Why yes, the eighth night of Chanukah did fill the spiritual void I was experiencing this past Festival of Lights: One of our favorite Jewish families, the Cohens of Groveland Circle, had us over for menorah-lighting, tilapia and from-scratch latkes. I am ashamed to admit I haven’t grated a potato since I discovered frozen hash browns; this year I even resorted to Streit’s mix on one chaotic night. Guess what? They tasted awesome – they were fried, for heaven’s sake. But Wendy and Jon’s were truly special, mixed with carrots and zucchini.
After I tried to open up a second bottle of Kedem white wine (tasty with fish!) with a corkscrew and it wasn’t until every person in the room tried to pull the cork that we noticed I’d punctured a hole in the screw-off cap, we whiled away the evening watching the candles burn down and cracking up over Wendy’s starring role in the Savannah Morning News’ Chanukah feature, which focused on her conversion to Judaism. Check this melodramatic opening paragraph:
Wendy Cohen has no childhood memories of Hanukkah to pass on to her three children.
No heirloom menorah to light together.
No family latke recipes to share.
However, she has plenty of memories of celebrating Christmas.
I guess the reason it’s so funny is that Wendy is one of the most authentic Jewish mothers I know (see latkes) and the Cohen home pulses with such warmth. They keep kosher and walk to the Conservative shul most Saturdays with their three (unbelievably well-behaved) children without making it seem difficult; their observance is joyful and inspiring rather than judgmental and limiting. Plus, Wendy isn’t shy about throwing around the f-word when the appropriate occasion arises (oil spattering on exposed flesh, the curtains next to the menorah table coming dangerously close to incineration) which makes her f’kn cool in my book.
Like good Jewish mothers, we shared menorah cleaning tips: I’ve always frozen them and chipped the wax off, the Cohens like to boil off the extra goo. So this year I’m trying both to get that brand-new shine back to our five chanukiahs – it’s working so fabulously so far, but I’ve only cleaned two. What’s the rush, nu?
As for today’s image, there’s nothin’ like a menorah-mimicking Mandelbrot set fractal (invented by a Jewish mathematician, of course) to get me in the mood for spiritual navelgazing (hey, am I the only one who thinks bellybuttons resemble a Fibonacci spiral?) Larger version here.