Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mama's Mamaliga -- Elizaveta Bershad'skaya shares her recipe

"Aunt Masha ceremoniously delivered cheese to the table, accompanied by butter and cups of spicy garlic gravy. As she tossed the mamaliga down onto the table from the cast-iron pan, the house filled up with steam. The thick cornmeal pudding, the mamaliga, lay on a white, linen tablecloth, bringing us back to summer fields and sunny autumn days, to flute melodies and Moldovan wedding handkerchiefs. As it lay there hot and round, glowing gold and yellow, I could even have said that the sun itself had suddenly fallen on the white linen. And when she sliced that sun with a string, we could feel it melt in our mouths, even before it ever touched our lips. We dipped hunks of mamaliga into the cheese and butter mixture, drenched them in the garlicky muzhdey and just like that, with everything, relished those first fresh slivers. We ate quickly and noisily, just as we had been speaking earlier."
--Yekhiel Shraybman, "Dimples", translated from Yiddish by Sebastian Schulman (Dirty Goat, issue 25, forthcoming).

Photo Credit: Robert Cohen

The Bessarabian Yiddish writer Yekhiel Shraybman's celebration of mamelige, that cornmeal staple of the Eastern European Jewish (and non-Jewish) diet, is but one manifestation of the food's significance in Jewish life. Mamelige is lauded far and wide to this day for its versatility, affordability, and heartiness. In the Podolian town of Bershad (in Ukraine, just northeast of Moldova), AHEYM recorded the recipe for mamelige that Elizaveta Bershad'skaya learned from her mother:

Because mamelige is parve -- that is, neither meat nor dairy -- it can be enjoyed with milk and cheese or with meat, making it an easy base for any meal. You'll notice that Dov-Ber and Elizaveta also discuss the texture of the dish -- for the mamelige to come out "as it should be", it must be firm enough to slice with a cotton string, a process also mentioned by Yekhiel Shraybman.

Mamelige has been well-document in the Jewish blogging world. See, for example, Leah Koenig, Robert Cohen, and Eve Jochnowitz for more tastes of this fabulous food.

Est gezunterheyt!
--Asya Vaisman

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