Photographs by Molly Yeh
I could talk about my love of Mandel Bread until the cows come home. Not that a crispy almond cookie needs any explanation, but the reasons I love Mandel Bread so much go past its delicious flavor and satisfying texture.
My go-to recipe, which is inspired by Tori Avey’s, doesn’t require any planning ahead in the way of softening butter or acquiring obscure ingredients, and you don’t need to dirty up your electric mixer to make the dough. In that sense, it’s a very portable recipe, so if ever you find yourself in someone else’s kitchen with a hankering for a cookie, you can whip some up easy peasy.
Mandel Bread also has a super long shelf life because of its dry nature, so that paired with a strong sturdiness makes for a perfect addition to a care package for a loved one. Whenever I make a batch, it’s pretty much a given that half of it will be sent off to far away friends.
When you picture the quintessential Jewish “Bubby,” someone like Shira Ginsburg’s grandmother, Judith, probably springs to mind.
Mrs. Ginsburg, the subject of her granddaughter’s one-woman show “Bubby’s Kitchen,” developed a reputation in her Troy, New York, community for her endless, delicious cooking (she’s since moved to Florida, where she still cooks and teaches her grandchildren her culinary ways).
“Growing up there was always rugelach or mandelbread in the oven and soup on the stove. There were also two freezers down in the basement that were full of food,” Ginsburg says of her grandmother’s house, which was located five minutes from her childhood home.
While her ceaseless cooking might seem typical in a Jewish grandmother, the elder Mrs. Ginsburg’s early life was anything but typical. She lost her entire family in the Holocaust and was a resistance fighter in Eastern Europe — a story that takes center stage in the show.
Ginsburg sets her performance around the table of her grandmother’s home — the stage is set with a lone table and six chairs. She tells her family’s story through monologue, Yiddish, liturgical and musical theatre songs, and plays several different family members.