There you are, flipping through your new cookbook, “Recipes and Memories that Nourished Us Through the Pandemic.” You see artwork and photographs. You recognize faces from the Sisterhood of Temple Beth-El, in Providence, whose members published this new volume. You see family recipes, handed down for generations.
Then you see “Kille Platschen.”
“I’ve never heard this term,” says Kate Bramson, the Sisterhood member who edited the book. “I Googled it a lot, and I don’t really see a translation for it, but it’s what her family called it.” It’s a type of cookie.
“Recipes and Memories” is a colorful collection, fully compiled and published during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 50 recipes, crowdsourced from Beth-El community members, are a welcome addition to any kitchen, but the real pleasure of flipping through the book is its anthology of family lore. The same dishes, such as gefilte fish, are prepared and spelled several different ways, in keeping with family traditions.
“Everyone writes down a recipe differently. There were times when I realized I had no idea how this person is explaining the recipe,” says Bramson, who often corresponded with contributors to clarify their decades-old directions.
The book was developed by five Sisterhood members: Lilliane Birch, Deb Gordon, Marcy Cohen, Debbie Barshay and Bramson. They started the project in January 2021, both as a way to maintain community during the lockdown and to raise money through sales of the book.
They had already occupied themselves during the pandemic with rock painting, greeting cards, and a virtual artist tour, but “Recipes and Memories” offered an opportunity to celebrate personal traditions as well as document the lockdown experience. So the call for recipes went out to the Beth-El congregation.
“We found out that we all have different strengths,” says Barshay, who spearheaded the project. “And yet we all work together so well. We complemented each other.”
The temple’s Sisterhood dates back to 1913, and participation remains strong, with around 50 paid members. For safety’s sake, most Sisterhood activities continue to take place virtually; the book itself was created almost entirely over Zoom.
“This is a passion project,” says Gordon, who designed and laid out most of the book. “I needed something during COVID. Visually, it became a group effort, to merge our sensibilities and aesthetics.”
When a proof copy was printed last summer, the team was able to get together in person to review their work. They marveled at the range of recipes, the wealth of anecdotes, Elaine Sandy’s many photographs and artist Robin Halpren-Ruder’s colorful cover.
“To see it in person, it was unbelievable,” says Barshay.
“For such a lonely year,” adds Gordon, “it was a reminder that it wasn’t so lonely. It just made me smile.”
Hardcover copies are available for $72. The digital edition, which contains only recipes, is $18. To order, go to temple-beth-el.org/community-2/sisterhood/. All funds raised go to temple projects that the Sisterhood supports, such as the Women’s Seder, Sisterhood Shabbat and holiday receptions, plus temple improvements (such as kitchen renovations), the religious school and student-leadership programs.
The group shared two recipes from the book.
ROBERT ISENBERG (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the multimedia producer for the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island and a writer for Jewish Rhode Island.
This recipe for cinnamon buns nourished us through COVID in a couple of ways. For one, my mother used to make them quite often during my childhood and afterwards, when she used to visit us. So, we would think of her when eating them, and that was comforting. Also, they are delicious and make a great breakfast treat.
– Lilliane Birch
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine in a dough mixer, or mix and knead by hand:
5 cups flour
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
Warm in a saucepan:
1 stick margarine or butter
2/3 cup milk
Add final ingredients:
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
A pinch of salt
Measure flour into bowl. Make a small depression in center of the flour. Add water, yeast, and sugar. Let rise about 10 minutes, until yeast bubbles a little.
In a saucepan: Warm the butter in the milk until it is lukewarm or a little warmer, but not hot. Add to the flour mixture.
Then add sugar, eggs, and salt. Let dough rise for about 2 hours. Punch dough down. Roll out dough. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar all over it. Roll it up and cut it into separate buns. Put buns on cookie sheet to rise again for about an hour.
Bake for about 15 minutes. Buns should be brown all over.
The number of buns will depend on how big you slice them in the first place.
This is my mother’s recipe for gefulte fish. She was a Holocaust survivor who endured Auschwitz for 2 years. Making the fish reminded us of her strength and courage. If she could survive Auschwitz, we could survive the pandemic.
– Lilliane Birch
4 onions – grate 2 and chop 2
1 1/2 pounds whitefish, tilapia or scup, grated in blender
2 tablespoons salt
6 tablespoons sugar
1 carrot, sliced
1/4 to 1/2 cup matzah meal
In a bowl, mix 2 grated onions, the fish, 1 tablespoon salt, 3 tablespoons sugar, and 3 eggs. Then add 1/4 cup matzah meal.
Fill a wide pot half full with water. Add 2 chopped onions, 1 tablespoon salt, 3 tablespoons sugar, and the carrot. Bring the pot to a slow boil. Drop a test ball into the boiling water. If it doesn’t hold together, add up to 1/4 cup more matzo meal. Make about 24 fish balls. If your hands get sticky, wet them. Add the fish balls, and keep the pot partially covered. Slow boil for an hour. Scoop balls out onto serving dish. Scoop out carrot slices and place on top.