As every Jew knows, during Yom Kippur we’re supposed to atone for our sins which means – No Eating Allowed! I guess this message never got to my grandmother. Every year Grandma Grace would get the whole family together in her two room apartment in Brighton Beach and cook up a feast. She said it was the only time she could get all of us together. Now that was an odd statement because Grandma Grace lived in the same building as my family. Her other daughter and son-in-law and their four daughters lived up the block, about a five minute walk. It took five minutes to get from their building to ours if you crawled on your hands and knees otherwise the journey was maybe two minutes, two-and-a half minutes if you were tired.

My uncle and his family lived a whopping six blocks away. Okay, I had a second uncle and he and his wife and their two kids in Connecticut.

Honestly though, my family was always around. Why would Grandma Grace say that she couldn’t get us all together as an excuse for a big shindig on Yom Kippur? Well, I don’t know.

Anyway, after not seeing each other for maybe, nine hours, one Yom Kippur the family squeezed into Grandma’s little apartment, all 19 of us including Grandma. Sometimes there was more when a boyfriend or fiance came along for the food.

My dad, an Orthodox Jew who went to Shul during the holidays, said to my mom once, “Emma, I appreciate your mother wanting to get us all together but why does she do it during Yom Kippur?” Ha, like my mother, or anyone really, could explain Grandma Grace.

I just want to say this about my grandmother’s apartment – every window faced the fire escape. Once some thief broke into the apartment. That’s another amusing story for later. Anyway, after the break-in, Grandma Grace got a hold of my father and told him to nail shut every window in the apartment, which he did. So during the crowded holiday meals the windows could not be opened. Think about it, 20 plus people in a two-room apartment with no open windows – and the oven and stove on full blast. Whew.

My favorite food was “Grandma Grace’s Famous Sweet Potato Casserole.” Of course every grandmother in the world has the same recipe. You know the one: put sweet potatoes in a big pan (three big pans if your family loves it as much as mine did), cover the potatoes with marshmallows (two or three bags should do), then put cherries on top of the marshmallows and don’t forget to use some of that cherry juice. Bake in the oven until it melts into a gooey mess. I once ate some and ended up with a toothache. No lie.

Grandma’s other specialty was green jello served with heavy cream on top of it. I liked that one too.

Oh, I’m sure grandma made chicken and other things like that but I was never a meat fan. I always went for the sweets. Probably one of the many reason I’m always on a diet. Yet another story for later on.

After we ate we sat around talking about Yom Kippur and what it means to us. Not! The kids went into the bedroom where we played with grandma’s record player. You remember records and record players, right? The adults sat in the living room/kitchen area smoking.

My dad didn’t usually go to the Yom Kippur parties because he really was religious but if Grandma Grace decided to have a party on Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) he’d join in on the festivities.

Eventually, after helping grandma clean up, we would all leave knowing we wouldn’t see each other again for, what, 10 or 12 hours? Except for my family. Grandma lived right down the hall and we saw her maybe 45 minutes after the party ended.

Well, I have a few cousins around who will read this and I’m sure they can add a lot more to what I wrote. Maybe they can remember other foods and not just the sweet potatoes and jello. Maybe they’ll have a lot more to say about my memories.

Please add a comment to this post and tell me the foods you remember your grandma making during the holidays. If you have a recipe include that too.

To see more of my childhood memories go to  S.A.K. Remembers on my blog.


8 thoughts on “So What If It’s Yom Kippur, Let’s Eat!

  1. One of my favorite holiday dishes was my mom’s Pizza Rustica. Growing up I did not know it had a name. I only knew that I would be doing a whole lot of chopping. that was my job. I was my mother’s “sous chief” another name I did not know. It seemed like forever to a 7 year old to chop up all the salami, mozzarella and ham. She would then add ricotta cheese and eggs (a really kosher dish), then pop it into the oven. There were only 4 in our immediate family, but mom always made plenty for left overs. We would be eating slices of it for days afterwards. i always get a craving for it whenever the holidays roll around. There is a great Italian market, Joseph’s Classics, that has all the old world delicacies. I bought a slice of the Pizza Rustica and was disappointed, so I just made my own, at a considerably smaller size than I remember. It was delicious and brought back so many fond memories.


  2. Grandma’s cooking was always the best! I learned everything from her. I could make bread by time I was 9!
    But I love to joke about the 5 starches. There was always bread, potatoes, gravy, noodles of some kind and some sort of cake or pie dessert. Always..
    But the best dish she made was little white potatoes and fresh peas from her garden in white cream sauce. I can taste it right now. Try as I might I can not make it taste like hers. I think it was the love she added.. Her secret ingredient!


    1. Maybe her secret ingredient was love. For all you know you’re sharing that same secret ingredient with your grandson and when he gets older and tries to make one of your recipes he’ll think something is missing too. Maybe being a grandparent is the secret ingredient. And starches – oh nothing tastes better. 🙂


  3. I used to spend a week or two with my maternal grandmother during school vacations, and I can still taste some of the simple yet delicious meals she used to make. My favorite was pan-fried hamburgers with fresh mashed potatoes and steamed green beans. She also made a very nice roast chicken, and excellent matzo brei. She lived in Florida, and she always had a dozen or so fresh grapefruit in her fridge. Between the two of us, we’d sometimes eat three or four grapefruit each day! I still think of her whenever I eat citrus fruits. I miss her!


    1. Your memories are really sweet. Keep thinking of your grandmother, she will always be with you. I make a mean matzo brei myself. I could eat it all day everyday. Thanks for your comment. 🙂


  4. Grandma Selma, one of Grace’s many sisters, had all of us young grandchildren thinking Passover Seder was held at the Chinese restaurant, where her husband (4th?), Jack, sang Irish songs.
    From that “beginning” I grew up to become a Cantor, presiding over many proper Seders for Passover.


    1. I remember Aunt Selma and many of Grandma’s other sisters. Aunt Julia used to sleep over every so often and Aunt Amelia used to tell the best stories. So glad you read my story, Cantor K. 🙂


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