Fashion of Festooning

There is an art to picking your sewing shop. Sewing shops – the place you pick up spare buttons, neon thread you can’t find elsewhere, and a selection of ribbon that would get you from shul to mardi gras – can be expensive as all get-out. However, select sewing shops will under-sell the dollar store; those are the ones you want.

You can pick out a sewing shop as you walk right past it. This is what you need to look for:

Dim windows Glitzy window displays and bright lights means someone has too much money earned by gauging customers. You don’t need to be the next sap to add money to the till. Dirty windows are a bonus.

Everything is on display If the only objects in the window are hats and feathers, the only thing it will be good for is feathered-hats. Likewise a shop flashing BUTTONS BUTTONS BUTTONS will not have the thread you need. You should be able to see a few spools of thread, zippers, buttons, and some sequins. Because if a sewing shop has sequins, they’ve got everything. A really good store will display some things you don’t recognize, because that demonstrates just how all-encompassing a store it is.

In New York the best place to search for this sort of store is on – you guessed it – the Fashion District. When the city builds a giant statue of a needle and thread, it’s a homing signal for all sewing shoppers. You can walk up and down the streets from 7th to 6th Avenue from 40th to 35th, hunting for that perfect shop. Or you could go to the one Special Correspondent Ariella and I picked out:

Joyce Trimming

109 West 38th Street

212.719.3110.

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Sugar Cookies by Hillel Academy, or Hamentashen by Hannah

One year, Hillel Academy gave out recipes with their shalach manos. I think it was supposed to make everyone feel like family – every single family would have a neon-green recipe card for Sugar Cookies which would unite us for years to come. I’m not sure it worked out that way.

However, last year I sat contemplating my hamentashen. Those hamentashen, a dark brown color due to a strong dose of cinnamon, were supposed to be perfect. The recipe promised that they’d be the best. Yet, I sat and munched, and thought them too dry and plain. Thinking of Purims past, I remembered the recipe cards, and called my mom. My mom had kept her recipe cards, and organized as she is, pulled out in moments. We discussed, I adapted, and the results are below. According to taste-tester Special Correspondent Perel, Hillel and I have a sweet thing going.
Sugar Cookies, or Hamentashen Dough
3/4 c sugar, or less as desired
1/2 c margarine
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 c white flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour [this one is a personal touch; Hillel recommended all white flour. Then again, they wrote the recipe in a different era when whole grains were not appreciated as the heart-healthy alternative they are today.]
1 tsp baking powder
optional: 1 tsp salt
Cream together sugar and margarine. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Separately, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt if desired.  Add flour mixture to creamed mixture, stir until smooth.
Roll out dough on floured board [rolling pins are recommended for this sort of thing. I use a hard plastic water bottle picked up for free from Starbucks by Tzippora.] Cut out circles [cookie cutters are recommended. I use a glass cup, a gift from grateful guest Alisa]. Put small amount of filling in the center, and crimp edges so that you’ve made a three-sided cookie. If you have trouble keeping the edges together, dip your finger in water, and brush the circumference of the circle with your finger. It’ll work like a charm.
Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.
According to Hillel, this recipe makes 4 dozen cookies. According to me, this recipe make 4 dozen hamentashen.

There’s Kashie In Your Future

I cannot see the future. But sometimes I think I know just how people will response to life. For a sample of my prowess: I know that anytime I say “penguin,” people will smile.

But not everything is as simple as that. About a year ago, I decided to make kashie, also called buckwheat groats, and told Special Correspondent Perel just how I foresaw it:

me: I also really want to make kashie, or kasha varniske as Ellen calls it. But Ellen said that groats are expensive.
Perel: Ohhh yum.
me: Is there truth to this?
Perel: Do they still make groats?
me: Yes, Perel, people are still farming buckwheat. Some of them in your home state.
Perel: I thought groats were a kind of goat. I guess that’s wrong of me.
me: It’s a rather odd position to take. Well, if it’s a reasonable price I’ll call Bubby and have her walk me through the recipe. Then I’ll call my Dad as I make it in a panic, knowing it won’t be as good as Bubby’s, but instead my Mom will answer the phone and she’ll give me good advice about groats – and how to make them Indian-style.
Perel: And there you have it.
me: Well, that only gets you to the making-it stage, then I have to report back. That’s when Bubby tells me that mine must have been better than hers; at which point I say that it was the same, meaning delicious, or that I ruined the dish. If I ruined it, she’ll tell me I didn’t. Then I’ll try to convince her I did – only when I tell her how much I had to throw out will she believe me. Then she’ll repeat her very vague instructions, and I’ll agree to having done all of them. When I tell my dad he’ll either congratulate me, if I did well, or lament with me if it came out poorly. If it didn’t come out well, he’ll tell me not to blame myself – it needed more gribines which they just don’t carry in the stores anymore. When I tell my mom she’ll break out in her “I Love Kashi” song, but she’ll probably hold off on the dance moves.
But that’s not how it turned out. I bought all the ingredients, and called Bubby. She didn’t answer. She was out of her apartment, doing something more exciting than waiting by the phone. I called again, and she was still out with friends. I tried a third time and when there was no answer I gave up.
I called my parents instead, and my dad picked up. I explained my dilemma  and he reassured me that it was no problem; there was a recipe on the box. I checked, but my kashie came in a bag without a recipe. So, my dad poked around in the cabinets until he found a box of kashie, and read off the following recipe:
Kashie
2 c broth
2 tbsp margarine
1/4 to 1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 c kashie
1 egg
1 onion

Heat broth and margarine to a boil, add kashie. Stir in salt and pepper, simmer for 8 – 12 minutes until all liquid is absorbed. My dad explained that the egg was optional. I quizzed him about it, and he thought it added nothing. So out it stayed.

Separately, fry 1 onion. Upon consultation, I fried three.

To make my kashie just like Bubby’s I cooked bow-tie noodles – that came in a box with instructions – and then stirred together the kashie, onions, and noodles.

It was good, but not as delicious as Bubby’s.

I called and told her – this time she answered – and that part of the conversation went exactly as anticipated. She told me I was wrong, and that it had been delicious. She insisted, until I caved. Finally, I admitted that it had been fine – but not as good as hers. That got her thinking, so Bubby had me read her the directions my dad had dictated.

“Well,” she said, puzzled, “that’s right.” I interrupted to say that I’d left out the egg, because my father told me it was fine. “I use the egg,” replied Bubby, though she voiced doubt that an egg could cause a difference in flavor. However, I was satisfied and left it at that. I did resolved to call her the next time I made kashie so that she could walk me through it – just as I’d originally planned.

But I didn’t plan for the fact that I can’t see the future. Before I made kashie again, Bubby passed away. In the year since, I don’t think I’ve made any of her recipes. It was just too discouraging to know that I couldn’t call her for help when something didn’t taste right. I was convinced that Bubby’s version would always be better.

But the truth is that Bubby was convinced that anything I made would be better than anything she could make. While I might not have agreed, Bubby was the more knowledgeable cook. So who am I to argue?