Thursday, June 30, 2011

Visits from semi-relatives

Just did an interview with a very nice professor who is currently doing a research project on blogs + transitions into and out of religion. She might be contacting some of ya'll in the future.

Meanwhile, talking to her made me realize I haven't posted any updates in a while, and last week I had a visit from a sort-of-relative (my cousin's wife's mother) from my side of the family, so I thought I'd post about that.

A couple of weeks ago my dad emailed me about this lady visiting.

Actually, let's go back before that. About a month ago it was my birthday and I got the following message from my dad:

Subject: Today's family BBQ pictures
Hi AE,
You were sent regards and well wishes from the various family members who asked about you. They remembered that your birthday is coming up Tuesday and send "Happy Birthday" greetings. Zaidi turns 85 tomorrow.

Along with a whole bunch of pictures of my family's annual bbq. The bbq my family has had every memorial day since the year after I was born, in honor of my birthday on May 31 (and my grandfather's birthday the day before mine, and my cousins' whose birthdays are a few days later, but the party was always held at MY house by MY parents for MY birthday).

Apparently they are still having these BBQs but I am not invited to them. So about a month ago I get this bullshit email, which can be loosely translated as: "Here's some family pictures from a bbq you are no longer invited to which used to be held in your honor. Our family asked about you because I don't own up to the fact that you are not invited to these BBQs anymore, I just pretend like you can't make it. Then I send you the pictures to throw it in your face. I'm also oblivious to exactly how obnoxious sending you these pictures is."

Yes, yes, I'm sure he didn't mean it that way, but that kinda pissed me off, and I didn't respond at all. And right after he had made me slightly less pissed off in general by leaving a voicemail singing me happy birthday on my birthday.

Then like a week later I get this email:

Hi AE,

M, A's Mom, plans to travel to [your area] in the near future. She will be driving through [your area] and asked for your phone number. She will call to arrange a short visit to say hello. No special agenda. She is just being friendly.


A few days later M, my cousin's mother in law (so not really directly related to me) called to say she was going to be driving through my area of the south (on her way to her own house which is also in the south) and she was going to be stopping by. I haven't seen her since around 2003, when her daughter married my cousin. But those cousins lived right near my parents from 2003 until last year when they moved to Israel, and so she and my parents are pretty close since she went up to their area a lot.

This is the mother in law of my cousin who unexpectedly dropped by to try to convince me not to get married about 3 months before my wedding, so when my dad said she had no agenda, I was somewhat suspicious. I wrote back saying something like "So does she know I'm not religious and B isn't jewish? Just trying to figure out how awkward this visit is going to be"

And he wrote back this very mysterious response:
"Hi AE,
I saw M in NJ this weekend and she is prepared to see you. No surprises. Have a great visit. She is on my "good" list."

Now, it's this "good list" thing which is mysterious to me. Does this mean there are people on his 'bad' list? Is the bad list people who don't accept the fact that I'm married to a non jew? Or am I reading too much into this? But somehow reading this I got this vision of my dad defending me to random family members on a 'bad list' somewhere. I don't think that he would actually go so far as defending my decision, but I wonder if there are people being especially obnoxious to my parents about me?

Again, probably reading too much into things. But someday, when all this bullshit has blown over a bit, I would love to talk to my parents about what happened to them when I got married. Cause this talk of good lists and bad lists has me wondering.

Anyways, M came to visit last week and it was actually a pretty awesome visit. She was wearing pants and a low cut shirt with uncovered hair (although her husband recently passed away which might explain that) when she came to visit, which is hilarious to me- that entire side of my family (my dad's side, which this cousin is on) is full of people dressing up when they visit my parents to pretend like they are more religious than they are. Whenever this lady visited my parents she was dressed in full religious uniform, and her son in law (my cousin) has a non religious brother AND sister who both dress up all religiously when they visit my parents. AND I know for a fact that my parents act more religious around these cousins than they actually are! Like my dad is always hiding secular stuff away and saying all these dvar torah's and being extra stringent whenever they came over. We even used to have a joke about it- I would always make fun of him for doing something different when my cousin's were over by saying "as is our custom!" and he eventually started saying that too.

Anyways, it's all an elaborate show they put on- being more religiouser than thou or whatever- but she's actually much more modern than I thought, if she wears pants. She brought us 2 cupcakes and a housewarming present too- a really nice little cutting board made from a bunch of different types of fancy woods, and 2 fancy wooden spoons for cooking with. We gave her a tour of our house and then sat around chatting for a few hours before she went on her way- she was super nice and kept giving us advice about things and was all like "well I'm an old jewish lady I love giving advice to people, you can take it or leave it." Her deceased husband was an academic too, so we talked a bunch about that, and moving around to new places (which she has also done a lot due to being married to academic).

And she left with an open invite for me AND B to come visit her whenever we want. She lives about 5 hours away from us, so I'm sure we won't be taking her up on that in the near future, but the fact that someone I'm semi-related to has actually invited B to their house! This is a huge first.

In other news, after this visit I felt inspired to actually send my dad an update with what's been going on recently (Our dog Barkley just had to have a tumor removed- he has CPV, doggie genital warts. My dog is a slut! Also he will get tumors now for the rest of his live every once in a while, which sucks, but what are ya going to do). I hadn't really talked to my dad since around April on Erev Pesach. He let me know that my cousin in Israel (the daughter of the woman M who visited me) just had her 4th baby! And my cousin in NY (who is around 25 I think?) is about to pop with her 4th any moment! Oh and her sister who got married last year is having her first baby at any moment too, and her brother who got married a few years ago has a wife pregnant with #2. Man does my generation know how to breed. Especially those last 3 siblings who are all black hatters in a family that doesn't believe in using birth control.

Oh and the best news of all- my OTD brother, after 27 years of living at my parent's house, finally got his own apartment and is moving there this weekend! So I can finally go visit him, and crash at his place, since he doesn't live with my parents anymore! Really hoping I can gather up the funds for a trip up north in a few months or at the very least at some point within the next year. And there's a train right near his new place that goes to NYC...potential NYC OTD meetup???

In garden news, Zucchini Invasion!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

When dreams come true

Back when I lived in philly, one of my neighbor's had this great sunflower patch on that little bit of grass they have between the sidewalk and the street. I would walk past it almost every morning while I was walking Barkley, and daydream about growing my own sunflowers when I owned my own house.

Yesterday my sunflowers started blooming

Happy Summer!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

From harvest to pizza

B and I like to make our own pizza. We use the recipe from the Barbara Kingsolver book, Animal Vegetable Miracle (a book I highly recommend if you are into growing veggies at all- in fact this book may be partially responsible for the home grown veggie movement over the past few years).

Pizza Harvest from my garden: Red onions, sweet italian basil, rosemary, greek oregano

Peeled onions

Caramelizing Onions (To caramelize onions cook them in olive oil at a medium-low temperature for a long time until they get glassy and then start to brown a bit)

Pizza dough with oregano and rosemary inside.

To make 1 12 inch pizza (enough for 2 people with leftovers or 3 people with no leftovers): in a large bowl combine 3/4th cup of warm (not boiling) water, 1.5 tsp of yeast, let those two ingredients sit for a minute and then add 1/2 tsp of salt, 1.5 tbs of olive oil, 1 and 1/4th cups of all purpose white flour, 1 cup of whole wheat flour.

Kneed dough by hand for around 5 minutes. Incorporate any cheeses or herbs you want to add to the dough (make sure to chop herbs finely). At a certain point you will be like "well this looks like dough, this is probably enough kneading." Knead at least 3 more minutes after that. Cover the bowl and leave to rise for at least 30-40 minutes.

Recipe can be doubled to make 2 12 inch pizzas. While the dough is rising do things like prepare toppings (in my case that's when the caramelizing of onions happened)

Recipe Continued: Preheat oven to 425

Roll out the dough in a roughly circular pattern and fold over the edges and press them into the dough to make a crust. Put some white flour on a 12 inch pizza pan (or a pizza stone, or you can use a regular cookie pan and have a square pizza). Transfer the rolled out dough to the pan. Add some kind of red sauce (we get "pizza sauce" they sell at the grocery store). If you haven't added any herbs to the dough you might want to add some rosemary, oregano and basil to the sauce (just a sprinkling). Cover sauce with layer of shredded mozzarella cheese. Add whatever toppings you want. This one is caramelized onions and basil on my half and pepperoni and prosciutto on B's half. I also like roasted red peppers and artichokes hearts and feta, prosciutto and pineapple, really the possibilities are endless.

Cook for 15-20 minutes or until crust is golden


I really find this recipe to be very easy. The only part that's kinda a pain in the ass is kneading the dough, and waiting around for it to rise. But this pizza is much better than any premade dough from the grocery store. We have most ingredients on hand since we keep yeast in the fridge- the only thing we need to buy special is the sauce, the cheese, and any toppings. It's not quite the same as store pizza, but it's close enough, plus the ability to completely personalize your toppings is awesome.

Meanwhile the peas have all been harvested, the plants torn out and put back in the soil as fertilizer (peas pants area great source of nitrogen). I planted 3 pepper plants where the peas have been, and some more dill and cilantro between the pepper plants

So now the back row has pepper plants and not much else, the middle row has 2 zucchinis, a basil plant and another zucchini, and the front row has a pepper plant, cilantro, another pepper, dill, and another pepper. There is going to be some awesome amount of grilled pepper and zucchini later this summer (This isn't even counting the 6 other pepper plants growing on the other side of the house).

Isn't dill pretty when it's growing? (There also a zucchini leaf in there). I should figure out someway to use this...usually I use dill in chicken soup but it's a bit warm for that.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Holocaust Shaming in the Jewish community

Recently I was talking to someone on the facebook about circumcision and that anti-Semitic comic thing in San Francisco (Go check out failed messiah if you have no idea what I'm talking about). Anyways, this isn't a post about circumcision, so I'm not even going to go into what my actual opinion is since I don't want 10,000 jews jumping down my throat.

But anyways, one of my friends, actually one of my best friends (who is not Jewish but is into Judaism + married to a Jewish guy), in response to something I said, replied "It is beyond sad to me when family of survivors of the holocaust, whether or not they're religious, are quick to side against their people."

I got really really pissed off about this statement. So upset that I think I sent a semi-mean email to my bff that I hope she is not too pissed off about. But in writing this email I think I was able to articulate what it is that pissed me off so much, so I thought I would share some excerpts with you:

Holocaust shaming? Really? It's bad enough I get that crap from my own family. Just because my grandparents lived through the holocaust doesn't mean I can't criticize Jewish practices (any more than it means I have to be religious or marry a jewish person).

That statement about the family of holocaust survivors was really dismissive and really really pissed me off. It makes me feel like you are joining the Jewish conformity factory that always tries to pressure people to support israel/jews/the jewish community no matter what their personal opinion or personal experiences. Which is part of the reason Jewish Orthodox communities are so fucked up IMO- because they squash anyone who doesn't conform to the 'right' opinions (which is why I never fit in) and cover up anything that would make the community look bad (like child molesting). And holocaust shaming is one of the most frequent methods of squashing that they use.

It's probably years of getting shit from my community/parents about how I have to be religious /not marry B/ never buy a Volkswagen or visit Germany/ not trust non-jewish people/ etc. because of the holocaust that is making me overreact to this, and I know this is an overreaction, but please think twice before invoking the holocaust in any kind of argument, at least arguments you are having with me.

Anyways I don't have any hard feelings or anything, and I hope this doesn't upset you either, but I wanted to let you know how I felt about that, cause you bringing up the holocaust as an argument tactic did really upset me, even though I know you didn't mean it that way. In fact any time someone says my opinion or my actions SHOULD be some way because of something out of my control (like something that happened to my grandparents) it really upsets me, because I've spent the first 2/3rds of my life being told I SHOULD be a certain way that I wasn't or think a certain way that I didn't based on things completely out of my control (like gender, and the religion of my ancestors).

What say you readers? What has been your experience with Holocaust shaming? Maybe it's because I am a direct descendant of survivors (both my paternal grandparents were in the camps), but the shame was thick in the house I grew up in, and it was one of the most common reasons used as to why I had to act a certain way that I didn't want to. "Your great grandparents died so we could be jewish" "Why are you finishing what the nazi's began?" "Did your grandparents live through the camps so you can do what the nazi's would want?" Familiar anyone? Come to think about it, I got a WHOLE bunch of shit like that on this very blog, back when I was engaged to B.

Other than disowning people (or threatening to disown them), holocaust shaming seems like one of the main mechanisms of social control used by the Jewish community. But it may just be something from my particular household since we did grow up with the holocaust. Not that we grew up DURING the holocaust, but growing up with two survivor grandparents who love to tell stories about concentration camps means it is always present in your lives. In fact, here's a picture of a huge painting that used to hang in my grandparent's living room, painted by my grandfather:

That's what I grew up with. Literally hanging in my grandfather's living room, watching over us whenever we were there.

Personally my thoughts on this ancestors died for religious freedom. They died for the freedom to practice Judaism. Yes, some would say those in the holocaust died whether or not they themselves were religious- but the reason they died is because THEIR ancestors kept practicing Judaism and didn't convert, even under enormous outside pressure over thousands of years. To me this is not a story about the importance of keeping Judaism per se alive, although it's been interpreted that way by many Jewish people. To me this struggle is about the importance of being able to practice any religion you want, or none at all. And yet now their deaths are used to try to pressure people who don't want to practice their religion, to keep practicing that religion. How messed up is that?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


For the first time since I married B my birthday(yesterday) was acknowledged by all members of my immediate family!

Got a text message from my mom, and both my brothers. (After sending my mom a text message for her birthday a few weeks ago). My dad wrote on my facebook wall and left a voicemail singing happy birthday while we were out seeing Bridesmaids.

Last year I got an email 2 days after my birthday from my dad and nothing from my mom or youngest brother, and 2 years ago (right after I got married) I got nothing at all from all 3. (the middle brother-the otd one- always acknowledges my birthday)

So yeah, I guess I count this as progress.

Meanwhile, I'm 29, which is officially my idea of a 'grown up' age. I've graduated, I'm married, I have a job and I own a house. So when am I supposed to start feeling like a grown up?