As has often been the case lately, I find myself not knowing what to write. After a few weeks off, today is the first day of the latest session of Nerissa’s writing group. In the chit chat before the group formally started, one of the participants remarked in response to something someone else said, “What am I -chopped liver? That quip brought back memories of the dish.
For several months, leading up to Passover, my mother would save both the liver and the fat – schmaltz – from every chicken she cooked. She was following her mother’s practices. My grandmother and grandfather owned a delicatessen in Long Beach, Long Island. As I have written elsewhere, my grandmother was an amazing cook, although she cooked Eastern European dishes and did not really cook American things such as a hamburger.
Once my mother had enough livers and fat, my father took over. He would render the fat; the pieces left over were gribenes. Gribenes, similar to pork cracklings, are one of the best foods in the world. I would love to have some right now.
Using the rendered schmaltz, my father would chop and mix the liver with the fat and some onions. Delicious. Memories of food are all mixed up with memories of the people who made the dishes. Eating gribenes and chopped liver would feed my palate but also my soul. Remembering my father, with his sly humor, cooking with me, a sometimes-sullen teenager is both sad and comforting.
I have my grandmother’s apron from the store. That is what we called Al’s Delicatessen. Whenever I put that on, the memories flood back. Her kind, generous face. Her care for everyone in the family. My mother’s grief when her mother died.
Richard is right; to say “what am I – chopped liver?” when chopped liver carries such precious cargo must be a compliment.