Of Kiffles Past, Present and Future

I don’t remember my great grandmother. I know some things about her, and I own the rolling pin that used to be hers. There’s even a picture of me sitting on her lap when I was very small. But I don’t even have a ghost of a memory of her. And I don’t remember ever crying over her until Christmastime this year.

The most vivid and tangible association with my great grandmother is kiffles. Kiffles are a Hungarian cookie made of plain dough with a raisin and nut filling, and we have a family recipe passed down from my great grandmother that we use to make them every Christmas. You know it’s a bona fide full blown traditional family recipe, because it even comes with disagreement between my grandmother and my great aunt about the proper way to make them.

Based on my father’s childhood memories of kiffles, our branch of the family has gone with my grandmother’s version, cooking the filling before rolling it into the dough, as that seems to produce the most authentic results. I’ve honed my kiffle making abilities pretty well over the years, and I have it on good authority that the taste is wonderful.

But like any good family recipe, the directions are a bit sketchy. With some general baking experience I can intuit what the dough is supposed to feel like, and which of the various amounts of flour lead to that feel. I can experiment to get the filling to stay in the cookie instead of running all over the cookie sheet (mostly). But I have no idea what size squares and then triangles the dough is supposed to be cut into for each cookie.

And for some reason, this Christmas as I was rolling out kiffle dough it really hit me for the first time that I can’t ask my great grandmother what size the kiffles are supposed to be. I can’t watch her make them and take notes for my children. The sum total of her kiffle knowledge that has been passed on is written on the front of a 3×5 card in my grandmother’s handwriting, with a short list of filling ingredients on the back in my handwriting.

I can’t find any evidence on the internet of the quote that’s hovering the back of my head, but someone, perhaps Martin Luther, was musing on how wonderful the beer will be in heaven, where beermakers have thousands of years to perfect their recipes.

I would have to imagine that in a place where no knowledge is lost before in can be passed on, the kiffles are truly amazing.

Of Pink Salt and Mondays

I’m very excited to have Himalayan sea salt in my kitchen now. Literally, there’s a big plastic bag of pink salt sitting on the floor of my kitchen, containing my 6 1/4 pound share of the 25 pound bag several of us split. The surprising thing is how dense salt is, and how little space 25 pound bags of salt take up compared to say, a 25 pound bag of wheat.

Why so attached to my salt you may ask? Well, the main reason is for my iodine intake. I’ve been taking selenium to help my thyroid function more effectively, but I’m hoping with the combination of selenium and more iodine in my diet, my thyroid will really take off (so to speak). I’ve read that himalayan salt has all kinds of trace minerals and is amazingly good for you and pretty much cures every medical condition there is, so that’s a nice bonus I guess….

Today has been the kind of day that reminds me why I really want to get my thyroid straightened out. I don’t know for sure if it’s my thyroid, or the Lyme disease, or the antibiotics, but what started out as a blah Monday has become a clearly not quite right kind of day.

I’m tired–more so than usual for the past week or so–but the most noticeable sign of not being quite right is the emotional roller coaster I seem to be riding. Not the up and down kind, just the really swervy kind. The kind where I get distracted from stressing out about every social situations I’ve been in for the past two days, and wondering how many dumb things I said, by crying over random Christmas music that isn’t particularly sad.

I struggled through most of the day until I remembered one of my rules of thumb from being single. Put succinctly, emotions happen. Yes, I realize they’re not as uncontrollable as everyone makes them out to be, but particularly on a day when I suspect my emotional roller coaster has some kind of chemical cause in my currently somewhat broken physiology, it’s helpful to remember to just say, “Yep, that’s how I feel right now. Moving on.”

Despite the fact that I’m not feeling like a productive, happy person right now, there is grocery shopping and baking to plan, Christmas music that needs to be listened to, and dishes which will probably make me much happier when they’re drying in the dish drain instead of piled on the counter. I should perhaps not remind myself of such things as Christmas parties to go to, as they sound rather exhausting at the moment… I can, however, easily believe that Christmas decorations will probably make me happy in the very near future.

So, after eking out the energy to do laundry, trying and failing to nap, and washing most of the dishes, I tackled a project that is making me happy today: salt. I dumped out my old boring sea salt (into a plastic baggie–surely you didn’t think I just threw it away?) and washed both my salt shakers and my kitchen salt jar in preparation for filling them with new, lovely pink salt. It’s been that kind of a day.