Preserving the traditions of Jewish food, one 'bissel' at a time
How much is a "bissel?" Is it the same as a "pinch" or closer to a "smidge" or a "dash?"
It's the way many mothers and grandmothers baked, but it can lead to problems if you're trying to commit the recipe to writing. A recent adult education program on Jewish foods at the Congregation for Humanistic Judaism in Westport tackled the question.
For Bert Moldow, it was trying to get his mother's recipe for kreplach, a kind of ravioli dumpling. "A `bissel' of this, she would say," Moldow said, with a "bissel" meaning a "little." To get the right amounts of the ingredients, Moldow had his mother make the kreplach after he first put all the ingredients out on the table and measured them. "Then, when she was finished, I measured what was left, and subtracted," he said. "When she died, it was I rather than my two sisters, who inherited the 30-inch-diameter kreplach board and the out-sized rolling pin to match."
Another woman had to convert her grandmother's directive of "a few handfuls of flour" into a measurement she could relate to, since her grandmother's hands were much smaller. Her grandmother suggested she use a `"yarzheit glass," the small glass cup that holds a memorial candle.
Sheryl Baumann, co-leader of the program with David Shafer, has compiled recipes submitted by congregants for the program, ranging from the standards -- like six recipes for brisket -- to Sephardic or southern Mediterranean Borekas to modern compositions like Eggs Carisimo.
The CHJ adult education is held during the congregation's Sunday school and program updates can be found at www.humanisticjews.org. Anyone interested should call 203-226-5451.