Bubbie is the Yiddish word for
Grandmother. It is a term of endearment and to this day I know not a soul who
embodies the old school Bubbie tradition quite like mine. But then again, I
think everyone believes their Bubbie is the cutest. Mine though people, is really cute. And if you sit with her long enough to really start talking she is a wealth of
wisdom, comedy, and unmatched strength.
Bubbie was quite the cook in her
day and she called all of us in the family her best costumers. In fact her food
was so good that my uncle used to sell some of her items like chopped liver,
kugel, and gifilte fish in his Jewish deli. People all around Baltmore used to
look for Minnies chopped liver. The item was so epic it was considered a poetic symphony of
Jewish eating delight, much like the chef herself.
When I was young and before it was
trendy to be gluten free, dairy free, soy free and the like, I would eat all
the food she made. I ate all her cooking because I loved it and I loved her. I
always felt nourished by her without thinking twice. As I grew into my teens
and began to see my family in more of a stark broad daylight, I was less able
to tolerate some of her foods. I became more controlling over what I chose to
consume and I believe accepting and rejecting food was one of the ways I did
I became vegan, watched my sugar
intake, stopped eating carbs and in general became the one in the family
rejecting the foods of our family. But rejecting the family cooking was
synonymous with rejecting the family. I think I had to do this for my own
sanity and growth. But that time did not come trouble and pain free. In fact
quite the opposite. I was heart broken that I felt that in order to find myself I
had to reject my family and of all people Bubbie.
People have a whole vast array of
relationships with their grandparents. I certainly was not close with my Grandfather the way I was with Bubbie. I never had a nanny so if my parents
couldn’t take care of me I got sent to Bubbie’s. So basically she helped raise
me as much as my parents, but of course she never reprimanded me. She only
every fed me delights and told my I had a shena punim (which means pretty
face). Her support was unending but I felt like as I grew into my later teens
and twenties she started to loose me because I was changing. I was defiant
because that’s what you do at 18. It was hard to move to college
and be away from her and the guilt was consuming.
Bubbie could never quite understand
why it was that I wouldn’t eat her food anymore. I think on some level she felt
disappointed she could not connect with me in the same way as we once had. After all,
when I moved to college our relationship drastically changed. I used to talk to
her almost everyday and see her at least once if not twice a week. This then
became weekly phone calls, which became monthly phone calls, which became
bimonthly phone calls, which became three visits a year. More recently I have
been trying to call her more, even if she only stays on the phone for a few minutes.
Bubby is hard of hearing, and refused to get a hearing aid after all these
years and she is pretty good at reading lips. But it is hard to read lips
through the telephone. She sort of just asks me if the weather is good, if I
feel okay, if I am done with school, and if still teach people to bend in half.
(which is her understanding of yoga which is of course partly true). I have come to earn that even thought the
three to five minute conversation might not be that satisfying for me, it is
For her to hear my voice and have me tell her I am alright and happy
and for her to know I am thinking of her, is enough. She always ends the call
with profusely thanking me for calling her.
"thank you, Livia. Thank you dear for calling. Thank you so much for calling sweetheart."
This without fail brings tears to
my eyes every time we say goodbye. My parents tell me when I call her it makes
For many years I felt a tremendous
weight and guilt for moving away from Bubbie. I felt like she would never
understand how and why I couldn’t live in Baltimore anymore. Still when we end
our brief phone conversations I feel that twinge in my side of wishing I could
live there for her. She gave me so much I wish there was something I could give
One day when I was visiting a while
ago, I expressed how I felt badly I lived so far away. She looked me in the eye
and said in her distinctive polish accent “Vell, I only want you to be happy.
You have to do what makes you happy. Then I am happy.” So it is hard to be so
far away. I know she wishes sometimes it was like the old days and we could all be
together. But Bubbie was never one to stop me from following a dream and so
she has smiled and sent me on my way for a long time now.
me closer to her in our distance nowadays is when I cook in her vein. I have perfected
the art of the kugel and although I still am gluten free, soy free, dairy free,
egg free. Whenever I make it, I always have a little piece. Guess what? The allergic
responses I have to those food items doesn’t really come into play as intensely
when I eat the food that was made with such love, care and devotion.