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Old and New, Right in Front of You
"Rosh Hashanah is right around the corner, and there's got to be a story, but I just can't find it," I said to my Dad in the swimming pool.
He looked at me and smiled, "What about writing how Rosh Hashanah is celebrated around the world?"
"Boring," I replied. "I need a creative story."
"Okay, what about writing a story modeled after the Charles Dickens' character who deals with the Christmas of the past, present and future."
"You mean, knock it off, and write of the Rosh Hashanah of the past, present and future?"
"Sure, his story is timeless."
I swam a few laps trying to come up with a clever way to put it together, and when I reached the end of a pool, I made a face at my Dad.
"I'm not loving it. I want a fun story. What fun story do I have about Rosh Hashanah?"
"You could talk about how it brings families together."
"True, but that's a snoozer."
My Dad shook his head. "Masada, it's not as if there's anything so new about a holiday that is thousands of years old. Maybe you should write a story about how hard it is to write a story about something that's new every year and keeps getting older, but never really changes."
Voilà! "That's exactly the story I'm going to write."
A few days later, I scheduled a baking lesson with Sol Menashe, a close family friend and former owner of a fabulous bakery. He suggested he teach me how to bake rugelach.
Our families have spent Rosh Hashanah together for as long as I can remember. It's always a great time, filled with fabulous food and funny stories. And as we were baking away, an angle started to unfold.
My Dad and Sol both grew up in Rhodesia (now known as Zimbabwe). Fast-forward 25 years, my family moved from New York to Scottsdale, Ariz., and my parents were told about Sol's bakery.
My Dad met Sol at the bakery, when they started to talk. They found that they knew people in common from their childhood. Needless to say, our families soon became fast friends. One night, they looked through Sol's childhood photos, and lo and behold, my Dad found ones of himself.
While we were mixing the dough, I asked, "Don't you think it's interesting that you met up again years later? It's a long way from Africa to Arizona. Are you sure you didn't know my Dad growing up?"
"Well, we traveled in the same circles. I'm a few years older, but we did know each other slightly," replied Sol.
Smiling, I spread the raspberry jam on the dough.
"Can I see the photos of my Dad?"
"Sure, but first sprinkle the nuts on the dough, cut it into 12 slices like you would cut a pizza and then roll them up tightly."
Moments later, once the rugelach was in the oven, he pulled out a box of black-and-white photos. The one we were able to find was my Dad diving into a swimming pool. I was shocked. Sometimes, my stories seem to write themselves. I couldn't have figured a better way to bring my story full circle than with an action shot of my father in the swimming pool.
My Dad's specific career advice back in the pool was to stay focused on writing, take action, and contact all the editors I knew and make a name for myself. Talk about diving in headfirst!
So, maybe that's the key to the New Year -- stay cool (swim a lot) and stay sweet (bake a lot).
Most importantly, try to have a little fun. Because somehow, ancient stories find new beginnings. And sometimes, you get lucky and find out that while having a little fun with rugelach, you find a sweet way to end a solid story.
For the Dough:
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
8 oz. butter, softened
2 cups all-purpose flour
For the Filling:
1 cup cinnamon-sugar mix (1 part cinnamon to 10 parts sugar)
1 jar of seedless raspberry preserves
1 cup pecans or raisins, coarsely chopped
To make the dough, mix the cream cheese and the butter in a mixer only until incorporated.
Add the flour and blend slowly and completely -- do not overmix.
Divide the dough into three pieces. Pat each down to a 4-inch diameter disk. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 4 hours or overnight.
Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar on a flat surface, and roll out one of the cooled disks into a circle 10 to 12-inches in diameter, turning several times, while adding more cinnamon-sugar.
Spread the preserves very thinly over the dough, leaving about a half-inch free around the perimeter. Sprinkle the nuts over the preserves.
Using a pizza-cutter, cut the disk into 12 triangular pieces, pizza-style, and roll up each to the center.
Place rugelach on a greased baking sheet.
Bake at 350° for 18 to 20 minutes, until golden-brown.
Cool on a rack and enjoy!
Masada Siegel, otherwise known as the "Fun Girl Correspondent," is a freelance writer in Scottsdale, Ariz. She can be reached at: fun firstname.lastname@example.org.