Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Matzo Ball Wars and a Thrill Ride from Summer Camp

Time will tell, but I suspect we might have a Benedict Arnold in our family. The proof will be in the pudding, er, matzo balls, we eat on the eve of Rosh Hashana.

Let me explain. Gilda makes soft, fluffy matzo balls. Dear friends who celebrate with us on the first night of the holiday, with whom we visit on the second night, like hard matzo balls, the type you need to knife through because if you use your spoon to carve out a chunk you’re just as likely to douse your seat-mate with chicken soup as you are to catapult the “cannon” ball across the table. Over the years it has been a source of amusement between our respective families as to which type of matzo ball is tastier. 

With Gilda’s broken wrist this year (she had corrective surgery early Wednesday morning and is recuperating at home), Ellie jumped into the breach last weekend to make matzo balls under Gilda’s tutelage. Gilda advised the secret to fluffy matzo balls was to not squish too many into the soup pot as they cook, thus giving them room to expand. Despite Gilda’s protestations, Ellie kept adding one, two or three more matzo balls to the soup. She even hinted she prefers hard matzo balls. 

Proof of her potentially sacrilegious treason, or filial devotion, will have to await our communal dinner for 38 in two weeks. The suspense is gnawing at me.

By the way, as much as I enjoy Gilda’s matzo balls, which are the equal of my mother’s, I really miss my mother’s kreplach (Jewish wontons). Gilda has made kreplach in the past as a treat for me but it is truly intensive work. 

Red Sports Car: Last week I wrote about my disagreement on Arab-Israeli matters with Rabbi Barry Konovitch. Today’s blog will harken back to a special day I shared with two of my bunkmates at Camp Columbia courtesy of Barry who, at the time, was head of the waterfront (and, who I mentioned, lifted me out of the deep water when I went under a year earlier).

Larry Jacobs, Stu Garay and I were waiters enjoying a day off from serving our fellow campers. As 15-year-olds, however, we were not permitted to leave camp grounds. Our day off coincided with one of Barry’s who chose to hang around camp that day. In the late afternoon we implored him to take us off campus in his car. 

Though at first reluctant, Barry agreed if we could secure the permission of the head counselor, Hal Gastwirt. Hal wasn’t available, so we asked his second in command, Tully Dershowitz. He consented.

We were all set. But what I haven’t told you yet is that Barry’s car was a TR4, a red convertible Triumph sports car with a back seat not intended to support two near-six foot tall teenagers (Larry and me; Stu had not yet hit his growth spurt, which he never really did as I discovered some 30 years later when I became a short-term patient of his medical practice). The back seat was no more than 12 inches deep. Leg room? There wasn’t any.

Stu won the rights to ride shotgun on our way out of camp. Barry did not hold back on the throttle. He whizzed down the two-lane country roads of Elizaville, NY. Wind whipped through our hair. Larry and I felt as if we were riding in an old-fashioned rumble seat. We felt every bump, fearful we would be tossed out. 

We drove to an ice cream stand on the outskirts of Red Hook, some 10 miles away. Barry parked the car, he and Stu got out and waited, and waited, and waited for Larry and me to unfurl our cramped legs. It seemed like a full five minutes before we could support ourselves on our legs. 

Larry and I were relegated to the back seat again on our return ride. When we untangled ourselves back in camp we asked Barry why the TR4 even had a back seat. He explained it was for insurance purposes. Without a back seat the TR4 would be classified as a sports car with high insurance rates. But with a back seat, even one clearly not intended for use by anyone older than six, lower family car rates prevailed.

I suspect Barry does not recall the thrilling ride he provided three impressionable teenagers that summer afternoon (heck, he doesn’t remember saving me in the pool). But he still drives a red sports car, albeit not the TR4. For the last 46 years he has been motoring around in a 1968 C3 Corvette! (