Wednesday, January 19, 2011

While the Challah Rises...

is as good a time as any to write up something from the List of Things to Write About jotted down as merely, "The Jewish Princess Post."

There's not much of a story, or rather, I didn't know how to write up this thing that was funny in real life as a story that is funny in written word, so it lingered on my list. Let me detour to tell you about the challah.

My last year of college (the second time around - I got two different bachelors' degrees from two different colleges at the same university between 2002 and 2008) I lived with one of my all-time favorite roommates, AZ. (Another side note - two of my all-time favorite roommates actually have the initials AZ. And both are scientists. We'll call this one AZPlantz and the other AZBrainz. [ed note much later: because AZBrainz studied neuroscience.]) One side of AZPlantz's family is Jewish and the other side is not. AZPlantz was what I would have, in elementary school, referred to as "half Jewish." I have no idea if people still say that. I think, in elementary school, everyone's parents told them to stop saying that and that it made no sense. Anyway, it was with AZPlantz that I celebrated my first Chanukah; on the day of our other roommate's choral concert (which was all 100% CHRISTMAS) she became very upset and went on at length that she had forgotten the menorah and candles she had intended to bring to our apartment. There was a huge latke-making setup already occupying a third of our tiny kitchen (I think it was stored in the fridge during the concert) But there was no menorah. Her gentile boyfriend and myself both tried to console her, but to no avail, especially since we didn't really know what we were talking about. I don't know whose idea it was, but there was the rind of an acorn squash half, overripe and orange and drying on the table. What was it doing there? Was it actually a squash that we eyed and halved and scooped only upon realizing its menoric potential?

Anyway, there was a partially-used box of birthday candles in one of our kitchen drawers, a box left there by some former tenant of the apartment. There just happened to be nine and only nine candles in that box - eight for the night of Chanukah and one to light them all.

Nine little holes were carved into the rind of the acorn squash half. Nine little candles were placed in the holes. And that is The Story of the Acorn Squash Menorah, the Chanukah Miracle of Suydam Street.

So. It was AZPlantz who brought me my first Chanukah with the acorn squash menorah, who made me my first latkes, who introduced me to that thing I don't know how to even begin spelling with apples and pomegranate and I think wine? that is for ???? Passover ???, and it was AZPlantz who taught me how to make challah. [ed note: The thing with apples and wine (and I guess AZPlantz made it with pomegranate, too, is haroset. It is for Passover. I was confused because it was autumn when AZPlantz first made haroset in our apartment.] Even after college when we no longer lived together, we've made challah together. When I visited her this Christmas Eve, she was making challah. I told her that her house smelled like my memories of our apartment, and it did. I realized I'd never made the challah without her and that it's something I'd like to take back to Portland with me. That challah, her challah that's made with honey and whole wheat flour. She e-mailed me this recipe with the note, "I substitute honey for the sugar, and omit the salt." That's what I did, and I used about half whole wheat flour and half all purpose bread flour, because that is what I had. I also used 2 tbsp of yeast because I intended to use all whole wheat flour and because I forgot how much "a package" is. I am now out of all normal flours, left with just Corn Flour and Quinoa Flour and who knows what else from Gee Creek Farm. The dough is rising, so I'll have to let you know later how it turns out.

Anyway, the original story I was supposed to tell you was "The Jewish Princess Story." So, this is a story about my boyfriend and his friends in Colorado, whom I met during my September visit. One night, he went out to see his guy friends while I did something else, so I wasn't there. I had met all of these friends earlier in the trip. Individually, my boyfriend asked his friends what they thought of me. They all had nice things to say about me, except there was one strange theme. All of them commented to him on his Jewish girlfriend. But I'm not Jewish.

One friend just said something about me looking Jewish or being pretty and also Jewish, or something unremarkable that neither of us can remember. But another friend said odder. He said, "I like her, she's cool. She's got that Jewish Princess thing going on."

Reader, do you know what Jewish Princess means? My boyfriend did not, so Urban Dictionary and I filled him in, defining "Jewish Princess" as the following:
n. A woman of Jewish faith and/or descent who displays at least two of the following criteria:
a) viciousness
b) greed
c) arrogance
d) vanity
e) social-dominance
f) inability to do minor tasks (i.e. cooking, cleaning, laundry) [ed note: I guess she wouldn't make challah!]
g) fragility
h) dishonesty

"Oh no!" said my boyfriend. "That can't be what he meant! Everything else he said about you was nice. He must not have known what that means!"

Back in Colorado at Christmastime, my boyfriend was confronted with the situation again. Again, his friends commented on his pretty Jewish girlfriend. He had to tell them that not only is his girlfriend not Jewish but--but then, the Jewish Princess phrase was used again. My boyfriend asked his friend if he knew what Jewish Princess meant!? The friend did not.

My boyfriend and Urban Dictionary filled him in.

"Oh no!" the friend exclaimed. "That's not what I meant at all!"

And now everyone is filled in; I'm not Jewish, but they all like me anyway, and now they all know that "Jewish Princess" is not a nice thing to call someone.

I'm surprised; I thought they'd all think I was a Guidette.

Anyway, I'll let you know how that challah turns out. Right now it's just a covered bowl of glop.

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