jewin' the fat


Killer Queen Cuisine – Cooking for the UnDomesticated Goddess
April 24, 2010, 10:36 AM
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Thanks a lot Poh. You too Nigella, KylieMyrna – hell, even those women from Better Homes & Gardens are making me feel like a pariah, with their easy-as-1-2-3 bread and butter spectaculars and feed-the-poor-tired-and-hungry enthusiasm for kneading bread and basting flesh. 

Personally, I’d rather pop a Coopers and watch someone do it for me. And most nights, I do. 

See, I suffer the unusual and glorious ailment of living with a Kitchen God. That’s right, a God. Masculine. Dexterous. Full-flavoured. Talented. Gentle. Often sans shirt. And possessed of a natural ability to turn the most banal of canned items into culinary gold. It’s a delicious predicament. The only downside is this: It means I don’t cook. I can’t cook. I have no desire to learn to cook. My mother learned to cook because her mother-in-law is a domestic goddess. My sister learned to cook because her mother-in-law is a domestic goddess. And without a husband or mother-in-law to inspire/shame/berate me into kitchen up-skilling, why bother? 

‘Nuff said.

 I mean sure, I can boil an egg and put together a pasta – if I really tried I could probably marinade a chicken breast and not burn it – but with little or no reason to put myself out (thanks to Kitchen God), I will forever remain a Lady of Lunchtime (and dinner-time) Leisure. 

When I first moved out of home, there was a mad-scramble to accumulate recipes. It  was clear that I would not be mastering complex french cuisine, and so I collected easy, 1 pot standards that would see me through the week and remove the temptation of an ever-rising tab at the local Thai take-away. And they were pretty outstanding. On paper. Likewise, these days, the slow cooker is still tucked away in its cupboard, gathering dust and derision from generations of women who loved nothing more than feeding their loved ones. The carefully removed Food and Wine pages of the Sunday papers are dutifully tucked in and amongst the unopened pages of recipes books, which proudly proclaim simple satisfaction in ten minutes or less. That is, if they were used properly. Or at all. 

I was brought up in a family where women were confined by their gender to traditional roles of domesticity. My father brought us up to become financially independent, educated and self-reliant. Professional fulfillment was ours to take. Except that as well as career achievement and happiness, there was an another hope for three daughters – personal fulfillment, families, yes – but futures filled with more possibilities than just a variety of baked goods.

It’s tough being a woman these days. Body surfing in a bikini is hazardous. Body-scaping for a bikini too. Toddlers are promotion-kryptonite, and nannies are a definite no-no. The higher we climb, the less able we are to manoeuvre between a precarious stacked ladder and a double-glazed 3 inch thick glass ceiling – and now? The competition is only going to become more fierce, as men suddenly realise that the kitchen is not just a place to “mix it up”, and that the nutella isn’t actually a welcome addition to the bedroom, but more like a welcome addition to a batch of brownies. 

But never fear. For every sharply dressed and confident SNAG who grows his own herbs, strawberries and chilli, and who knows the difference between a heavy based saucepan and a large tin bucket, there are still a few sharply dressed, confident and spoiled mummy’s boys who can’t boil the kettle without alerting the fire department. 

Making sure the one you find supplements your skills – that’s personal happiness ladies. And at least one of you will use that damn slow cooker.

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Older and/or Wiser

First things first – Happy New Year y’all. Here’s hoping that resolutions were made and broken, champagne glasses emptied and dignity lost in the fun and fury. It’s 2010, and we are officially living in a sci-fi novel – Brave New World indeed.

Secondly, an apology – I have let life, love and living get in the way of blogging. Especially because, if you weren’t aware, I’ve been Mid-East side for the past month or so. And in among all the crazy, I have let slide this little venture. … Mostly because I didn’t want to spill Jameson on my lap top. And despite being in the thick of it, with a million and one things to write reams and reams about, to put it simply, I’m on holiday, and cbf. So Sorry.

But then again, it has been a fairly decent while in cyber-terms, so here’s my resolution. I will make a concerted effort to not be a lazy ass, and get back on the blogging-bandwagon. Starting now.

2009 was a memorable year. It taught us the value of money, once we lost it, and the stupidity of trusting financial institutions. It also taught us that hiding $1 million in a mattress can backfire. It began with a bang that shook Gaza, and is still shaking the world, and ended with a silence on Darfur that is deafening.

 2009 was brought to you by the colour Green, and Twitter became (and still is) the protest medium of choice for thousands of young Iranians. 2009 was the year Australian politics got (mildly) interesting – and the first year an Abbott and a Bishop ruled the Liberal Party. It was also the year that his Honour, the Honorable Honorary Jew himself, Malcolm Turnbull, found himself out on his ass (but still with that amazing BRW Richest 200 fortune to fall back on), Nathan Rees locked us out of parliament, and the year Kristina Keneally found the spare set of keys.

Melbourne trains got an overhaul, Brendan Fevola got pissed and lost his shit at the Brownlows, and Nate Myles got pissed and actually took a shit in a hotel corridor. The British Supreme Court ruling against the Jewish Free School told us how to be Jewish, and John Safran’s Race Relations showed us how to be crude – ish.

Settlements, Satire, Sexting and Sagging – we remember 2009. Another year older, but not necessarily wiser. Except for Ron Weiser. That guy is a champion.



I’m dreaming of a Crunk Christmas
December 27, 2009, 10:21 AM
Filed under: Comment, Israel | Tags: , , , , ,

There is nothing like experiencing religious fervour in Jerusalem. Home of the Jerusalem Sydnrome (wiki Wiki wiki), and the world’s greatest neighbourhood scrapfight, it is the place to be for the spiritually inclined and religiously observant.

And so what better place to ring in the birth of Jesus Christ than the City of Peace itself? As an Australian Jew, Christmas was long understood as a means to drag one more public holiday outta the government under the guise of religion, while spending the eve of said holiday getting tanked at the Greengate Hotel, then eating a fully kosher Christmas lunch, and lying on a secluded beach, with the rest of the Jewish population of Northern Sydney.

 

It was obvious that this was not going to be one of those festive holidays. For starters, it was cold, and rather than sprawled on their couch with the fan turned up to ‘Max’ sleeping off the food-coma, people were rugged up and streaming through the streets, with one destination in mind. The Old City.

So after finishing up Sheva Brachot at my girl D, we got our ‘jacket’ on, and made a beeline for the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in the heart of the Old city, which was closed. FAIL. Next best was Christ Church (originality abounded), a messianic Church, filled to bursting with earnest pilgrims seeking spiritual enlightenment, and some festive cheer. Then there was our rag-tag group of 11 – seeking spiritual SLR shots and festive cheers (in liquid form). So after a bit of Psalm-singin’ and Photo-flashin’, we made a sharp about-turn, and headed back into the city to seek a more … traditional christmas fare. After the first couple of bars, and several shots later, I met a frum friend of mine, and we made our way to Gan Sacher , a huge park near the entrance to the city. A friend of mine was DJing a local rave, known for its propensity to incite local police with breaks, beats and debauchery. Did I mention it was in a tunnel?

Needless to say, the night was a rollicking success, and after several hours of pounding musical ecstasy, it came time to retire to the comfort of a friend’s place for an ecstasy of an entirely different variety. what a way to celebrate a birthday.

This is me, signing off, so have a Merry Christmas Bitches, and a Happy Freakin’ New Year!



Thought for the Day
December 4, 2009, 12:34 AM
Filed under: Israel, Zionism | Tags: , , , , , ,

When flying El Al into Israel, it seems an obligation to not only stare apprehensively out of the windows upon descent into Israeli airspace (no matter what seat you happen to be in, that is), but to engage in two thoroughly unsafe behaviours, most unusual for those well versed in proper travel etiquette.

1) Disregarding flight attendants’ (repeated) instructions to remain seated until the seatbelt sign is turned off. Manifests in passengers being forcefully sat back down by frustrated attendants, only for the passenger to get back up and continue to stretch/remove bags from overhead locker/kibbitz to their husband friend or significant other.

2) Rapturous clapping upon touchdown. It reminds me of what a potential So You Think You Can Fly style reality TV show. In the event of such behaviour, common courtesy dictates joining in is not only encouraged, but demanded by the psyche of the masses. Sure, you don’t know if they are clapping the ability of the pilot to land the plane (superfluous much?) or his ability to land it in the right spot (er, even the ticket said Tel Aviv … it shouldn’t be so hard), but do not underestimate the vivacity of cabin-fevered Israelis.

I have travelled El Al a total of three times into Israel, and if they didn’t say that the third time was the charm, I would be seriously concerned by the oddity of it all. But it seems this is a naturally occurring phenomenon, and until such time as passengers get over the excitement of  the simple act of landing a plane, and that plane landing in Israel, it won’t be dying down any time soon.



For Shame
November 11, 2009, 10:28 AM
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Remembrance Day is a sacred part of Australian culture and history. There is nothing more spine chilling than a nation stopping on the 11th day of the 11th month, at the 11th hour, to remember their fallen sons, brothers, fathers and friends. 

Even as I stood for a minutes silent reflection, I found myself moved to tears at the awesome sacrifice over 102 000 people have made in the name of our country. It is an overwhelming act for many people, and an all to real one for others.

But standing at work is not the only way to mark Remembrance Day. I was only 19, beautifully re-created by Australian hip hop group The Herd(here), the power of Laurence Binyon’s poem, For The Fallen, and services at Australian War Memorial in Canberra have long been a means to remember our fallen soldiers.

But how on earth did the Queensland Retired Servicemens League imagine a RINGTONE would be an appropriate, respectful, and tasteful way to bring Remembrance Day into the 21st Century?

Disgusting.



Jew is as Jew does

We knew it would happen eventually, and you know what they say – when the shit hits the fan, everyone gets covered in it.

I’m talking of course about the imminent ruling of the Supreme Court in Britain, regarding the case of a Jewish boy who was born to an Orthodox Jewish father, and Progressive Jewish mother (a Convert). This boy, whom the courts have dubbed ‘M’, was denied enrolment to the Jewish Free School (JFS) in London, on account of the fact that the school adheres to a strict Orthodox-only enrolment policy. ‘M”s parents decided to sue on the grounds of racial discrimination, and so we find ourselves waiting with bated breath for the ruling that could change the very way we define ourselves, and our community as Jewish, right here in Australia.

Jewish

Up until now this has been protected by the laws in the UK governing religious freedoms, especially in running educational institutions. Now whatever you believe about the validity of a school operating for the youth of a particular religion, this case is basically proposing that rather than a religion, being Jewish is purely a blood-line – a ‘race’.  

In fact, this case goes to the very fibre of what a ‘Jew’ is in our contemporary society – a race, ethnicity, culture, nation, religion – and whether it is possible to have our cake and eat it too. 

I’ll begin with a story. As with most great stories, this is a tale follows a simple and popular narrative structure.

There is a boy. He meets a girl. At a summer camp for young (Jewish) people. Needless to say, by the end of the camp, they are smitten, and they begin to date. He is a good Jewish boy, from a nice family in Sydney’s north, and she is a sweet, funny Jewess from the south-East of the city. The relationship barrels along, sparks fly, plans are made and before you know it, he is on one knee on a beach proposing they spend forever together.

Except that Mother didn’t tell her daughter that when she married the girl’s father, she was impatient, in love and ill prepared for the tumult of Orthodox conversion. So she converted as a Reform Jew. And that her Orthodox-educated, raised and believing daughter, according to Halacha, is one too.

Now at this point, the story shifts focus, and for many, it becomes a crash course in choose-your-own-adventure – something that many are not prepared for at all. I mean, she was from the right side of the tracks – hell, she could even be more observant than he is, but it changes little in terms of the strict Halacha that governs these situations. And again, agree or not with the Jewish law, this is a purely religious standard, for those who wish to abide by it.

But what about civil liberties? Where is the space in this paradigm for human rights? The ability of a citizen of a country to choose his or her own destiny, regardless of their race, religion, class, sex or sexual orientations? Recent calls by prominent Muslim community spokesperson, Keysar Trad to integrate Shariah Law into the Victorian legal system were met with anger and condemned as being an affront to the very independence and multilateralism of justice. For all. Imagine if the laws governing Jewish marriage, death, divorce – were all suddenly absorbed into a secular, national system, and overruled by it. It will destroy a system that thrives in its separation of church and state.

Australians are beholden to a justice system steeped in British traditions, as according to our history as a former British colony. Our government system, our past times, eating habits – even the Jewish community in Australia looks to the London Beth Din to dictate the terms of Orthodoxy, and rule of matters of Jewish life and law.

So what happens if the British Supreme Court rules in ‘M”s favour?

Well, no doubt it’s decision would need to be accepted by the London Beth Din, and changes made to the JFS accordingly. It means that the right to define who is a Jew is taken away from the community, and given to the courts, in direct contradiction to the human rights of the individual to practise their religion freely and without prejudice.

It means for Australian Jewish schools, clubs and organisations, precedents are being set removing the autonomy of the institution, and the religious structure of the Australian community may begin to erode. It means that while our claim as a nation may be upheld, our religious rights as Jews may not be.

It means that the rights of the individual are protected in law, above and beyond the rights of the community. Unlike other peoples, Jews have ensured their survival over millenia through the power of tzdaka, the importance of tikkun olam and the power of the many, over the self-interest of the few. It would be a shame to start now.

It also means that for Australians, we may have to accept that being a Jew is no longer just an ethno-culture or religion, but strictly defined by the word ‘race’, a concept created by those groups who would have seen Jews eradicated – and almost did.

And that is something I, and you, and even those still perched on the fence,  should not be forced to abide.



Ennui-tainment (Part 2)

The stubborn refusal to give tragedy the final say

There seems to be a distinctly anti-Generation-Y movement which undercuts the question of Shoah re-commemoration.

See, for years there has been a very stable, highly enforced method of interacting with the history of Holocaust, and an especially enforced standard of commemoration of that history. It included extreme reverence, highly emotive triggers, and a heaviness of the soul that most Jewish youth associate with any Holocaust-related public conversation.

Then, after upwards of 50 years of silent, sombre and most sincere reflection, young  Jewish people began to do with the Holocaust what young Jewish people have done with Shabbat, Zionism and other sacred cows – they turned it on its head.Cyanide and Happiness 

Which is not to say that young Jews today don’t appreciate the gravity of the Holocaust. Rather, they over-appreciate it. They are saturated in understanding. Like the children of Holocaust survivors who were drowning in the silence of their parents, these third-generation Jews are likewise drowning in the over-exposure their parents are kindly facilitating.  

Is visiting a death camp at 16 an age-appropriate experience? Indeed, can one ask an 11-year-old to comprehend or relate to the number 1 000 000, let alone light a candle to remember 1 000 000 children killed in the Shoah? How do you explain hatred for hatred’s sake, without condescending, or killing for ethnicity’s sake, without terrifying?

Would it surprise you that even our nightmares are Shoah related? I challenge any Jewish person to deny that they have had at least one, if not lifelong Holocaust-themed dreams. Mine involved abbatoir-style slaughter-houses, with loved ones forced like cattle through the turnstiles, awaiting their death, with nothing to be done. And for a long time, there was nothing to be done but tread water in the overwhelming tide that threatened to overpower our connection to our history altogether.

As time separated the generations from the immediacy of the tragedy, and threatened to disconnect them from its meaning, humour became the bridge which allowed Jews to take back the power, and stubbornly refused to submit to the magnitude of victimhood. Suddenly there was a means to process this massive influence in our lives – a method to understand the madness. What started with the Ghetto reinterpretations of Hitler’s masterpiece Mein Krampft (My Cramp) and the naming of dogs and pigs ‘Adolf’, became a critical communal and coping mechanism for those affected by Nazi policies. Survivor and Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl said in Mans Search for Meaning,

“We knew that we had nothing to lose except our ridiculously naked lives. When the showers started to run, we all tried very hard to make fun, both about ourselves and about each other. After all, real water did flow from the sprays!”

Half a century on this tradition continues, to the chagrin and horror of the PC police and inflated egos that cannot understand that Heeb Magazine’s mockery of Holocaust memoirs stems from a moral disgust that the once noble premise of documenting history has become a money-making industry – so why not write your own Holocaust memoir? And if we want to truly destroy the power of Hitler, how better than to belittle his memory and mock his self-righteousness character with a series of YouTube videos here, here and here? And here. And there. And here too.

People like Rosanne Barr hit the nail on the head – Sure it’s sick and twisted to don a moustache and bake Burnt Jew Cookies in an oven, but what are we so blinded by our pride and self-importance that we cannot see the irony and power of the inversion? When someone like Barr suggests such a photo shoot, a woman whose life has been dedicated to offending as many people as possible with her brand of take-no-prisoners humour, everything is fair game. As she herself told Heeb:

“He killed my whole family, it is true, but he is also dead, and I, a Jewish woman am still alive to make fun of him, and I will continue to make fun of the little runt for the rest of my life! He, and his ideas need to be laughed at even more these days, picked apart and analyzed up and down, as there are more and more people denying his crimes, and more and more despots trying to copy them.”

This peculiar cultural revenge is replicated again and again, in the infamous character actor Sascha Baron Cohen playing an anti-Semitic Kazakh in Borat, or in the faux-terror of Seinfeld‘s dreaded ‘Soup Nazi’ – turning the stereotype on its head, and in doing, fulfilling the hopes of the millions of victims encapsulated in the Talmudic verse: “The best revenge is to live”.

Call it revenge porn, but Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds could be regarded as the best antidote to the evils of the Nazi regime since Chaplin’s The Dictator. Tellingly, after the screening of Tarantino’s film, I bumped into a Jewish couple in their mid-sixties who could not fathom how such a film was even produced, let alone enjoyed – such was their disgust for the film’s subversion of the traditional power-relationship of the Shoah.

Where younger viewers whooped and heckled as Nazi’s were gunned down, and the image of a young Jewish woman laughed, rising in flames as the harbinger of death and destruction upon a Nazi crowd, wreaking her luscious revenge … it was a sweet moment for this generation.

2009_inglorious_bastards_002

Still from Inglorious Basterds

This tale of Jews taking back their honour and their lives from the Nazi regime which had tried and failed to destroy them was a “once upon a time” fable that reverberated in cinemas across the world, re-forming those Shoah nightmares into Shoah fantasies, littered with scalps and bullets and relief. Far from offensive, Inglorious Basterds gave young Jews the chance to divert the course of their people’s tragic history, even if it was only for a couple of hours, in a recliner seat in a theatre in Sydney or Toronto or London. And sure it’s just a movie – but in telling this story, Tarantino validated this generation’s fantasy, and went some way to understanding the foundations of the cultural architecture of 70 years of suffering.

So rather than mis-reading young Jewish attempts to re-imagine, re-define and re-tell the story of the Holocaust as out-of-touch, inappropriate, disrespectful or ignorant – perhaps it is time to step out of the stranglehold of ‘traditional’ Holocaust commemoration, and recognise that the light of satire does not diminish any of the truth of history. Rather, it can light the way to a better understanding, and clearer picture of what the Holocaust means for Jews today.