Mele Kalikimakanukkah (Merry Christmas and Happy Chanukkah)

Everybody gets to celebrate today. Hallelujah!

My family is spending this Christmas morning delivering holiday meals for Lanakila Pacific’s Meals on Wheels program. Our Synagogue organizes an annual group of volunteers and we joined the team three years ago. We have made it a family tradition ever since.

And tonight we will celebrate the sixth night of Chanukkah with a holiday meal shared among friends at our home. I got up early to make chocolate fudge dreidles with the mold we got as a gift from my younger sister, boo. We’ll make brownies later with the other molds  she sent. Of course we will make latkes too.

Whenever I cook for the Jewish holidays it makes me think of my mom, especially when I make chopped liver. It was her specialty. She used a hand grinder to combine the liver and eggs and onions. When food processors debuted she continued to grind it by hand,  insisting that the new contraption made the liver to mushy. She put it in a circle mold and served it with mini pieces of rye bread. My dad loved it.

My mom made chopped liver for every holiday and I always helped her. Using a special meat grinder attachment to her Betty Crocker mixer, she would grind the liver and the eggs and the onions separately and mix them all together for the perfect blend and consistency. I remember one year she had me separate the egg yolks from the whites and we ground those separately so that when we combined it all together it wouldn’t be too “Yolky.”

I started making it about ten years ago for celebrations at our home in Hawaii. It connected us to her, living so far away, as she shared her recipe and techniques. It evoked vivid memories of childhood that I could share with my daughter. And now it brings wonderful memories of my mom (may she rest in peace) and makes me miss her very much.

The first time I made it, she sent me a meat grinder she  used post Betty Crocker mixer. I still use it every year. I’m willing to use a food processor for the potatoes for the latkes, but in honor of Gloria, not for the liver.

The biggest obstacles have been the shmaltz (chicken fat) and the liver. You can’t buy shmaltz in Hawaii. One year she came to visit around Chanukkah time and brought a small cooler on the plane with a jar of schmaltz just for me. Talk about the love of a Jewish Mother!

Since then, I have alternately made my own or just used Crisco.

My mom always swore that calf’s liver was the best choice for chopped liver. I have looked island wide for years, never found any and had to let chicken livers suffice. I ordered them fresh from Tamura Super Market in Wai’anae and they turned out just fine. This year I found calf liver in the commissary. Oh Happy Day.

On this Christmas day, I will grind the liver and eggs and onions as my mother has done before me.  We will fry latkes as Jews around the world have done for ages. We will start a new tradition of making chocolate dreidles for dessert.

And on this sixth night of Chanukkah, we will embrace our holiday traditions as we light the candles, say the blessings, share a meal and honor all of the miracles that people celebrate this season.