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Jewish Journal

Holiday Cooking & Family Recipes

by Ilana Angel

December 3, 2013 | 3:05 pm

I have not eaten meat in four years. I was sent a video on Facebook showing the plight of pigs in America and I never took another bite. No chicken, cow, pig, lamb, nothing. I just can’t do it. The thought of eating meat now is unappealing, but I still cook it for my son. Tonight is the 7th night of Hanukkah and a brisket has been requested. I cook meat in my home for my son but can’t think about it.

I use organic meat from farms that kill their animals with compassion not torture. If that option was not available I don’t think I would be able to cook meat because it makes me sad. Today I am making a brisket with the same recipe I've used for years. I have never had anyone taste my brisket and not think it was delicious. Even though I no longer taste as I cook, the recipe is fool proof and always perfect.

I put the brisket in the oven this morning at 8:00. At noon I took it out, trimmed the fat, sliced it, and put it back in the stove for a couple more hours. I am not a meat eater, heartbroken by the treatment of the majority of farm animals, but even though I am mortified there is an animal cooking in my kitchen, I must tell you it smells delicious. The smell of brisket is wafting through the air and I am transported back to my childhood.

Maybe it is the memories that smell so good not the carcass cooking in my oven.  My mother is a remarkable chef. She is actually a chef by trade, but apart from the fancy things she has been trained to prepare, her home cooking of classic Jewish food is out of this world. I know many of her recipes and make them well, but my younger sister has perfected them all and you can’t tell her dishes apart from our mother’s.

Tonight I am making salad, brisket, latkes, brussels sprouts with balsamic vinegar, and baked bananas with ice cream for desert.  My home smells like the holidays and it makes me happy. Every time I go into the kitchen to check on things I half expect to see my mom cooking. I know how to make these things with my eyes closed but I called my mother to ask her to walk me through the latkes and it was really sweet.

She was thrilled to remind me of her secrets over the phone and was lovely about my “forgetting” recipes I’ve been making for years. I laughed as I pretended to write it all down, knowing that my mother was thrilled to be included in my holiday cooking. It was very special. When my son gets home from school he will walk in and comment of how the house smells like his Grandma’s kitchen and I will smile knowing cooking keeps the faith.

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