Sof Cookbook News

Updates from Mat Sgan & Judy Goldman

Sof Cookbook Still Perking by Mat Sgan

Mat Sgan’s day on October 14, 2020 started with a very pleasant email from Judy Goldman. It seems that the Star Advertiser newspaper had a feature article about an on-line cookbook venture by the Friends of the Libraries. As Judy put it excitedly: “The photo and the sidebar include our When you Live in Hawaiʻi… cookbook. Our work lives on!” Indeed it does. Mat wrote to Judy,” Good work reaps rewards. Thanks for your part in conceiving and executing the When you live in Hawaii… cookbook. It was an accomplishment of great nourishment and interest, helped financially, and will always be a source

of pride for once and future Sof members.” The story of the cookbook like gourmet cooking itself is one of love, care, and patience. Provide good ingredients and enthusiastic chefs doing favorite dishes under supply restrictions. Add persistence in pursuit of involvement. Include heating and cooling tips. Measure carefully. Mix in talented editors and artistry. Publish, serve, and enjoy.

The Sof Passover Cookbook: Some Background Excerpts from Honey and Poi

In 1989–1990 (5750), Sof celebrated its chai “life” (eighteenth anniversary) year. It is fitting that the single most successful fundraising venture of the congregation should come to fruition in that year. The When You Live in Hawaiʻi You Get Very Creative during Passover Cookbook, edited by Judy Goldman and Davida Skigen, was published. The cookbook was illustrated by Wren. The design credit goes to Dennis Skigen. The idea for a Sof Passover cookbook began in a discussion between Judy and Davida. Their children were lamenting the nature and lack of variety in their meals during Passover. All the efforts to enlarge the available ingredients for Passover, such as group buying, supermarket alerts, and family care packages from the mainland fell short of the mark. As is the case with such small, low-budget endeavors, all of the people at one time or another did all of the jobs. The most interesting aspect may have been the testing and tasting of the recipes at different houses. This took place during the three months of serious effort involved in progressing from really rolling up their sleeves to completing the cookbook. A marvelous and somewhat miraculous achievement.

The result was not just a cookbook. Rather, it was a well-organized and well-presented religio-cultural expression of Jews fitting into a local culture: i.e. the local community in Hawaiʻi. This cookbook was a Jewish document. It combined respect for the host culture and an expression of Jewish universality. Recipes from Mexico, Turkey, Eastern Europe, Israel, Canada, China, France, Italy, Greece, and, of course, Hawaiʻi (Wikiwiki Chicken, anyone?) are adapted to use available, acceptable products. In addition, the book is a guide to Passover observance for young and old Jewish families. Sections like “Countdown to Passover” make what seems at first glance to be an enormous and difficult undertaking doable by clear scheduling and preparation over time. Seder menus of five- or six-course meals are presented with homey touches (Spicy Brisket for the Skigens’ daughter, Alexis; Polynesian Fruit Cup). A glossary of Hawaiian terms and an easy-to-use index complete this Passover guide very well. As they say nowadays, the cookbook went viral! After an initial printing in 1989, a second printing of 2,500 was approved in 1991. No special item has brought Sof such fame and fortune. It won a Special Merit Certificate in the McIlhenny/Tabasco Community Cookbook Awards competition. And Tabasco is not even mentioned in the cookbook! Testimonials from leading Jewish and non-Jewish local and national publications were received. The cookbook went through three printings over two decades. In the spring of 2002, the Style & Entertainment segment of the New York Times Magazine featured it and Sof in an article titled “The Good Books.” Photos of Robert and Bernice Littman, Ken Aronowitz and Hinda Diamond, as well as others accompanied the article.

Reflections On Our Famous Cookbook by Judy Goldman

Everyone who played a role in creating our cookbook will have memories that go beyond tasting, proof reading in our living rooms, selling, and promoting them in the community. It is more than a congregation cookbook – it’s a family cookbook – the Sof Ma’arav family. It was a tribute to mothers, fathers, children and friends, community shlichim* from Israel whose recipes are included. For newer members, you’ll see names you may recognize as early members, officers, and drashers. Whenever we travelled, I packed several cookbooks in my suitcase. They made wonderful gifts and found homes around the world including Israel, England, Canada and across the Mainland from coast to coast. It feels so good when recipients over the years have told me they made their favorite dish from our cookbook, and even prepared one when we visited, and not just at Passover. This year at Passover we were confined to our homes and shared Seders with family and friends from around the world thanks to Zoom, once again being uniquely creative for Passover in Hawaiʻi. A special treat for me was when my daughter Erica sent a video of her making “Erica’s Favorite Toffee Squares” with my grandson. They’re the same toffee squares I baked, packed in a tin and sent for her first year at college. L’dor v’dor, each recipe is a reminder of our generation, of our parents, our friends and neighbors. Their memory is for a blessing. Some examples: Davida’s “Mom’s Famous Kishka” and Dennis’s “Dad’s Stuffing,” Gertrude Serata’s “Pecan Torte,” Kirk Cashmere’s “Feta Compli,”  Livnat Bechler’s* “Sephardic Charoset,” Ronit Oren’s* ”Israeli Chicken,” and Robert Littman’s 101 year-old Grandmother’s “Stuffed Knaidlach.” Thanks to the Hawaii Friends of the Library, new readers and cooks will be introduced to a slice of Jewish life in Hawaiʻi in the 80’s and 90‘s.

* Shlichim are emissaries of Israel who came to Hawaii to live for a few years at a time. They integrated into the Jewish and greater community, brought Israeli culture and connection, led youth programs, provided informal classes to adults, and shared their particular areas of expertise. One particular insight surprised and stayed with me because it made me look with different eyes on the Torah: in high school, one of their history books was the Torah.

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