Today I got an email from the editor of the Shofar, an Iranian Jewish quarterly that my dad has a hand in publishing. She wants me to contribute something to their winter issue, which is very exciting. I started to reply, but quickly realized it's not going to be a one-liner. I put on some hot water, and pulled out a couple cookbooks. It was time to do some research.
Let's face it: this isn't a coffee home. The coffee I make in my little French press never comes out as good as I'd like, and the stupid Senseo I got for 'free' is a swill-machine that ust takes up precious counter space. We do tea really well though. Today was the day for genmai-cha: a nutty-tasting Japanese blend of green tea and toasted brown rice. I have a fancy tin of the stuff I was given as a gift -- really great tea from an Australian company called Tease. Perfect after a night of over-imbibing, I boiled some water and poured it directly over the leaves. I'm always skeptical that the leaves, toasted rice grains, and twiggy bits will actually settle to the bottom and let me drink in peace, but they always do.
Then began the 'quick reply', which was in fact a deliciously satisfying archaeological dig through many topics and many media, just what I love. Pore through old interviews from the cookbook, looking for Hanukkah-related recipes. There are none. Find an old sufganiyot recipe, get reminded of its symbolism -- doughnuts fried in oil to symbolize the ancient miracle of one day's oil lasting eight days. Take a couple sips, burn tongue, call Violet and Saeed to ask if there are any Persian fritters that would be suitable for Hanukkah. Settle into bed a little deeper. Find the recipe for zoloubia -- fried funnel-cake-like sweets doused generously in a honey syrup, in Najmieh Batmanglij's New Food of Life. Hmm. Kind of a stretch though. Ooh, there's a page on the winter solstice feast. Carrot brownies? Fascinating. Whoa, carrot pudding. Saffron pudding. Crap, I digress.
Pour more hot water over the now-soggy leaves. Pull out my beloved Book of Jewish Food; consult. Claudia Roden has never let me down, and once again, she holds the answer: apparently Egyptian Jews eat fritters called 'zalabia' at Hanukkah time. Zoloubia is not a stretch at all. (And for Russian Hanukkah, you douse a sugarcube with brandy, set it on fire, and throw it in your tea. Not even remotely relevant, but rad!).
It comes to this: All I want to do is sit on my bed and read Claudia Roden and write and pour glass after glass over my soggy tea leaves, but alas, errands call. All I did was answer one email. How is it already noon?!