Saturday, April 25, 2009

Find Out What It Means To Me

I made a frightening realization a week ago and it is this: I have never been treated with the respect I deserve in any workplace ever in my entire life.

At this point I have had a number of jobs and while I would have liked to be a producer for PBS or part of a film festival staff, let's just say it didn't work out for me. I had some success in that field but when you're 27 and the best full time job you can get pays $12 an hour as a receptionist at a studio and you think it will lead to something better, oh please. Let's give it up already. I took other jobs to afford my life and it lead me to where I am today. Miserable. I have several friends that believe that I should work in a food oriented business, and here is what I have to ask them: Have you ever worked in a restaurant before?

I think there should be a law that requires every American to wait tables for at least one month. The restaurant is where you see it all. You see families argue, people mistreat their children, people who let their children run everywhere while you are carrying bowls of hot soup, bad dates, hot dates, gross eaters, Atkins dieters, etc. The Atkins people were hilarious by the way: "I'll have the cream of broccoli soup to start, a side order of meatballs covered in cheddar cheese with a side of Italian sausage, and a diet coke."

Actually the carb lovers were hilarious too. They always asked for extra bread before they got their enormous plates of pasta and they never ate it. Sometimes people ordered extra bread after they got their enormous plates of pasta just to see it on the table. So all the extra bread goes from the cutting board, out to the table, and then to the garbage. Do people not understand this waste? This is Americanism.

Waiting tables was a great job for a time. I made decent money and was walking away with my earnings everyday. I had total job flexibility to the point where I could get my shifts covered for three weeks while out of the country and then still have them when I got back. I filled my time before my shift with going to the gym and reading and looking for the "real job" that would pay me less. I interned and volunteered and got a few temp gigs as a production assistant but it didn't pay the bills. I kept working at a restaurant for probably too long after I finished my undergraduate degree because I was holding out for the right job but...

Things happened like a man soaking up his bloody nose on a menu and then handing it to me to throw away. An old man that came in often couldn't be easily heard unless I got close and then he would spit all over my face. (We would have to take turns dealing with that one.) Cooks would tell me that I looked pretty when I happened to be leaning over the bread table right in front of their station. People would wait for a table for an hour and then think the the food will magically appear as soon as it is ordered. They would harass me every single time I walked by even though there were 5 other tables in the section. Customers would yell at me for taking too long because they didn't think to give their children food at a decent time and now they were cranky and hungry but it was my fault. The lonely and obviously divorced older men would want to talk my head off about comic books or other literature to impress me. Please. Vegans would come in and decide to make their own menu.

For example, I was waiting on this memorable gigantic pain in the ass party and there were two aging hippies at the end of the table. They came in to the restaurant every once in a while so I knew it was going to take 10 minutes just to get all their stuff right because they were crazy annoying vegans.

The woman: "I'll have wheat bread with the house salad but I don't want any butter or salad dressing or cheese or lettuce. I want spinach instead of lettuce and I want you to add radishes and raw zucchini and raw carrots and whatever other raw vegetable you can find in the kitchen. I will have four or five lemon wedges and I want a side of balsamic vinegar. It better not have any sugar or additives in it."

The man: "I'll have the spaghetti primavera without the pasta, just the vegetables steamed. No cheese, oil, or butter. I want other vegetables steamed also and I want them all on separate plates: mushrooms, broccoli, red peppers, carrots, and eggplant."

"Oh sorry sir all of our eggplant is pre-breaded and fried for the parmesan dish."

"Fine I'll take whatever other vegetable you can provide, but none of them can touch each other and they must be steamed."

The salad came out perfect and beautiful, but the lady picks through to make sure it's to her liking and is unhappy with the minuscule bit of lettuce that ended up near the bottom and demands another salad.

All the steamed veggies come out beautiful and perfect as well and the man is in the middle of a sentence with some normal family member when I put the food in front of him. He sees the mushrooms and yells out in a panic, "OH MY GOD. YOU DIDN'T PUT ANY MEAT GRAVY ON THIS DID YOU?!!!!!!!!!?????????!!!!!"

"Sir, um….. the thing is that you know, mushrooms make their own juice when you cook them you know?"

"No I'm sure that I can smell pork. TAKE IT BACK."

"Sure no problem!!!"

This might have been a funny moment in the restaurant world but when I think of what I put up with from people in general it's astonishing. My family always told me that as soon as I had a decent office job I would be treated with respect. I can tell you from experience that this is simply not true. Whether my manager's fiance hit on me, or my producer didn't expect me to take a lunch or a bathroom break, or my supervisor makes sexual jokes at my expense, or my co-worker talks down to me like I'm an idiot; I have never been treated with the respect I deserve.

I think that it has really struck a nerve recently because I have put up with these scenarios for so long and all of a sudden I can't deal with it anymore. I can't believe that I have to complain and have meetings with 3-4 managers about inappropriate behavior and common decency and respect. At my second job there is no such thing really. My second job is at a bar and the guys I work with are over the top sexual and downright gross for the most part. I have come to expect this in the service industry but when it happens also in "professional" office environments then it really made me think that there is no reason that I should expect this at all. I always thought of myself as the cool girl that is the good sport about gross men and their pathetic stupidity but my goodness. I don't know what to do now where I will be treated well in the workplace. Does it exist? Do I have to cut my hair short? I'm not type to encourage unwanted attention so I just don't get it.

My first job was in a diner called Baker's Square. I worked there when I was 15 years old and two of the cooks asked me out on dates repeatedly. They must have been at least twice my age and both were married with children. I think that because the service industry is where I learned that I should just put up with this nonsense, I just can't go back. I don't know what the answer is to the right career path but I can tell you that I will not work in anyone's kitchen except my own.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Yom Hashoah

Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day. While people in Israel had a two minute moment of silence in which everything stopped and people in Poland took part in The Walk of the Living, I had lunch with a friend and discussed going into debt by a hundred thousand to get a degree in law. Oh privileged American me.

In the last post I mentioned that my grandmother is illiterate. It is because of the war that she never went to school. She went into hiding when she was nine years old and stayed with Christian friends of her mother's. My great-grandmother owned a restaurant in what is now Vilnius Lithuania, and so she knew a lot of people in the area and they agreed to take her children into hiding. She had eight children: four boys and four girls. The oldest boy was already married when the war started, but he married an Christian woman. Believe it or not, her family sold him to the Nazis. By some miracle, he was the only one in my grandma's family that didn't survive. She never refers to him by his name, she only calls him "My brother who the Germans kill," anytime she wants to mention him.

The family that my grandma stayed with kicked her out one night because they became too afraid. She was 11 and walking the streets at night alone trying to avoid soldiers. Someone recognized her and brought her to the area where my grandfather was hiding. He decided he couldn't trust the people his children were with so he managed to gather everyone up and hitched a ride on a carriage with farmers going to the area that is now Latvia. There were farmers there that helped the Jews dig underground hiding holes and that is where my grandma lived for a few years until the war was over. They were starving. When the Russians and the Americans came they helped the people living in these situations, but they took my great grandparents and two of my grandma's brothers away into urgent care because of severe malnutrition. My grandma and her siblings went straight into child labor because if they didn't they would still have nothing to eat and no where to go. She said that she remembered going to an office every single day asking if she could help them somehow and they kept telling her to go away and that she was just a child but she still showed up everyday and would beg them to give her a job and eventually they did.

When she was 17 my grandfather to be asked my grandmother's parents if he could take her out for a walk. She didn't want to go with him and her parent's thought that she had somehow flirted with this man so they locked her up in their home and smacked her across the face for nothing. When she saw him the next time she was out she said "Go away!" But, he didn't. He came over to their home several times and brought my great-grandparents food and money and clothes and told them his story of the war.

He felt that he knew what was coming with the Nazis and tried to convince his family to run for it but they thought it would blow over and that everything would be fine. He didn't listen to them and instead fled to Russia where they imprisoned him for trespassing for the duration of the war. When he returned to Poland he found out that his entire family was shot right outside their home and thrown into mass graves. Their homes were looted by the neighbors and he was completely alone. He had no choice but to move again and since he had a marketable skill being a baker, he managed to work and save money and help take care of my grandma's family once he met them. And so he received my great grandparent's blessing and when my grandma was 18 and my grandpa was 30 they were married.

My grandfather felt that they should try and do everything possible to live in Jewish neighborhoods and work for Jewish people. This took them on quite a lot of moving trips. They lived in Russia where my mom and uncle where born, and then to Poland where my mom and uncle started school and then to Israel where they spent years and never wanted to leave. My grandfather felt that America was the next place to be, especially since my mom would finish high school soon and then have to go into the army. My grandma wanted to go to the States for the financial gain, but my mom and uncle were afraid and had finally mastered a language and stayed in one place for a long time. My mom wanted to go to the army because that is just what you do there, but he did not want them to know war and moved the family to the Chicago where they are now. My grandma speaks four languages fluently but can not read or write in any of them because there was never any time. My grandfather spoke seven languages but lost the use of Yiddish and Lithuanian so didn't pass those on to my mom. He never wanted to speak a word in German again so that one was lost as well. He died when my mom was pregnant with me. He had asked her to name me after one of his sisters who was killed, but she thought it was to sad and couldn't do it. She wanted to name me Aviva which means the Spring in Hebrew.

My grandmother's siblings had their own way of fighting/avoiding anti-Semitism. They married Christians and didn't tell their children that they were Jews. My mom even has a second cousin that is in seminary school in Poland. So technically, I am the only Jew left to carry anything on in my family. It's true that my mom married a Catholic; a Roman Catholic no less, but my dad doesn't care about religion and the only thing I learned about his religion is that they eat pork and we don't. (until now) The only thing my mom really cares about in Judaism now is the food and the major holidays anyway, so here we are.

Bringing all this back to food and cooking, the point is that my grandma's recipes and memories are all in her head. She has no journal, no cookbook, and nothing of my grandfather's that I can pass on except what she tells me. I can write it down but it might not work out and so I have to try and try and try to get it right. I can try to tell you her story but it won't ever do it justice. Memory is everything.

When I was a kid I used to see people where I lived that had the concentration camp numbers on their arm. I saw it every week. Skokie, IL had the largest population of Holocaust survivors for a time and it was just something you would see. I learned what it was when I was like six or something. I asked my mom why Grandma didn't have one and her response was, "Because she was lucky."

A few years ago when I was waiting tables in Evanston, IL I saw the numbers on a man's arm. It had been years since I had seen one and I was a little taken aback. I couldn't believe how I had forgotten how prevalent it was in the area and it really made me think that someday you won't see any. If I have children they won't see one. It will be something that is read about in a history book and that will be all.

Because I have been thinking of my grandma and of these events yesterday I made her favorite pastry. Her favorite also happens to be my favorite: Napoleon. It's so simple, so perfect. I honor my Grandma today with this pastry because for a woman who was starving and had only squirrels and potatoes to eat for years, she really loves food and deserves to know that I can make her a Napoleon when I come to visit.


1) whisk together until smooth:
4-5 egg yolks (room temperature)
1-1 and a half cups sugar
1 cup flour
2 cups room temperature whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla

2) transfer to a sauce pot and warm on low heat mixing the whole time until thick, use a wooden spoon

3) cut a stick of butter into 5 or so pieces and slowly mix into the custard one piece at a time

4) bake puff pastry sheets (yes this is the easy way) and let cool

5) layer pastry with the custard.

6) cover and refrigerate overnight

7) sprinkle powdered sugar on top and enjoy

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Lots to Learn

Every year at Passover my grandma makes a Matzoh Kugal. I had it in my head that I was going to make it this year. It tastes wonderful and I was even thinking of making two and bringing a bunch to work. I got out my little book of grandma's recipe and found the kugal:

1) saute four vidalia onions in vegetable oil, then cool
2) soak an entire package of matzo in water (2 minutes)
3) squeeze the excess water out of matzo and put the matzo in a bowl
4) mix twelve eggs in a separate bowl
5) add salt to the matzo to taste and then add the onion
6) add eggs & mix
7) grease cake pan, add mixture & put in an oven at 350 degrees
8) bake for an hour and a half to two hours until golden brown

When I made my list of the items I needed for this and various other things I needed for the week I did a double take on the recipe. 12 eggs? Oh my.

Grandma makes a lot of her old recipes with variation now to cut down on cholesterol. I guarantee you that nothing tastes quite right when you do this but 12 eggs? You might as well call it "Cardiac Arrest Kugal." She says that you can cut 6 of the yolks out, but what happened to me this past Sunday was that I got turned off to the idea altogether and didn't bother.

What does this mean? Are some of her recipes going to be lost because I think I am some sort of healthy food snob? Am I too good for a Passover Kugal?

Here is an example of what I made for myself for this week:

Whole wheat pasta with sauteed eggplant and tomato sauce (for Monday and Wednesday)

Stuffed Bell Peppers with rice, spinach, feta, tomatoes, oregano, and basil and baked in tomato sauce leftover from the pasta (Tuesday and Thursday)

Salad for dinner with spinach, lettuce, garbanzo beans, avocado, sliced peppers and tomatoes


Sometimes I don't have time to plan like this and so I do turkey sandwiches just like any normal person but when I have time I plan a week menu. Something will inspire me or something will be on sale and I will just go for it. Last Sunday it was lamb.

After snobby me decided to forgo Matzo Kugal for now, I planned on matzoh ball soup instead and then some sort of main course. Since it was Easter and Passover this past Sunday I thought a proper dinner was in order. I planned on making something with meat but decided I would figure it out at the store. Lamb was on sale. I had never made lamb before, but how hard could it be? And what to serve it with? Yam? Lamb and Yam for Easter/Passover dinner. Yum.

It was lamb leg with bone in. I seasoned well and placed it on a bed of sliced onions. I should have put the yams in later once the meat had been cooking for 45 mins or so but I thought since it was a small piece of meat that it shouldn't cook too long. Yams and carrots went in the oven with it and some red wine.

The lamb tasted nice, I mean the edible parts anyway. Here is the thing; it was all kinds of fatty. Fat and fat and fat everywhere. It was practically marbled. I was grossed out. I would chew a piece and then get to some sort of jelly like substance that was also kind of hard and just eeeeeew. I don't get it. Was it a cheap piece of meat or did I cut it incorrectly? While I think of myself as an intermediate baker and pretty decent home cook, I tend to be a novice when it comes to cooking animal. I have a lot to learn. And there I was thinking that I had made a dinner with less fat then the original idea.

The matzo balls in the soup were pretty good although some were too hard in the middle. The trick to making them light and fluffy instead of rocks is the oil. You put vegetable oil on your hands while you roll them into shape. If you make them large then you have to let them simmer in the soup longer and keep it covered the whole time. Recipes for smaller ones say to let them simmer for 30 minutes, but nope. It's longer. Try 40. Still for this whole dinner, it really didn't take me that long to put it together.

I called Grandma while my soup and lamb were cooking and she sounded down. Her doctor put her on new medication for her pain and she was out of it. She didn't want to talk about cooking or food or anything happy at all really. She mentioned that she doesn't even have the strength to stand in her kitchen and make anything. She said her back hurts so much that when she takes a step she just wants to scream. When she has conversations like this with me it's extraordinarily painful. It would seem that at this point now her age and her pain have taken all her joys away. She used to do needlepoint but now her eyes can't see it well enough. She used to bake and cook like a genius but doesn't remember a lot anymore. She used to take walks across the street but doesn't have the stamina now. The unique thing about my grandma is that she is illiterate and so these simple pleasures meant the world to her. What she does now is watch reruns of old shows and when she has even one shirt to wash she does a load of laundry. She does laundry every single day, sometimes twice a day. My dad complains about the waste of water, but this is the only thing she has found to occupy her time.

Monday afternoon at lunch I finished a chapter in the book I'm reading that brought me pause. In this particular chapter a teenager goes to visit her grandmother in a retirement home, and she says this: "We have to live with the certainty that we'll get old and that it won't look nice or be good or feel happy. And tell ourselves that it's now that matters: to build something, now, at any price, using all our strength. Always remember that there is a retirement home waiting somewhere and so we have to surpass ourselves every day, make every day undying. Climb our own personal Everest and do it in such a way that every step is a little bit of eternity. That is what the future is for: to build the present, with real plans, made by living people." (taken from The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery)

I don't know if attempting to make lamb with yams and matzo ball soup is my own personal Everest, but it does bring me joy just to try. I think maybe I should try the kugal anyway.

I hope you all had a lovely Passover and Easter.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

When We Were Kids

There is a bakery near where I grew up that we frequented for everything from rye bread to corned beef sandwiches to cookies, to cinnamon rolls, to lox, and oh everything. When I was a kid this bakery made two of my absolute favorite sweets: homentaschen and macaroons.

Homentaschen is a sweet that is made for the Purim holiday. Most places make them like a cookie, but this place made them like a sweet bun with a filling. My favorite filling is poppy seed but they also made it with sweet farmer's cheese or plum butter or raspberry jam. I remember them being moist and sweet and there was so much poppy seed filling that you would have to be careful not to spill it. They only made these for one week out of the whole year so if you're not paying attention to the holidays you could miss it and have to wait another year. This happened to me several times and then something unexpected happened.

The bakers went on strike for better health benefits. These were older men had been with the bakery for years and years. Some of them worked with my grandfather at the bakery's first location. At this point the owners were the younger generation and they chose to let these guys go. I thought it was really sad at the time but my family took it much harder wondering where these guys will go and didn't everyone know that making European style bread is an art? I figured that any new employee would learn the recipe and in time have it down. The bakery is still doing good business in the area after all, but the facts are that the bread and the pastries and damn near everything doesn't taste the way it used to.

For a while I thought that it was my imagination playing tricks on me. I thought that my grandma planted the idea in my head not to like it as much because of the new bakers and that maybe things just taste better when we were kids. The latter is certainly possible, especially considering now that I haven't had any desire to get a slurpee at 7/11 in years and years. But really, baking is an art. The right recipe could get lost in time or people might not have the trained eye or even the interest in the texture and quality. The bakery could just be mass producing it with machines now and before the guys did everything by hand. Whatever the case may be, those homentaschen are gone and I will never taste them again.

The bakery still makes them and about two weeks ago my grandma told me she decided to take a chance on it.

"Avivitcha, I go Kaufman's you know for the homentaschen. I know you like. So we go me and you mama. I stay in car because my back so hurt. Before she go in I tell her, ok go buy one. We try and if we like we buy more. And you know whats happen? She buy eight! Eight for me eight for her! She's a crazy! I ask her are you crazy?"

"Well you know how mom buys. Were they good?" I was excited....

"Oh Avivtchka. No. Terrible vas. I no know how they selling this. Not vas homentaschen vas more like a challah with little bit jelly in middle. Terrible. If vas good I send you. I can't belief she buy me eight! We try but end up garbage. She buy me rolls but also garbage going."

This is a very serious insult to this bakery. My grandmother does not throw away food. When she was a child she was starving. The value of food is something entirely different to her then most of us. Once when I was little I saw her cry because she had some bread that grew mold. She kissed it before she put it in the garbage and I had to go ask my mom why she did that. For her to say she put rolls and sweets in the garbage was shocking.

I asked her if she knew how to make the homentaschen and she said that she didn't remember. I get this a lot. I think she might know how to do it but gets confused. She started telling me and then realized that she was talking about kolatchke, which is her favorite cookie. this type of homentaschen requires a yeast dough and it has to be sweet. I'm still searching for a recipe resembling this. Even if she remembers it's exhausting for her to be in the kitchen and it frustrates her that she has lost so much memory. When I asked her a few questions about it she gave up on the idea altogether.

"Avivtichka. You no have time spend in kitchen. You be stuck zhere. Your back will hurt like me and you no have time to go enjoy. You listen Grandma. You go paint nails. You do hair nice. Men no like when mess have hair. You look nice then you go out. Men take you out. You see."

My grandma and my mom are both on a rampage to get me out of the kitchen but they don't really know that I am trying to compile these recipes and hopefully have a proper family cookbook someday. Nearly every time I talk to my grandma on the phone I take notes so that I can pick her brain.

My mom recently inspired me as well. She took the time and paid ridiculous money to send me macaroons and a few other things from that old bakery. She figured that I would like them and that it would be a nice treat. truth be told, she didn't think the macaroons were that good and neither did I. Something went wrong; they were dry, tasteless and too small. I might just be a big critic since I grew up with this stuff but really if they taste just as good as the lousy Manishevitz macaroons in the jar then why bother going to a bakery? I told her that I would like to try making them myself. It should be easy but there are a ton of different recipes so it looks like this will be some trial and error. I have copied and pasted the email she sent me today regarding this idea:

Dear Aviva, I thought about our last conversation, and you said that you are going to make macaroons, Aviva if I had to do it again I would stay as far as possible from the kitchen because I should have been going to school and learning something that would help me in life, instead dad was sitting in the den room improving his mind, and I was baking and cleaning till midnight. Today it is different world, men help and , it should be a team effort. Now I look at myself, and I look at other women my age, they did not stay after work in the kitchen but went to the gym or had a facial, and they are still working and are not burned out like me. My advice to you take a bath pamper yourself forget about doing things from scratch . How did your co worker's like the macaroons? Today starts Passover, and I will not do anything special just a salad. I hope you are not going to be upset , but take care of yourself. Happy Passover, wish happy holiday to S. {roommate} LOVE MOM

I suppose this is exactly why people don't do it like they used to. Food is a hobby but not a necessity or a chore. My mom didn't heat up macaroni and cheese. She made everything like her kitchen was a restaurant and she did it all after a full day as a grocery store clerk. I can understand how she doesn't want me to live this way but I desperately don't want this knowledge to disappear like the homentaschen.

For any of you eating Manishevitz Gefilte Fish for your Passover Seder tonight, I am sorry for you. I would have skipped it an ordered pizza. Somewhere in my grandma's brain is a recipe for real gefilte fish and it is delicious. It takes two days to make and it is served with carrots on top and horseradish blended with chopped beets on the side. It's just fish balls made from pike and whitefish that are boiled and then baked. Whatever is in that Manishevitz jar claiming to be gefilte is foul and not worth one penny. The reason you have that on your table is because people forgot or lost the recipe or just don't want to try. It's such a shame.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Do It Yourself

I went on the ferry trip to the San Juan Islands recently and it was absolutely beautiful. We took a gorgeous walk in Anacortes near the ferry terminal and then had the most relaxing beautiful ferry ride far away from city noise. Ah. Peace of mind.

In Friday Harbor we ate at Front Street Ale House. I expected food in the area to be expensive because it is a tourist trap, but my goodness. If places charge a lot of money for a basic sandwich then it should really taste good. I mean, they know you pretty much have to eat there because expensive bars and steak houses is all there is in the area so why don't they have you coming back to Seattle raving about the food and the beer and the whole experience other then the ferry ride? I thought the only thing about my lunch that tasted good was the dressing on my side salad and they probably bought that from somewhere else anyway. I will say that I thought the beer was excellent and so I am glad we tried it. Good beer.

My problem with this type of situation is that frankly I don't have a lot of money to be eating out, so when I do it I want the food to be better or different then something I can make; a treat. Unless I go out for sushi or Thai or Afghan or Moroccan food then this is something that rarely happens. Even if you have to buy a sandwich out at a "nice" restaurant can't they put something other then mayonnaise on it? No imagination out there. Terrible.

Lunch during the week is something I actually obsess over. I decide on what I will eat for the week on Sunday and usually stick to the plan. If I am not organized or feeling lazy one week then I am almost always disappointed in the lunch I buy or I get a stomach ache from it. Think about all the grease and mystery meat and sugar that is packed into these places around your work. What is the point of making these lousy establishments rich?

Last weekend I was having a wild pizza craving. This happens quite a bit being that I am a Chicago girl. There are actually a couple decent pizza places in Seattle but I couldn't decide were to order from and didn't want to spend the money on the pizza and the delivery honestly. I decided to make my own. My mom makes a pizza every once in a while and it is delicious. She has acid reflux disease and so she makes it without tomato sauce.

Here you go: saute onion and garlic in good olive oil until soft. Add any combo of bell peppers you like and add plenty of herbs to it. You know, all the easy ones you probably have sitting around: oregano, basil, salt, pepper, and maybe a little thyme if you have it. Saute until soft and fragrant.

Put a thin layer of mozzarella cheese on your pizza crust. (yes I would have saved even more money if I made my own dough but come on. It was Saturday.) Add the veges to your crust. Put more cheese on top. Bake for 10 minutes. And there you have it. A fantastic pizza for $12. It was plenty of food for two and we had leftovers. Obviously if you're not into bell peppers you can do this anyway you like. I like to add tomatoes on top but my mom can't.

When I was a kid my mom packed my lunch everyday and she never let me bring cupcakes or cake or muffins to school for my birthday or any occasion. She couldn't understand why Americans allow their children to eat so much junk. There was always something going on that people brought junk for, or as my family likes to call it, "poison." My mom made me bring fruit for my birthday and for Valentine's, and St. Patrick's and all of it. I was embarrassed about it, but she insisted. A couple times when there was a holiday party my grandma made her amazing sugar cookies for me to bring in, but there was only once where my mom came to school with sweets of an unimaginable kind.

For my thirteenth birthday my mom and my grandma made rosettes. I don't know if you've ever had one but my god they are out of this world. If you make them your home will smell like deep fried for at least a week, but it's worth it.

It's just a sweet dough that you dip a hot iron into and then let go into a pan of hot oil. They cook for maybe 2 minutes or less and then you let them cool on paper towels to get rid of the grease. The iron is usually in the shape of a flower or some design. My family hasn't made these in years but I have fond memories of them. They don't end up all gooey and greasy like a funnel cake but light and crisp. All they need is a little powdered sugar and there you go. When my mom and grandma came in to school that day to give them to my class, people kept saying that they had never seen anything like that before. When my classmates started to eat them a silence went through the room. I can't imagine that my mother would have had the same satisfaction had she brought Dunkin Donuts. (yuck)

Ok so not everyone have flowered irons that they are willing to put into a bubbling pan of oil, but the point is that there is so much poison out there and sometimes the best meals and indulgences are ones you make yourself.