The Aprons

The red apron was a posthumous gift from Dina Jacobson. When I arrived at her house for her funeral, Connie and Sarah, her daughters and “sisters” to my sister and me, asked if there was anything in the house that I would like to have as a keepsake. There were two things I asked for. It was not easy to ask for them as I felt I might be taking away something one of the children or grandchildren would want. But I also knew that no Jacobson will do anything or say anything that they don’t want to say or do. So I asked and they said yes, I could have one of Dina’s aprons and her baking board.

The apron in this photo is the one they gave me. I feel so close to Dina when I put it on. It is somewhat old-fashioned but VERY practical as it covers most of whatever I am wearing. I could imagine her mother wearing an apron like this when she baked in Poland.

The smaller apron with animals on it is one that I remember wearing as a child. My maternal Grandma Kinsman may have made it for my sister Christy, the eldest child. I think that all four of us children must have worn that apron at one time or another. I have managed to keep it since we cleared out my parents house in 2006. Moving from one house to another, keeping it as we went, I did not fully believe that I would ever have a grandchild to wear it. I think my daughter probably wore it as well when she visited her Grandma in Elmira, and now my granddaughter can wear it as she learns to bake by my side.

What kitchen tools, aprons, or cookbooks were passed down to you? Feel free to share in the comment section.

PS: By the way, I found that this site has aprons very much like Dina’s, so if I need to replace this one, I will go to them!

The Board and the Ritual of Baking

The day Dina taught me to make rugelach, she started with The Board. It was just a piece of plywood which her brother, the only other sibling to survive the Holocaust, had cut down to about 2 x 3 feet. But in my eyes because of the way that she treated it, it was the magical foundation of her baking. No rugelach was made without that board. It was heavy and she had asked someone else to bring it out to the kitchen before I got there. It was leaning up against the wall (pictured below) and she asked me to lift it to the table. She stopped me midway to show me the fading markings that told which side was for dairy and which for meat, in Yiddish: Milchig and Fleishig. The Board was religious not just because of that but because it was brought out as in a ritual.

The Board is so much more than a practical piece of 3/4 inch plywood. When Dina died, Sarah and Connie asked if there was anything from the house I would like and I hesitantly asked for The Board. They consulted and The Board came home with me.

I am not Jewish so my kitchen is not kosher. But I treat that corner of my house as though it is kosher. It wouldn’t pass any litmus test but it is the idea that counts. Meat, kosher or not, does not touch the milchig side and vice versa. One day I almost set a package of wrapped meat on the board and realized just in time and pulled my hand away. It got my heart thumping!

Everything about the precision with which she took each step through the recipe reminded me of The Karate Kid. “Wipe on, wipe off.” The Kid had to learn certain things before he could make the next steps. I needed to know the ritual of The Board before I could start to learn the recipe.

I wonder if others have certain rituals with which they approach their baking. If you have stories to share, please add them to the comments!

You can see The Board in the background in Dina’s kitchen.
This is one of few family photos Dina had from before the Holocaust. It was taken before she was born so she is not pictured. All family members pictured except Dina’s brother (tallest boy in front of father) were killed.
The Board in its new home in Vermont. I built the cabinets myself so that I could incorporate it into the whole scheme. The Board can be removed and taken to a table for big projects.