When I was growing up, Lag Be’Omer heralded the first official barbecue of the summer season.
It was a day when we usually had a school trip or family outing, and then gathered on our porch for a big get together. The door to our porch was off the apple green and white kitchen, so watching as my mother got everything ready was a treat. It’s intriguing how every time I see granny smith apples I’m reminded of our kitchen.
Some of our cousins would come and if they couldn’t make it, there was always someone else who would join in on those barbecue days.
My Father would commandeer the barbecue, and my mother would be in charge of the salads.
Looking back at these Lag Be’Omer barbecues is a memory that is based on, smell, taste and heat and a table surrounded by family and friends.
I can still hear the sounds of us laughing and playing into the sunset on that Flatbush porch.
In those days we had a neighbour called Mel who had 2 big dogs. The smell of our food grilling would make them crazy, so he always took them indoors.
My cousins, brother and I would play ball for hours on the steps, ride our bikes, and talk, while the smoky aroma wafted in the air and the adults had deep conversations.
I remember my cousins Miyam, Avrumi and Leiby, who are closest in age to my brother and me, having the times of our young lives without any worries or commitments to think about.
The food memory I have of these times is frankfurters, mustard and sauerkraut. Delicious salads such as slaw and ratatouille. Lemonade and Italian ices.
As I have said on many occasions, food, taste and smell is what memories are made of.
My mother was a party planner before such jobs became fashionable, from tablecloths to serving plates it was all done with her magic touch.
For milchig we had the black and white dishes, which we still use.
And for fleishig she would use her white set.
The Jewish table, wherever it may be, is the first place of memories, that outlasts the food placed upon it. The area where we share good times and bad, and all our woes are cured with hot chicken soup.
In truth – what is it that makes a Jewish home revolve around a table? Especially a grandparents table?
The answer lies in our mesorah from the first time a meal is mentioned in the Torah through the generations, we associate many historical moments with food.
AVROHOM Avienu at the shlish dmeilah, Pesach, the matza, Yom Kippur, the mitzvah of eating the Seuda hamafsekes and then fasting. There are many examples in our long history that bear witness to this.
Today as a Bubby, I find that when the children come to visit (hopefully things are getting back to a new normalcy) the first thing I always ask is if they are hungry.
We make pizza together and bond. I always feel that when we prepare and sit together there are many problems we can solve.
This month we celebrate the beginning of Summer – barbecue season. Living in England makes this a bit of a hit and miss endeavour, but as grilling is not restricted to outdoors, all the recipes we are sharing are ones you can make on the barbecue or grill.
My mother’s ratatouille was perfect for these gatherings, as a side dish, salad, or on top of pasta.
The vegetables mixed together remind me of the friendships and closeness of those Lag Beomer days long ago, when we all mixed and gelled together at Bubby’s table with friends and family.
- 2 Onions (red or white)
- 2 Cloves of Garlic Crushed
- 1 Aubergine (Eggplant) Cubed
- 4 Red Peppers Chopped to chunky cubes
- 2 Large tomatoes Cubed
- 1 Tin of chopped tomatoes (400grm)
- Olive Oil
- 1 tsp Dried Thyme
- 1 tsp Dried Oregano
- 1/2 tsp Dried Basil
- 1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
- 2 Tbsp Sugar or Sweetener
- 1 dash Salt
- 10 Mushrooms sliced (optional)
- Fry onion in olive oil
- Add vegetables and the can of chopped tomatoes
- I also put water in the empty can and add to pot.
- Add the spices and bring to boil, lower to simmer adding the vinegar
- Let cook for 45 min until thickened