Friday, 22 May 2015

Beloved Baba Dora...my other Matriarch

Baba Dora
If you follow MMT on Facebook, you would often read about "Baba Dora Salad".  It rounds out our dinner menu most evenings, as it is a simple tossed green salad that is flavourful and goes with virtually every dish.

I just realized that I have never really told you about my Baba Dora.  I searched this blog, and there are many references to the Baba Dora salad, and tidbits about her, but I have yet to give you a proper introduction to my other Matriarch - shame on me!


Baba Dora with Zada David and my cousin Lauren
Baba Dora is my father's mother.  She lived in Toronto, and we spent a great deal of time with her in our earlier years.  She was born is a Ukrainian Shtetl in Russia in 1989 in Pervomaysk (Bogopol).  Her father (Zaida Menachem Nachum) was the Rebbe of their village. Together with his wife, Batsheva, they had a large family of 9 children, and I imagine they lived similarly to how Tevye and his family did in the film Fiddler on the Roof.  They were hard-working, observant Jews living under the Czarist regime, with little money, opportunity or personal security.  


Baba Dora at my Bat Mitzvah - October 1980
Baba would recount the story of the 1905 pogrom, where she, along with the rest of her (Jewish) community, literally ran and hid for their lives.  Baba, a young girl at the time, managed to hide under a porch, where an old man was sitting in a rocking chair, too old to move and run for cover.  As she hid, the Cossacks rode by...the old man was murdered as she hid below.  The horror of that experience, and the many others that she and her family endured were the driving force behind their determination to make a new life in Canada.  

Despite growing up in this very traditional old world my Baba was a progressive, modern woman.  She went to university and medical school in the early 1900s - no small feat for a woman, let alone a Jewish woman in Czarist Russia.  She also resisted arranged marriage, which was standard at that time, and chose to marry my grandfather, David, a man she loved and respected.   

Baba Dora worked hard long days raising a family, keeping a home and running a small business alongside her husband.  She was a resilient woman who never complained and did what had to be done, no questions asked.


Baba Dora and me at her apartment, 1976
When I was born there was an instant connection...one that remains strong to this day.  She was my biggest fan and strongest supporter, encouraging and adoring me, but never allowing me to indulge in self-pity, even on the bumpiest roads of my journey.


Baba Dora never drove.  She would take buses and subways to get where she needed to go.  She carried mason jars filled with steaming hot homemade chicken soup and lokshen (egg noodles), wrapped in towels to keep it piping hot, so that her Nomika (me) would have food she liked to eat during  hospital stays following surgeries.  That's just the kind of person she was.


Octboer 1980 - My Bat Mitzvah
There are many stories I could share with you about my beloved Baba Dora...she was so kind, loving, calm and very wise.  Not a day goes by that I don't think of her and smile.  One of my favourite memories is of how happy she was at my Bat Mitzvah.  She was smiling from ear to ear.  Years later I would learn that she told my father that for her, this night was like my wedding (which she knew she would never live to see).  And she celebrated, with me and for me.  

So from my family to yours, I share with you a simple but delicious recipe that evokes many a treasured memory -  Baba Dora Salad.  

Until next time,  I wish you a wonderful day filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!



Baba Dora Salad:
lettuce - cut/shredded into bite-size pieces 
cucumber - diced into large pieces
tomato - diced into large peices
carrots - diced
celery - diced

Baba Dora Salad Dressing:
¼C oil
slightly less than ¼C white vinegar 
salt  to taste 


Toss salad, mix dressing and serve right away.  

Monday, 11 May 2015

Reflections...and updates...Happy Mother's Day 2015!

It's been so long since I blogged...

Thanks to the loving support and infinite patience and sacrifice of my husband and children, I have been able to redirect all of my energy and brainpower into my studies for the past 8 months.  And it's paying off.

I've faced some of my greatest fears and discovered that I can learn, that my brain, like any other "muscle" simply needs to be exercised in order to grow stronger.

I was scared to go back to school...afraid that my mind was no longer young and agile enough to absorb and synthesize all the information these courses would throw at me.

When I wrote my first exam in the first semester I was panic-stricken.   My heart raced as the results were handed back.  I stared in disbelief at the "A+" staring back at me.  Now, not every mark has been an A+...but one day, much to my pleasant surprise, I realized that I was driving to my exam without a hint of panic.  And then, I noticed that my heart wasn't racing as I waited to received my grades.

Not only do I stand to benefit professionally from my educational pursuits, but my brain is forming new synaptic connections every day - something that is recommended in middle age: you need to challenge your brain and learn new things if you want to maintain brain health.  And I have made new friends - real, face-to-face friends - another important factor in staving off dementia (maintaining social connections).  And with such a busy life, my social media consumption has declined - and I feel so much better for it...

The only cons of working full time while going to school full time are the lack of free time to be with my family and friends during "school season," and missing the simple things that I loved in my "former life" - grocery shopping, cooking and baking, and the sheer satisfaction of a spic and span house after a 7 hour cleaning marathon.  

With my 3 week school vacation, I actually resumed my grocery shopping duties and started preparing meals again!  Crazy as it sounds, I felt decadent as I leisurely wandered the aisles of Superstore.  These activities are time consuming and eat into my study time.  

I've also been able to pack in 2 dance competition trips with Becca and 2 university road trips with Sara...all the while marvelling at how beautiful, self-assured and special my not-so-little girls are.  On the last competition weekend I actually cooked and prepared a picnic lunch like the old days!  My Jewish mother instincts kicked right in as I offered  pasta salad, roasted chickpeas, turkey sandwiches and veggies & dip to anyone who was hungry.  Old habits die hard!



Yesterday Becca and I went to visit Mom.  I wondered aloud whether it was appropriate to take a picture of the 3 of us - Becca, Mom and me - to mark Mother's Day 2015.  Becca asked why not and took a selfie of us.  Later that evening I discovered she'd posted it online with a loving tribute to Mom.  I was so moved I shared her post.



I struggle with posting current photos of Mom...on the one hand I tell myself that this is not the way I want people to remember my mother - I would prefer that they remember her as the beautiful, glamorous and graceful woman she was.  On the other hand, this is how my mother is now...and I am still proud of her...she is an Alzheimer's warrior and braver than anyone else I know...facing endless days trapped in a body ravaged by a disease for which there is no cure.  Her appearance is her battle scar.  The same way my parents taught me never to hide my fingers, never to be ashamed of who I am and how I look, I believe that the effects of  Alzheimer's are not something we need to hide or be ashamed of.


The photo made some of our family sad, so I took it down...out of respect to them and their feelings....not out of shame or to hide anything...I am so proud of my mother.  I think of how she handled being diagnosed with EOAD and slowly losing herself in the disease, as though being swallowed by quicksand.  She did so with love, courage and grace.  And I can only hope that if it is my fate to follow in her footsteps, that I will be able to be as strong, courageous and supportive of my family as I embark on my own journey as my mother was in hers.  Anyways, I've decided to pepper this post with my favourite photos of Mom, from Once Upon a Time...isn't she beautiful?



I hope that I will be able to squeeze in some baking and cooking time to try new recipes over the summer, so please stay tuned.  Until next time, I wish you all a belated Happy Mother's Day and a wonderful week filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon and Buon Appetito!