Tag Archives: Iranian Eggplant

Not Ready to Say Goodbye to Saying Kaddish

The Altar I made to mark the eleven months since my father Jacov ben Perla v Chaim Ha Cohen’s death according to the Jewish calendar.

I’ve been weepy the last two days and I just figured out why. My body and heart are always ahead of my mind and brain. In Hebrew the word Lev means Heart and also Mind. So, my heart/mind was knowing something that my brain hadn’t figured out yet. I woke up with pain behind my eyes and a headache, yesterday. It was pretty early in the morning, but my husband woke up to hold me. I know when I have that kind of pain it is because I need to cry. I didn’t know why, but the why wasn’t important. So, he held me and I sobbed and released, still not sure what my tears were for or about.

Before falling asleep last night I thought, I need to check about the Jewish date for my father’s Yahrzeit. This is the day we mark once a year on the anniversary of a person’s death. The calendar for us is a combination Lunar and Solar calendar, so it is different than the Gregorian one used by most folks in this country. I knew that we stop saying Kaddish in the eleventh month from the death and since it was May 9th and my father died June 18/19th of 2018, I figured I better check. The Orthodox website run by Chabad.org is where I go when I need to calculate Hebrew birthdays or deathdays. They have a very easy interface and give you the dates for ten years out if you want.

So, I went to their site and plugged in my dad’s information and here’s what I got:

Yahrtzeit Information
The date of passing for this person was on:

Monday, June 18, 2018 – Tammuz 6, 5778

Observe the upcoming Yahrtzeit on:

Tuesday, July 9, 2019 – 6 Tammuz, 5779

Yahrtzeit observances begin on Monday evening.

Kaddish Information

Kaddish is recited until mincha on the afternoon of:

Friday, May 10, 2019 – Iyar 5 5779

About the kaddish end date:

>Kaddish is recited for eleven months from the date of passing. Even if the interment took place a number of days after death, the 11 months are still counted from the date of passing. However, if the burial was postponed for two or more weeks after death, kaddish should be recited until the end of 11 months counting from the date of the burial.

I burst into tears upon seeing the Friday, May 10, 2019 date as the last time to say Kaddish for my father on a daily basis. I haven’t been saying Kaddish everyday for him for the last eleven months, but that didn’t matter. I have been thinking about him and saying the Kaddish whenever I was in a Jewish setting with a Minyan (ten Jewish folks or any ten loving folks will work for me).

I wasn’t, I am not ready to stop grieving my father. And, of course I don’t need to stop grieving him, but this marker hit me hard and I realized again with waves of tears that I am still very, very sad and missing my father every day. Grief is just not a one time thing you feel and are done with. I have been living it and reeling from it for the last eleven months very intensely. So, in the morning, this morning I again asked my husband for his loving arms and I cried some more and shared stories with him about my father.

2018-04-29 Kevin and Nicole
My man and I over a year ago celebrating my Beau Père Kenny Weissberg’s 70th, photo taken by Kenny’s very talented sister Ellen Weissberg Whyte.

I had big plans for tonight’s Shabbat dinner. I was going to cook Iranian Eggplant and make Raita and create a sort of pre-30th Anniversary vegetarian feast for my husband. Instead, after my energy/chiropractic/sound treatment with Sarah Griffith and my healing MAT (Muscle Activation Training) with Jazz and then shopping to get groceries, I found myself in a puddle of tears once I got home, barely able to get the groceries up the steps, for emotional, not physical reasons.

Close up of altar, with the picture of my father and my sister about three months before she died. The Columbine and Lilac flowers are from my friend and MAT practitioner Jazz’s garden. The Columbine is the state flower of Colorado, and I could never pick it there, but here in California I can, in honor of my father and my sister Paula, whose Yahrzeit is coming up soon this May 16th in the Gregorian calendar.

No fancy dinner tonight. I finished setting up the altar for my father, pictured above and I’ll make a simple salad and asparagus for dinner. I’ll cook tomorrow, if I feel up to it. Today is about grieving and being sad and surrendering to my sadness, honoring that eleven lunar months have passed since my father was in a body. I don’t have to recite the mourner’s prayer for him everyday any more. Instead, I move into the wisdom of the Jewish practices of saying this prayer for him on the anniversary of his death, and three times more a year during the Yiskor service. So, four times a year, I’ll say this prayer for him, until I’m no longer able for the rest of my life.

Standing up when the Rabbi asks: “Is there anyone observing a Yahrzeit or in the first year of mourning, please stand,” has been a very powerful thing for me. I’ve cried every time I was asked for the name of who I am remembering, not expecting to each time. But, the tears, the body/mind/heart knowing cannot be denied or stopped. I have no desire to change that.

At Passover this year, I was in San Diego at my mother and beau-père’s home. When we got to the teaching and questions about why is this night different from all other nights, something strong came through for me. We ask “why on all other nights do we not even dip our greens/vegetables once, but on this night we dip twice?” This refers to dipping parsley in salt water and charoset into horseradish, so two dippings, double dipping that is encouraged. I was inspired to get honest with my parents about something very hard and sad for me, and so I gave them access to my feelings by introducing the subject through this idea of double dipping.

The Pre-Passover double dipping table in the San Diego home of Helen Redman and Kenny Weissberg

I shared that usually we all avoid our feelings and on Pesach/Passover, we are being asked very clearly NOT to do that. If we think of the salt water as our tears and ourselves as the thing that needs to dip into them, we can see that our first dip is just a small foray into the emotional realm. Oh, there’s my feeling, yes, I know you’re there, that’s enough. We have that choice, most of the time, to stop ourselves from actually deeply feeling the sadness, grief, joy, fear or whatever emotion we are just lightly touching/dipping into. But, if we have the time or are able and have the support to immerse completely into our emotions, to really double dip, then something transformational and intense happens and we are no longer on the outside looking in, we are fully immersed.

So, this is the territory of emotional work, of grieving. It’s a place, where if we are healthy, we can have some agency and choice. I can’t live in this immersed in pain place all the time. Nothing would get done. It’s also not fair to my friends, family and community because I’m really not able to be present for others when I’m fully immersed in my emotional territory. My husband likes to say that I’m due and can take all the time I want. This is just one of the many things I adore about him. My middle son Issac, upon hearing about some of my sadness a few months back, said: “Mom, you’ve done so much for us, for so many people, if you take the next thirty years off to do whatever you want, that won’t even come close to covering it.” Both these men in my life are deep wells of grounding and tenderness in my life. I’m so very blessed by there understanding of my emotional double dipping.

To be fair, neither one of them likes it when I’m sad, but they don’t push me or aren’t upset by my sadness. I don’t feel as if they’ll topple or be hurt by my pain and grief. I trust their own steady grounding.

Mama Nicole and Issac
My man Issac, able to hold up whatever needs holding up. We take good care of each other, he and I.
The thing about family is that it’s not perfect or fair. Some members are better able to be around and take care of each other than others. Some parts of my family can hold my emotional double dipping better than others. This doesn’t mean the folks who aren’t able to do that don’t have gifts for me and aren’t available in other extremely helpful and important ways. My family is a messy, complex, messed-up and deeply caring for each other family. I think probably, this is true of most families.
As, I let myself be sad today and grieve the passing and end of day to day interactions and laughter and shared toast in the morning over coffee moments with my father, I’m so grateful for all the members of my family still here for me to cherish and honor and love and be loved by.
Mom Ken Ethan April 2017 Beard
My mother Helen Redman, Beau-Père Kenny Weissberg, and youngest son Ethan, cherishing each other!
Maren and Iris
Maren, my Mother-in-Love (because we are much closer and care for each other much more than the Mother-in-Law moniker makes room for). Maren and I share a deep love for all things flower and here she is cherishing one of her Iris blossoms.
2014-10-17 04.23.31
My brother Paul and his partner Kathryn and me too!

If I were to put up all the pictures of my sisters, my many G!dchildren, my bonus brothers and sisters and all my friends and community who actually are also behind what makes me smile, this blog post would never be finished. So, to all of you, not pictured here, please know, deep in your bones that you are in my heart/mind/Lev always and enable me to double dip, to triple dip and to just be all around drippy as well as silly and whole.

Thank you All!

Iranian Eggplant, Sooooooooo Goooooooooood!

Iranian Eggplant in my favorite cast iron skillet
Iranian Eggplant in my favorite cast iron skillet

Eggplant Realities and Recipes

All the eggplant dishes I cook require the following knowledge; picking the proper eggplant is what makes the difference between a dish that is bitter and one that is sweet and lovely tasting. Whether the eggplants are Japanese style or your traditional fat purple variety; the key is how heavy they are. The only proper way to pick an eggplant is to get involved in the veggie bin or with your farmer. If you are at your local market you may need to rearrange or make a mess for the grocery clerk to deal with. I actually recommend budgeting the time to arrange the eggplants back when you are done so as to ensure future harmony between yourself and the person who stocks your groceries. The deal is, you have to pick up every eggplant and compare it with every other eggplant. The heavier ones go in the reject pile, the lighter ones go in the keep pile. If there are ten eggplants and you only want three, after you’ve selected the five lighter ones, repeat the process with your remaining five until you’ve got the three lightest eggplants. If they are all heavy, make a different dish because it just isn’t worth the time and effort. All the eggplant recipes I know take hours to make, (with the exception of Baba Ghanoush) so if you don’t have a good eggplant to start with, why bother?

The following recipe is an adaptation of one from Madhur Jaffrey’s World- of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking. This cookbook is in my Top Five Cookbooks List. Check out Ms. Jaffrey’s blog and link to her books above.

  1. three to five eggplants (depends on size of eggplant, this dish always amazing, so making more means left-overs and this dish is amazing a day later as well)
  2. olive oil, grape-seed or canola oil (at least 1/3 inch or more so you cover the pan for frying the eggplant in)
  3. two to three large tomatoes or 5 small ones (chopped small)
  4. one bunch of green onions (chopped finely)
  5. one bunch of fresh Italian (flat leaf) parsley, chopped finely
  6. fresh ground pepper
  7. lots of good salt (kosher or other high quality, see Let’s Talk Salt for details)

Slice the eggplants into rounds, not super thin, ½ inch thick. Cut into wedges or halves if you are using a big eggplant or just keep them in the rounds if you are using the thinner japanese style eggplants. Sprinkle with a goodly amount of salt and put them in a colander. Place the colander in a large bowl so the liquid that sweats off the eggplants can drain. They will have to sweat for at least 30 minutes.

I recommend having 2 non–stick or well–seasoned cast–iron pans going to speed up the cooking process. Heat a lot of oil, olive oil is my preference, or some combination of olive oil and another oil, about 1/3 inch of oil per pan until the oil is hot, but not smoking ever! Medium heat will work fine. Lay out several clean dish towels and put the salted eggplant rounds or wedges on the towels. With another dry dish towel pat the eggplants dry. I endeavor not to use paper products in my kitchen, but if you have to use paper towels, I’ll never know.

Place the dried wedges in the oil. They will be in the oil for a while, until they turn reddish-brown, then turn them over somewhere between three and five minutes per side. Have another colander next to your stove, also sitting in a bowl. When the wedges are reddish-brown on both sides, take them out with a fork, letting as much oil as you can drip back into the pan, and put them in the clean colander. This process is the time-consuming part of this adventure in cuisine . It will take about 40 minutes to an hour or more standing over several pans of hot oil with lots of wedges of eggplant in them for a dish that everyone will love and which will be consumed in ten minutes.

You have to love your guests to make this dish for them. While the eggplants are cooking and you are checking on them, you can prepare the tomatoes and the onions. Chop finely the parsley, and green onions. You can do the tomatoes in smallish chunks, not tiny, and place all of this in a bowl together.

When all the eggplant wedges have been cooked, drain the largest of your pans (that has a lid) of the hot oil. Do not wash out this pan just drain it. Put it back on the stove and turn it on low, put the cooked eggplant wedges and all the other ingredients in the pan and stir them up so they are combined well. Grind a ton of black pepper over all of this, mix and cover. Cook on low heat for about 15–20 minutes, stirring two or three times. You won’t need extra oil or salt.

Serve this with Paul’s Perfect Raita and some fresh greens. You can make a grain like couscous or rice and some kind of tofu or fish dish or just eat this plain with a good ethnic bread. Make sure you scrape the pan of the yummy juices when you are done. This dish is also great a few days later, so if you want to make it ahead of time and then refrigerate it, that’s fine. It takes two to three hours from start to finish to make. Important tips, using more than one pan to fry wedges in, lightly wiping the salt or salt sweat off each wedge, breathing a lot and not attempting this dish with children nearby. If it didn’t take so long to do, I’d make it every week in the summer months when eggplants and tomatoes are at their peak.

Iranian Eggplant and Fresh Kale
Iranian Eggplant and Fresh Kale