To My Readers on Yom Kippur

Two days ago, in a small residential hotel in Portland, I dropped my iPhone in a boiling pot of matzo ball soup. When it happened, I quickly scooped it out with a slotted spoon, dried it off, then thought, “I’ve got to call my husband, he’s not going to believe this.” Then I realized, “With what phone?” Yeah. It’s just been that kind of month.

Whenever a major Jewish holiday approaches—Rosh Hashanah, Passover, Purim—I’m invited to share my recipes with local news programs around the country. It’s a real honor and privilege, one that I don’t take lightly. To be able to share my love of food with the world brings me great happiness. But I’m not going to lie… it’s also one of the most challenging aspects of my life as a food blogger.

You probably never think about what goes into a short 4 or 5 minute cooking segment on TV. It’s a lot more work than you might imagine. All of that food for the segment needs to be prepped in advance. That means I usually need to find a hotel with a kitchen, often in a city I’ve never been to. I have to pack pots and pans and dry ingredients, set decorations and utensils. I lug multiple suitcases, sometimes across the country, then rent a car to get me to the station. I prep in a hotel room, sometimes with a cheesy stove or oven with questionable temperature control. I scout out local markets to buy fresh ingredients. Then I cook and prep, sometimes for hours, till all of the food is ready. Early the next morning, usually before dawn, I’m up trying to figure out how to transfer everything I’ve cooked from the hotel to the station. Then I have to make it look pretty on the set. Then I have to make myself look somewhat presentable. Then I have between 3 and 6 minutes to explain my recipe to the host… and sometimes, breaking news will shorten the segment even more. And when it’s all over, you’re thinking, “time to celebrate!” But not really, because I have to clean up the set and return it to its original state. Then it’s time to load up the car again, go back to the hotel, clean the pots and pans, repack them (and it’s always a jigsaw puzzle… they never seem to fit the same way they did!). After that, if I’m lucky, I have some time to explore the city before it’s back to the airport and on to the next location. All of this, while dealing wtih the occasional unexpected mishap… like dropping my iPhone in a pot of soup, for example.

So you see, it’s really not as glamorous as it might seem. And yet, in spite of the challenges, I love it. I love visiting these towns and cities and getting a feel for the local culture. I love meeting my readers in their hometowns and shaking hands with the people who comment on my site. I love making friends with local producers and hosts from all walks of life. I love talking about food history. But it can be exhausting. Sometimes, when a trip is particularly difficult, there is only one thing that keeps me going.

It’s you, my readers. You keep me going.

This evening at sunset Yom Kippur begins, the holiest day of the Jewish year (click here to learn more about the holiday). I’ve grown to look forward to this day, even though it’s a solemn fasting holiday, a day of atonement. Hunger pangs aside, Yom Kippur is an opportunity to look back over the last year and think about what I could have done better. It also gives me a moment to reflect on all of the wonderful experiences I’ve had in the past year. This year, there were so many…

Launching The History Kitchen

Meeting Holocaust survivor Michael Berkowitz and learning his recipe for tiramisu

Winning the IACP People’s Choice Award, thanks to all of your votes…

Interviewing some of the people who inspire me most in the kitchen…

Saving a wounded dove and nursing it back to health…

The excitement I felt when I finally nailed my recipe for Chicken Shawarma

Sipping limonana in the back yard on a hot summer night…

Speaking at BlogHer 2012 and IFBC, and spending time with my fellow food blogging friends…

Road tripping with my husband…

Learning a traditional recipe for Arroz con Pollo from my BFF…

Hosting the first annual online Passover Potluck

Watching my stepdaughter overcome her nerves to audition for, and get cast in, a stage musical…

Recreating Raspberry Cordial from my favorite childhood book, Anne of Green Gables…

Touring the Cowgirl Creamery on a 1600-mile trip up the West Coast…

Spending more time with my sister, who now lives just a few miles away from me…

Cooking Lemony Saffron Couscous in honor of my grandma and grandpa…

Talking recipes and food history with PBS, Weekend Today in New York, Daytime, Good Day New York, Live Miami, Joan Hamburg, The Kitchn, 7 Live San Francisco, The Jewish Voice, The Jewish Exponent, Kveller, Spry, The Jew and the Carrot, Zabar’s, Williams-Sonoma, Dining Around with Joel Riddell, Good Morning Arizona, New Day Northwest, and Fox 12 Oregon.

In addition to reminiscing, I also find myself imagining all of the stories that will happen in the coming year… the memories that are yet to be made. The past few years have been the best of my life. So much of that is because of you! If you weren’t reading, I wouldn’t be writing. You have encouraged me to open myself to new experiences, introducing me to a fate I never could have imagined in my wildest dreams.

Because this is a time of atonement, I want to apologize to those of you who wrote me an email or comment this year and didn’t receive a response. This project has grown so much faster than I ever could have imagined. Sometimes my email inbox is so full, I don’t even know where to focus. I try my best to get back to each and every one of you, but it doesn’t always happen. In addition to running this site, I work as a freelance writer. I have two book proposals in the works. I also have a family. Please know that I do read each and every one of your emails and comments. Hearing from you is absolutely the best part of what I do.

Here is a small sampling of the comments and emails from the past year that make it all worthwhile…

This is exactly the dish my grandmother used to make. I did get her recipe notebooks but she does not describe the process in detail. Thanks to your blog, I can recreate my grandma’s cuisine in my own home. – Rebeka

I was literally just dancing around my apartment… If I could do back handsprings I would have done those too. I was so discouraged last year when I made a challah and it came out like a rock. This year I made your challah bread, and with a little love and lots of patience, it came out PERFECTLY! I am so excited to present this to my family tomorrow night for the holiday. There will be genuine smiles across the table rather than pity grins… – Jamie

Just made this for the first Rosh Hashanah dinner I cooked on my own since getting married, and it was a huge hit! Will definitely be making again. As one shiksa to another, I absolutely LOVE your recipes! Between this, your honey apple cake, and your Passover apple pecan pie, thanks for making me look so good to the new in-laws!  – Angie 

I made this and my husband was AMAZED at how GOOD this tasted. He lived since 7yrs old in Israel, and he’s always craving and trying to find the place with the “close enough” taste to all the foods from his hometown … Thank you so much for sharing this and making our tummies SUPER HAPPY with DELICIOUS food. – Aurea

My mother died 5 years and took with her our favorite Mandel bread recipe. She made the best every year for the high holidays. We would not eat it any other time during the year so it was an extra special treat. I made Bubbe Ruth’s Mandel Bread hoping it was close to my mother’s. It tastes exactly the same. Thank you so much for sharing. I make this recipe when I am having an extra hard time missing my Mom. Thank you! – Jodi P.

Keep up the great work on the traditional recipes that need to be saved. My Shiksa Mom married my Jewish Dad during WWII. The story goes that his mother fainted straight away when she was told. My mother turned out to be a great Jewish cook, learning from my Aunts. My Aunts learned Jewish cooking from Grandma, working in their small family owned hotel in the Catskills. – Jim R.

I just served my entire extended family your savory herb braised brisket for the Rosh Hashanah. I made it last year too and was going to write and tell you how much everyone loved it, but I never did. So I am writing now, to let you know that they all LOVED it again and didn’t stop taking about it all night. Everyone also asked for a little bit of the leftovers (and there was not much left) for lunch tomorrow!… Anyway, I absolutely love your website and tell everyone about it. Please keep posting new recipes… It’s the first place I look for something new & yummy! Thanks for helping me make delicious holidays! – Terri G.

There are so many more I could quote. I feel like putting a book together of your kind comments to cheer me up whenever I’m feeling blue!

So as this day winds down, and we head into the quiet solemnity of Yom Kippur, I want to say thank you. Thank you for reading, cooking with me, and encouraging me to continue on this path. I’m more grateful than you can imagine. You make all of the hard work worthwhile. Wishing you every happiness in the coming year. Gmar Chatima Tova… may your name be inscribed in the Book of Life!

Love and Light,


Comments (14)Post a Comment

  1. I’m so excited I found your blog! I, too, am a convert, and have never really found anyone to teach me the recipes except for my handy NY Times Jewish Cookbook or Kosher Palette. I can’t wait to work my way through your site! Have an easy fast and g’mar hatima tova!

  2. G’mar Chatimah Tovah to you and your family! I have absolutely loved cooking with your recipes and can’t wait to experiment with more of your tasty recipes in the year to come! Thank you for your wonderful blog, site, and ultimately, all the recipes!

  3. As a Shiksa mother-in-law and grandma, I’ve been so lucky to learn, and appreciate, so many wonderful things involving Judaism. When my first grandson was born, I managed to put together his Bris while my daughter recovered from surgery and I’m proud to say it was a beautiful event.

    As a family we joke about the “Gentile Chair” that’s reserved for me; one I proudly sat in during one Passover after helping to prepare the traditional menu.

    I so enjoy your blog and share your fabulous recipes with my daughter. Blessings to you and your family.

  4. Shana tova and Gmar hatima tova. Here in Israel I really love the Yom Kipur,as there is no traffic on that day! No cars,airplanes,tv or radio. Found your blog a short while ago;you have such a lovely blog!

  5. Tori;
    I’ve watched the taped video segments of you sharing some fo these dishes and always wondered how in the world you manage to do it. Anyone who cooks a lot has to realize the amount of work it takes to get the food in all its states of prep to a set for a very short segment. What a job. I’m glad you can see the beauty in it in spite of the work involved. Shana Tova.

  6. I’ve just found your blog and find it fascinating. I have often wondered about the history of the foods that we eat and how they came to be. Thank you for sharing!

    Your post for Yom Kippur does leave me with one question. Does dropping your phone in the soup make the soup not kosher? :)

    Shana tova!

    1. Does it make it Kosher? Depends on the plan you have–if it
      includes unlimited calling to Israel, then “yes”..otherwise..”not”..
      LOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL……..just sayin….

  7. Do you do talking engagements at synagogues..i.e. Cooking demonstrations?
    We are one of the biggest temples in southwest..Houston,texas…conservative temple congregation beth yeshUrun. We have our annual may event and we were wondering???

    Thanks for info

    Steffi loeser
    Ps love love your site and the challah!

  8. Hi Tory
    I converted this year and I love your site. I used loads of your recipes at pesach including for our communal Seder where thy went down a treat. My first year being Jewish has been fantastic – thanks for helping make it so good. Shana tova!


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