When I want to make Jewish food, I always use my copy of Joan Nathan’s Jewish Cooking in America. It’s a terrific book and the recipes are excellent; so with Rosh Hashanah coming tomorrow, I’m inspired by this video of Nathan making challah from scratch, which I found via Food52. My favorite part is when she braids the dough (“Outside over two, next to last to the outside, outside over two, next to last to the outside”) but the whole thing is a treat to watch. Now when my grandmother calls me tomorrow and asks me how I’m celebrating (normally, a guilt-inducing moment), I can say: “Oh, just making my own challah. How about you?”
As life was ending in the Catskills, my life was just beginning. I was only a kid when my parents drove my brother and me upstate to experience the splendor (or former splendor) of the great bastions of Jewish entertainment. We stayed in hotels like The Concord and Kutsher’s where the carpeting was well-worn and the smell was a pungent mixture of mothballs and boiled eggs. I remember a lunch in a sunny dining room with faded pink tablecloths and a plate of refrigerated gefilte fish plopped down in front of us, my dad teaching me how to cover it extravagantly with spicy horseradish to mask its nothingness. We saw Frankie Valli perform. We saw The Turtles. An artist named Morris Katz painted landscapes in the lobby. These memories circled around a vague mist in my head as I joined my parents for dinner this past Monday night to celebrate Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) at Manhattan’s resurrection of this time and place: Kutsher’s Tribeca.