Saturday, June 25, 2011

Upbringing vs.Personal Responsibility

A new singer candidate for my choir: "I regret stopping piano, but my parents didn't make me practice". Hey, that's my line, but I don't buy it anymore. It's so much easier to blame someone else or find excuses than acting upon something we consider important.

I hear adults in their 50 and 60s blaming or praising their parents/teachers/siblings for the way their lives turned out and I can't stop wondering where is that elusive boundary between upbringing and the choices we make. Unlike canned food, upbringing doesn't come with an expiry date. Its impact diminishes with time, making room for personal responsibility. Or does it?

Thursday, June 9, 2011


For some time now, I was looking to replace my 30-years old Kenwood Chef. It was a great mixer (still is) but it got old and noisy and there was no food processor matching this old model. I looked into the separate mixer (like KitchenAid) and food processor configuration, but since I keep the mixer on the counter-top, the all-in-one idea makes a lot more sense to me. So naturally, when I saw the new Kenwood Chef models in the importer's glitzy showroom, they felt familiar and reliable, just like my battle-proven model and I decided to buy one. Got a good price and took a unit from the importer (same place I bought the previous one 30 years ago) the same day.

When chefs use food processors on cooking shows, it seems so easy and convenient. You place the food in the bowl, close the lid and rotate a dial to turn on the machine and set its operating speed. It looked as even a person with two left hands like me can use a food processor with no difficulty. Although  I'm a novice user of the new machine, I assumed that all Kenwood products are easy to use like my old mixer, so I made a brave move and planned the Shavuoth meal for 8 (invited some friends over) around the new food processor attachment. This decision is actually in line with my risk-taking cooking policy of using my friends as guinea pigs for new dishes I prepare.

So I over-chopped some onions (common beginners' mistake), as I don't yet have the right correlation between processing time and food granularity. I also used the food processor for mixing and learned it would have been better to just chop the onions and use the K-beater for mixing. But these are minor issues. Apart from being too small, the major problem of this attachment is that it can be mounted on the mixer body only in a certain hard-to-achieve position. Also, it is over-engineered for safety: the lid cannot be open while the attachment is installed on the mixer, even when the power is off and there is no risk it'll chop your fingers. If you need to taste what's inside and add ingredients accordingly, you have to remove and install the attachment for each tasting. Obviously, the Kenwood engineers haven't heard of usability tests.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Timisoara Reunion 2011

When I lived in Oradea (sometimes I wonder if I ever did),  youngsters from Transylvania studied either in Cluj, or in Timisoara, as only these nearby cities had universities (a few studied in Bucharest or Iasi). Timisoara also had a rabbi: Dr. Ernest Neumann. Being a larger city and having affiliate citizens (as they now call these past students), Jews from Timisoara are a large, organized  group, thanks to Getta, the late rabbi's daughter, who maintains a site and publishes a monthly newsletter, featuring Jewish cultural events and related  activities.

She was one of the main organizers of the Timisoara reunion, held last week in Haifa. My husband studied in Timisoara, so we decided to participate, although I knew I wouldn't meet many acquaintances there. Since I had a plan to organize a reunion of Oradean Jews (but on a much larger scale), I decided to make this a learning experience.

The organizers invested a lot of time and effort in this meeting, but they lack practical experience in logistics, or so it seemed from the many organizational glitches. With more than 200 attendees, the site was in a busy Haifa location with no parking facilities. After a sweaty 15-minute walk, we arrived, got our name tags, a booklet and CD (was not clear what is being given out and where), and found ourselves in this crowded restaurant garden, with no mingling area and appetizers. There were no seating arrangements, so it took a very long time and some nerve-wrecking moments until everybody was seated. The speeches went on for too long, while the crowd was already impatient and hungry. The food was buffet-style, a difficult arrangement for the older participants (there were plenty in their 80s). Finding it unpleasant to stand in line for food, I never made it to the buffet. My husband brought me a plate with some salad, meat and petrous rice. Getta made a very nice movie for the occasion, but the screen was small and not visible from all tables.

Seeing old friends beats technicalities, so people really seemed to enjoy the reunion. I met some fellow Oradeans, Daniel Klein, Getta's son, and the reps of two Romanian organizations in Israel I didn't know about: former Labour minister Micha Harish of AMIR and Dan Krizbai of ICR, and even the rep of Radio Romania in Tel Aviv, Dragos Ciocirlan.

The cost per participant was a mere NIS 170 and the remaining budget (!) was donated to the Jewish cemetery in Timisoara. The well-meaning organizers are maybe not the best logistics experts, but for sure they are financial wizards.