You Know What I Miss?

I miss Sukkoth.

Our first house in West Orange NJ was inside of  the eruv set up for the Jewish community. There were 3 synagogues in our area plus a mikvah. Even near our next home in Aberdeen there were also 3 synagogues within walking distance. Aberdeen was a newer community and more sprawling than West Orange, so the visible rhythm of Jewish life and holidays was less visible to me. But in both locations, you could always spot the Sukkoth tents set up on patios and decks, peeping up over the fences.

They came in all styles from stylish and elegant simplicity  to happy jumbles where family members of all ages participated in the assembly and decorating.  Mostly I glimpsed 2 basic types: aluminum frames with canvas walls and bamboo pole roofs, decorated with pretty bundles of palm branches and real citrons or all wood DIY projects made of lattice panels  and  whatever local branches were around with garlands of plastic lemons from Michael’s plus a few empty Real Lemon dispensers thrown in for good measure.

I miss that here in Florida. I think that the Jews must be way down south because they  sure aren’t here in Ferdnandina Beach. Not that I can see anyway.  I’m going to make it a point to drive around this year and look for Sukkoth tents. It would be so great if Google maps did their droning during this time of year and we can all see how charming they are from a bird’s eye view.

9/14/2018 (shown next to an iPhone7 for size comparison) – This Ponderosa lemon is nowhere near it’s final size.

Anyway the reason I’m thinking about this now is that I’m growing a new lemon tree. It was a Mother’s Day gift from my daughter – a Ponderosa Lemon tree. Apparently its a hybrid of a lemon and a citron and the fruit gets YUGE – they average 2 to 4 pounds each, plus they’re ugly and lumpy and are described as having an “extra tart” taste”. So, triple threat. I got a little scared when I read one nursery plant site that said “Imagine how many pitchers of lemonade you can make from just one of these fruits!”  Yes, imagine it.

I took a picture of the biggest fruit this morning – the visual doesn’t really translate here but its the best I could do. Right now, this one is as big as a really big naval orange.

So anyway, citrons. Sukkoth.  I kind of miss it.

Disclaimer #1: I’m not Jewish, I’m not related to anyone who is Jewish and whatever I know about being Jewish is stuff I picked up just because I lived in NYC and northern NJ where there are a lot of Jews.

Disclaimer #2: I think I actually might be Jewish but that is unconfirmed, based only on my inner feeling and a smidgen of geopolitical knowledge*. I can’t get anyone I know to engage with me about this so it  remains unconfirmed.

*Because my Lithuanian ancestors were from that part of the word that was ping-ponged back and forth between  Lithuania, Poland and Russia.  Before WWII, the town they came from had one of the largest Jewish populations in Europe.  I can see how a dirt poor desperate man with no options and a pack of starving children might convert for a bag of potatoes. Which would be the bigger moral failing – renouncing your faith or allowing your children to starve when you could have taken a path that would feed them? I don’t mean that disrespectfully. I mean that kind of desperation is unknown to me and so I honor either choice. Also, my family name literally translates to Son of Jacob. So you tell me. 


As God is my witness, I’ll never touch sticks of softened butter again.

I’ve been rather busy lately but this 4-day weekend has given me time to indulge in leisure activity.

The first thing I did was to scrub the kitchen from top to bottom. It might not sound like the most glamorous thing but it sure was the most satisfying. White cabinets, pale gray flooring and pastel yellow swirled with gray countertops need to be spotless under harsh fluorescents and these haven’t been spotless since … I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

For the first time in history, we went to a fancy buffet for Thanksgiving. What was I thinking? WE SHOULD HAVE BEEN GOING TO BUFFETS ALL ALONG! Gawd, it was great. My picky daughter was very happy that she could have an omelette for her meal instead of turkey and in the end she exulted that she didn’t have a single thing that was associated with a traditional Thanksgiving.

I got my money’s worth by pacing myself through 5 trips to the trough: first a cheese and fruit plate with my martini, then a moderate helping of the traditional Thanksgiving meal. I went back to the buffet to pick off the mussels and clams from the top of the paella. I’m nether ashamed nor bragging about that – just reporting. Next was Eggs Benedict with a side of bacon and a bit of Belgian waffle. I topped all that off with some watermelon.

Sami thought the appetizer area was okay but unremarkable, and he went through twice just to be sure. He did have the traditional Thanksgiving meal as well but was bummed out that there was only white meat so he had to soothe himself with two helpings of Boeuf Bourguigone, once with potatoes and once with yellow rice, which he had picked out of the paella. I think that act balances out my shellfish selectivism and that’s why I was able to tell you about my bad behavior without remorse.

None of us felt the need to eat again until Friday afternoon so I’d say the excursion was a grand success. It was an abundant experience that would make a Pilgrim proud. Next year we’ll be going to a bigger buffet.

We also made Xmas cookies this weekend. What a mess. Have I mentioned I can’t do anything right anymore? I should have mentioned that to myself before I took on the cookie making. They worked out okay in the end, but it wasn’t the instructive mother-daughter experience I had planned. Maybe it was instructive but what she learned isn’t what I planned.


Here’s a table stack of pignoli cookies, Russian tea cakes, stuffing cookies, sage shortbread, Buckeyes and Santas Whiskers – all suspect in one way or another. I don’t recommend them.

In other cheerier news, I may have lost ground in skills I formerly mastered, but I remain a very successful indoor lemon tree farmer. I’ve only lost two pea-sized fruits since moving the trees indoors AND I now have one utterly magnificent specimen that’s as big as FDR’s head.


Ain’t that great? It’s even taken on a lemony shape, which the lesser pea-sized fruits do not have. Also notice a new crop of flowers budding out.

And so even though the universe has taken away my woman powers in terms of cooking, baking and cleaning it has made me a master nurturer.

So it all works out.