Some things get easier as we get older. But making new friends is not one of them. Sure, we make acquaintances. We have people to go out to dinner with. And brunch. We befriend the parents of our kids’ friends based on play dates and carpools and school projects. But friends who know you like your high school and college friends do? Those are few and far between, and they get fewer and farther between as time goes by.
When my parents moved out to Palo Alto over a decade ago, they were in a bind. New coast, new city, new life. They knew no one. They were, to some extent, starting over. They quickly joined a synagogue, but lived several miles away, too far to walk to shabbat services as the congregation was wont to do. So they stayed in a nearby hotel on many Friday nights and relied on the community’s hospitality for shabbat dinners and lunches. It’s a hard position to be in, not being able to reciprocate.
One of my mother’s first friends in California was Stephanie. In a recent email, my mother described Stephanie as “the quintessential Palo Alto hostess … If there was an extra person or two in synagogue who needed hospitality, she could always stretch a meal to accommodate them and no one knew it was a stretch. That was definitely a talent.” It may sound strange to think of people “needing” to be fed, but on shabbat, one of the main tenets, at least my favorite one, is eating with family and community. While she started by welcoming my parents to the community, Stephanie quickly became family. She and my mom spoke nearly every night. They even shared a birthday – February 12 – and my parents threw Stephanie a celebratory brunch when she hit a big something-oh.
Stephanie and her mother both died of ovarian cancer a few years back. In their matriarchs’ honor, the family started the Stephanie Sussman and Ann Nadrich Memorial Fund through Sharsheret, an organization that supports Jewish women facing breast and ovarian cancer. Soon Stephanie’s daughters, Adeena and Sharon, started the Pies for Prevention Thanksgiving bake sale to raise ovarian cancer awareness and to support Sharsheret’s Ovarian Cancer Program. The bake sale has grown, gained press coverage and, now in its fourth year, you can buy pies (and breads) in eight cities across the nation, including up here in the Boston area (more on that later).
(Stephanie was clearly beautiful on the inside, and her daughters are testament to how stunning she was on the outside.)
When my family crowded around our Thanksgiving table last year, drowsy from too much turkey, we greeted our pies with greedy eyes and large plates that were soon crumb-covered. Our bellies were full, and so were our hearts.
If you’re in the Boston area and would like to order some goodies but can’t make it out to Sharon to pick them up, I’m going to be making a pie and bread run so you can grab their orders from my place the two evenings before the holiday.
Adeena Sussman shared this recipe with me. She’s a great chef and food writer, and this quick bread is a good example of her talent for recipe development. When we ate it last year, we couldn’t figure out whether to serve it with the meal or for dessert. If you can, hide a few leftover slices, then toast them up and slather them with butter for breakfast the next morning. You can always go to the gym next week.
Makes two 9-inch loaves or three 8-inch loaves
- One 15 oz can solid-pack pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 2/3 cup water
- 2 cups white sugar
- 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 1/2 cup fresh cranberries
Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease two 9-inch or three 8-inch loaf pans and reserve.
In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar until well blended.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger.
Stir the dry ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. Gently stir in cranberries. Pour into the prepared pans.
Bake for 60-65 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.