothers and daugh­ters to share kitchen time. But the trio still reg­u­larly shop for food and pre­pare meals to­gether.

“If I go to Waitrose or to Me­nachem’s (a Gold­ers Green butcher) with­out my mother, the shop staff want to know where she is!” says Su­san.

Each Mon­day, Wed­nes­day and Fri­day is spent to­gether. The last de­voted to pre­par­ing their Shab­bat meal. Each has an es­tab­lished role. Skills and tra­di­tional recipes have been passed on and they con­tinue to learn from each other.

Jackie — an el­e­gantly youth­ful 90 years old — first learned to cook from her mother, Es­ther. “I was about 17 when I started help­ing at home,” she re­calls. “My mother was a tra­di­tional but very good cook. She made won­der­ful stuffed neck and chopped her­ring, de­li­cious sour cab­bage with baby meat­balls and sul­tanas in it and won­der­ful hal­ibut in lemon sauce. We al­ways

SUM­MER 2013 made chopped liver ev­ery week­end and roast chicken, lok­shen soup, roast pota­toes and ap­ple pie each Fri­day”.

Es­ther and Jackie did not fol­low recipes and mea­sure­ments. The recipes were in their heads.

“I con­tin­ued to cook my mother’s recipes,” says Jackie. “I wasn’t ad­ven­tur­ous but, like her, stuck to a rou­tine of cer­tain dishes on par­tic­u­lar nights of the week. Chopped meat on Mon­day, esca­lope Wed­nes­day, chops on an­other day. We never used recipe books. If we’d en­joyed some­thing at some­one’s house, we would ask them for the recipe.”

And in her day, haimishe cooks stuck to salt and pep­per for sea­son­ing. “We never used fresh herbs, I’d had not even heard of co­rian­der and I’m still not keen on them — es­pe­cially rose­mary,” she says.

She and many of her con­tem­po­raries did make use of the lat­est mod cons though, happily adopt­ing a pres­sure cooker when that came on to the mar­ket —“They were all the rage” she re­mem­bers.

Jackie’s food mem­o­ries are also of truly sea­sonal eat­ing. Her eyes light up when she re­calls her first tastes of cu­cum­ber and toma­toes each year, which were of­ten the same time as Pe­sach. “They tasted so good then, I have still never tasted a tomato like I did years ago,” she re­mem­bers.

Her train­ing in her mother’s kitchen was a good one though. Nei­ther daugh­ter nor grand­daugh­ter has bet­tered her fried fish and both agree that no one cleans a chicken as thor­oughly as her.

Su­san also did not be­gin to cook un­til what would now be seen as rel­a­tively late. “Chil­dren just didn’t go in the kitchen when we were young,” says Jackie, “as there were knives and hot pans. You never would have con­sid­ered them help­ing.”

So al­though 67-year-old Su­san says she was in­ter­ested in cook­ing, she didn’t get in­volved un­til her early 20s.

“When I mar­ried my hus­band at 26 I had to learn to cook well. He is a huge foodie and his mother was an amaz­ing cook. The first thing he does when he walks into the house each night is go straight to the fridge,” she laughs.

It was Su­san’s gen­er­a­tion who started to look fur­ther afield for in­spi­ra­tion. Su­san took recipes from Jackie, from her girl­friends but also found from books. “I used Eve­lyn Rose and the other stan­dard Jewish cook­books, but there was also a book at the time called The Way to a Man’s Heart, which had lots of great recipes,” she smiles.

For Su­san, cook­ing is all about for whom she is cook­ing. “I cook from the heart and if I’m not happy it shows in my cook­ing. I don’t of­ten use recipes any more but cook with my senses — tast­ing, feel­ing, see­ing if some­thing is right.” she ex­plains. She also claims to be un­ad­ven­tur­ous — “I stick with what I know” she smiles.

Now there is a new head chef. As soon as Lisa could stand she wanted to help in the kitchen. And times had changed by then: “I used to give her but­ter, sugar and flour to play with when she was six,” laughs Su­san.

And the young Lisa’s in­ter­est was de­vel­oped and height­ened as she watched and helped her mother and grand­mother in the kitchen as they worked to­gether. “I would sit at the kitchen counter help­ing roll meat­balls and watch­ing,” re­calls Lisa. “I could live in the kitchen and cook all day long.”

“Now, she tells us what to do,” teases Jackie. Her mother ad­mits she ini­tially found it hard to step aside in her kitchen, but the three clearly have made it work.

The two older women con­tin­u­ally praise Lisa’s cook­ing skills, say­ing: “Her love of cook­ing makes her the best, and she has learned from us!” Lisa’s pas­sion for food grew to such an ex­tent she at­tended Lon­don’s culi­nary school Le Cor­don Bleu in 2008 be­fore spend­ing time in sev­eral pro­fes­sional kitchens.

She also worked at kosher cater­ers Tony Page and Schave­r­ien, as well as Le Caprice and The Ivy, ei­ther in the kitchen or in­volved in events plan­ning.

Al­though she has now had pro­fes­sional train­ing, much of her in­spi­ra­tion is still from home. “I’ve learned about sea­son­ing from my Mum — she sea­sons per­fectly. She al­ways used gar­lic gran­ules and I’ve taken that on board for many of my recipes.”

Lisa feels that many girls of her gen­er­a­tion are not learn­ing to cook at home as they don’t spend time cook­ing with their mothers or grand­moth­ers. Our her­itage is in dan­ger of dis­ap­pear­ing, she says — “The gen­er­a­tions are not pass­ing it on”. For this rea­son she has started teach­ing cook­ing. “I want to be an in­spi­ra­tion to my peers, es­pe­cially in the Jewish com­mu­nity” she ex­plains.

The three women should be an in­spi­ra­tion to us all. How bet­ter to keep our tra­di­tions go­ing strong than to pass them di­rectly from one gen­er­a­tion to the next. For de­tails of Lisa Roukin’s motherand-daugh­ter cook­ery demon­stra­tions email lisa@cook­with­lisa.com

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