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  • Miriam Green

Out of the Closet


I finally saw Mom today after three days of being sick. I had stayed away because I didn’t want her to catch my cold. I think of her as vulnerable: a cold would knock her out. My mood, like the last of the rainy winter weather, was down and dragging.

When I walked into Mom’s home today, the staff was more excited to see me than she was. I’ve been there every day for the last two weeks, so my absence was noticeable. When I arrived, the residents were sitting in a circle kicking a large yellow ball back and forth. Mom, of course, was more interested in chatting than playing. We sat together in the circle; she leaned into me conspiratorially and told me all manner of things. When one of the nurses asked her who I was, she couldn’t say my name, though she seemed to have a sense of who I was. “That’s Mi, Mi, Miri…and me!” she said.

When I succeeded in getting her up from her chair, she exclaimed in pain that her legs were hurting. Too much sitting. Not enough exercise. I don’t know that we can really do much to change the situation. Mom is stubborn. I needed help from the staff to get her to rise out of her chair. We walked around the room and then out into the bright sunshine. I sang to her, but she didn’t really want to sing with me. She doesn’t have the focus.

I went from her place to my dad’s house to ready it for his return tonight. When I was searching for sheets for his bed, I opened a closet and saw all of Mom’s skirts. They swung silently on their hangers and I reached out to touch them one by one, the red velvet, the grey with a ruffle on the bottom. The clothes Mom wears in her home are all recent purchases—large, wide shirts, sweat pants with elastic waists, undershirts instead of bras. The clothes that formed her colorful personality are still all there in my dad’s house.

And it hit me how much I have lost.

Maybe it’s time my dad and I clean out her closets. Or maybe not. I can’t decide what hurts less.

This recipe for vegetarian cholent makes me happy. It is rich in flavor and literally melts in your mouth. Great comfort food.

Cholent is a traditional winter meal that we eat on Shabbat afternoons (or chamin, as it’s called in Hebrew). There are many different recipes for cholent, though the stew generally contains meat, beans, barley, potatoes, carrots, and even whole eggs. You start this stew on Friday just before Shabbat comes in then slow cook it all night until the family sits down to a hearty lunch.

What’s unique about this vegetarian cholent is the “pudding” you make on the top, a combination of flour, oil and spices that adds texture to the dish.

Ruth’s Vegetarian Cholent

This is my friend Ruth’s recipe for cholent. And, yes, I know Passover is coming, but what better way to use your remaining flour, beans and barley than in this luscious, thick stew.

1 cup cannellini beans, presoaked and precooked

1 cup barley

2 carrots, cut in chunks

2 small potatoes, cut in chunks

1 sweet potato, cut in chunks

1 cup pumpkin, cut in chunks

2 squash, cut in chunks

6-8 garlic cloves, whole

1 large onion, chopped

1 tsp cinnamon

1 Tbsp ketchup

1 Tbps date honey (silan)

Salt and pepper to taste

Water to cover

Pudding

2 cups flour

½ to 1 cup canola oil

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Soak beans in water overnight, then drain and cook covered in water with 1 tsp baking soda. Cook until soft and set aside. Sauté onion and garlic in bottom of large pot. Add remaining vegetables. Add barley and beans. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add ketchup, honey and water. There should be enough liquid to cover contents of pot and allow for barley to expand while cooking. Bring to a boil then reduce to low heat. Mix pudding ingredients, adding oil until a dough forms, then roll flat with a rolling pin. Gently spread on top of veggies, etc. Cover with pot lid. Just before Shabbat comes in, transfer pot to a hot plate. Cover pot with a thick blanket (making sure blanket does not touch the surface of the hot plate) and leave to cook all night. This can also be made in a slow cooker.

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