Monday, December 27, 2010

Let's Bring Back: A-L

Let's Bring Back: An Encyclopedia of Forgotten-Yet-Delightful, Chic, Useful, Curious, and Otherwise Commendable Things from Times Gone ByI recently finished reading a book that probably wasn't meant to be read straight-through. The book, "Let's Bring Back: An Encyclopedia of Forgotten-Yet-Delightful, Chic, Useful, Curious, and Otherwise Commendable Things from Times Gone By" by Lesley M.M. Blume, was so absolutely amazing, however, that I couldn't not read the entire thing from A to Z in two quick sittings. I mean, it's an entire book devoted essentially to kitsch, the days of yore, and traditions and ways of living that are lost on many of us today.

The great thing about the book, however, is that I realized that many of the things that Blume longs for are things that are alive and well in the Jewish world. Blume lists a variety of things from A to Z with quirky notes about each. Here are my notes to sort of "respond" to her quips on these lost arts/items/ideas/words/foods. This will be the first of a two-part installment, and it will include letters A-L. Tune in for the next installment, letters M-Z.

  • Bathing Costumes and Caps | What Orthodox Jewish women wear surely are costumes, and caps are necessary. Check out Aqua Modesta
  • Beards | I think beards are disproportionately present on Jewish men, not merely on the Orthodox. 
  • Berets | Hello! anyone? Winter headgear for Orthodox Jews everywhere?
  • Books | Shabbat is good for one thing, no matter how observant you are: Reading actual books. Those paper things that are bound, you know? That you buy on, or, better yet, a brick-and-mortar store. 
  • Bread | Shabbat means challah. The two are synonymous. Thus, bread is still alive and well in the Jewish community! No "parole" needed. My stand-by recipe can be found here
  • Cold Fruit Soup | I will need more than my two hands to count how many fruit soups I was served at Shabbat meals over the summer. It's the quintessential substitution on a hot night!
  • Crumpets | Have you not been to Trader Joe's lately? I lament that my gluten-free-ness keeps me from being able to eat the delicious crumpets they have at Trader Joe's. They're so good. And? They're kosher!
  • Door-to-Door Peddlers | Do schnorrers count? 
  • Dressing Up | Luckily, I get to dress up every week, once a week. It's called Shabbat, and I get gussied up for dinner in my finest attire and shoes. It's an excuse, sure, but it's a good one.
  • Evening Strolls | I actually know quite a few couples who use their return from a Shabbat meal as their "evening stroll" time. In the spring, I know plenty of folks who take the kids out and go for a walk, as well. 
  • Feasts | Blume says, "A cultivated approach to gluttony." I say, "Shabbat." (Or, at least, Shavuot.)
  • Formality | Once upon a time we went to a shul. Tuvia didn't have a suit jacket. They required a suit jacket to even stand on the bima, so he had to borrow one in order to do his duties with the Torah. That was seriously formal business. 
  • Gossip | I'm not trying to make a statement about Jewish folks in general ... but ... there's a reason we talk so much about lashon hara and how naughty it is, right?
  • Grocers | Being kosher means needing a specific type of meat, butchered in a specific way, not to mention cheeses and a host of other goodies that sometimes you just can't find at Big Box Superstore. Thus, the Jewish grocery is alive and well. Here in Teaneck there are three of them, and they're all small, cute, and crowded as all get out on Friday morning.
  • Hat Boxes | Another necessity of the Jewish variety. Hat boxes double as wig boxes, sometimes, but men schlep their hats from here to Vilna and back. 
  • Hats | They're pervasive in the Orthodox community, and your hat says a lot about who you are. Is this a good thing? Probably not. It's funny how the costume can make the man (or woman) in Orthodox Judaism.
  • Head Scarves | Welcome to "Being an tzniut Jewish Woman 101." You'll own too many of them and then wonder why every corner of your bedroom has been taken over by them. 
Then, of course, there are those things that I equally lament the loss of, including 
It might taste good, but how's the ambiance?

  • CBGB | Luckily, I swung by here shortly before they closed. However, I didn't go in ... 
  • Coffeehouse Culture | I miss the Coffee House in Lincoln, Neb., desperately. Starbucks is not a "coffee house" folks. My shop in Nebraska had couches and rickety chairs and a chalkboard in the women's bathroom. It was dark and dingy and perfect.
  • Courtship | Once upon a time, I did get mixtapes from my significant others. It was romantic and cheesy, but I was happy.
  • Divinity | This amazing treat is ... amazing. I'm going to have to make some, stat. Luckily, Blume provides the recipe! Curious about what divinity is? Try this recipe
  • Dumbwaiters | Along with Laundry Shoots, I can't figure out why on earth we would have dispensed of such an awesome household feature. Life was easier once up on a time ... 
  • External Kitchens | This would have been the perfect solution to the Passover Kitchen issue. No need to clean ... just head to the external kitchen!
  • Fountain Pens | I really want one of these ... really. I saw a kit at Barnes & Noble, but then I thought "it's probably cheap and won't be the 'real deal'," so I opted out of the purchase.
  • Green Accountant Visors | I'm thinking about procuring one for Tuvia. And the five million other Jewish accountants with whom we're friends.
  • Journalism | Not much to say here. I have a Bachelor's in Journalism. I suppose it garnered me the ability to write and edit ... but the real stuff? Long dead.
  • Love Letters | I used to write them. I used to get them. But that was when I was a love-struck teenager and college kid. Someone should teach husbands how to write them. 
Also, a serious hat tip to the inclusion of such gems as the Original Girl Scout Cookie Recipe (p. 98 | yes, it was once upon a time just a one-cookie recipe and not Samoas and Thin Mints). I'm also giddy with excitement about the recipe for a Grasshopper (p. 102), which is my all-time favorite alcoholic drink.

Stay tuned, y'all, for the next installment: Let's Bring Back: M-Z