March is here and thoughts turn to Purim. I am thinking of Queen Esther, courageous and clever and of my beloved grandmother Esther Birenbaum. She never knew her exact birthday but she knew she was named Esther because she was born near Purim and so she celebrated her 103 birthdays in March. Like Queen Esther she was an orphan (at least I think Queen Esther was an orphan or why would she be raised by her uncle?) and she was very brave. She left Poland alone as a young woman and arrived at Ellis Island and started a new life. She learned a trade and became a sewing machine operator in a factory, she learned English, got married and had a family. She was very wise despite never having had any formal education. When I would visit we would sit at her kitchen table and she would serve coffee and her homemade cookies. She taught me so many important lessons: life is a college; home is best; never spend more than you earn; clean the house first thing in the morning, then you are free to enjoy the day; always a mother. She encouraged me to marry my husband (best advice, ever).
My grandmother lived through unimaginable hardships and life tragedies. The most devastating was the death of her daughter Lillian, when she was 44. She could reflect on her experiences with Pogroms, anti-Semitism, homelessness, immigration, poverty and widowhood but she never recovered from my mother’s death. My grandmother Esther always encouraged and supported me. Her belief in me was something I will always have, it is my legacy from her and I am forever grateful. She really loved me. She taught me the act of loving can not only lift and sustain, it can save lives.
In the spirit of Esthers, in Persia or the Bronx, let’s give ourselves time to have coffee and a treat with each other. My grandmother never tasted a scone but here is my recipe. Give it a try.
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Put In food processor : 1 ½ cups flour, ½ cup cornmeal, ½ cup brown sugar, 1 TBSP baking powder, 1 tsp baking soda, ¼ tsp cinnamon. Pulse to combine.
Add ½ cup(one stick) unsalted butter, pulse until sand-pea size, don’t over do it.
Add 1 egg, 1 tsp vanilla, ¼ cup cream or plain yogurt. Pulse just until combined.
Dump out into large bowl, and add ½ cup dried fruit (currants, dried cherries ,etc.) and ½ cup nuts (walnuts, pecans) and knead with your hands just to combine.
Put dough on baking sheet, cut into triangles or use round biscuit/cookie cutter.
Bake @ 15 minutes and enjoy!
~Susan Goldwasser, WRS President