Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus Egypt – XXIII. My Years at 12A Rue Khantaret Ghamra – Food (8 of 18) 

Nonna Helene and aunt Angele

My paternal grandmother followed a road very similar to my other grandmother. They both belonged to the same generation, and, accordingly, were subject to the same influences. There were, however, differences to my relationship with them.

Nonna Bida lived with us for 5 months every year; I also saw her for 2 months every summer. She was also better able to share her early life with the younger generation. Therefore, not surprisingly, I was closer to Bida than to Helene. I can, however, say with all sincerity that I loved them both deeply. They were the magic ingredient that every child needs in order to become a stable adult.

I mention both my grandmother and my aunt in the same section because both lived together for a long time. Aunt Angele married in Israel in her early forties; by then, nonna Helene had passed away.

Helene was a superb cook. In putting a meal together she was helped by Angele. And here I had for many years a nagging question: Was my aunt a good cook in her own right, or was the food I ate there mainly cooked by my grandmother? Many years later, I would get my answer.

Nonna Helene food was different. At an early age, I learned that you can derive a very different enjoyment out of the same dish depending upon how it was cooked.

I loved to be invited there for a meal, and to my great delight, I was a frequent guest. I especially liked the congeniality that existed when uncle Joseph and one of his friends were sharing our repast.

There was one friend, Nessim, who, when invited, always requested the same thing: Baccala (salted cod) in tomato sauce as an appetizer, and oxtail with potatoes as an entree. Invariably he loved the meal and couldn’t find the right words in the Arabic language to fully express his gratitude.

I used to love to ask my grandmother how much Nessim enjoyed her cooking; her answer was always the same: akal asab’iou (he ate his fingers!) I asked my question even when I was there and shared the meal! An indication of how much I enjoyed hearing her answer as she delivered it in her juicy Arabic!

The English language does not have the right words to describe my nonna’s oxtail with potatoes. It could be served to the angels! As for the baccala, it simply melted in your mouth.

Time went by. We had left Egypt and we were all in Israel. Aunt Angele had married a wonderful man, Manny. Manny was a partner in a moshav (collective farm). They lived in the beautiful Sharon Valley. At the first opportunity, I went there to spend a few days with them.

I thoroughly enjoyed their beautiful home, and the peace and quiet of the country. I especially liked the evenings spent on the patio, and all the details provided by uncle Manny regarding moshav life.

The big revelation, however, was the cuisine of aunt Angele. Her food was sublime. There were echoes of nonna Helene’s cooking. She had taught her only daughter well.

I finally had the answer to my question: The tasty meals I had by nonna Helene were a labor of love carried out by a beloved grandmother and a cherished aunt.

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