I have the honour of introducing Dolly with her effervescent personality that bubbles throughout her posts, which is why readers feel that we are in that cozy aromatic kitchen with her! I should own that I am the laziest cook and this is the ONLY cooking blog I follow. What draws me in is her accompanying story with each recipe. She always shares some piece of history and humour with this interview revealing that her background in journalism is obviously where her writing skills come from. But it’s also her very warm and friendly disposition that I am sure draws so many in!
Please share some details about your life – where you were raised, family, education, travel, etc?
I was born and raised in Odessa, the former Soviet Union, in a family of what was then called “Russian intelligentsia,” people with good education and fairly wide knowledge of arts and culture. Being Jewish under the communist regime was not considered a religion, as the Soviet Union was based on atheism. Lenin’s slogan “Religion is an opiate for the masses” was drummed into people’s heads from childhood. In colleges, there was a mandatory course called Scientific Atheism. As Jews, we were simply an ethnic minority, albeit a discriminated and persecuted one. I was very lucky in that I was mainly raised by my grandparents who clandestinely practiced Orthodox Judaism. It was dangerous, so holidays were celebrated quietly behind locked doors, but celebrated they were! It was quite a challenge to keep a kosher kitchen according to Jewish dietary laws in a country where even non-kosher food was scarce, but my grandmother, may she rest in peace, managed to do it. Odessa, though, was a rich city, and things were more or less available, with a little more money and some connections.
However, the admission quota, ostensibly based on percentages of ethnic minorities as compared to the main population, was just as operational in Odessa as everywhere else. For Jews to be admitted to an institution of higher learning was immeasurably more difficult than for everyone else. To quote a rector of Odessa Medical School, “I’ll let a Jew into my school when hair grows on my palm.” To beat the odds, we had to be the best of the best. An A was a minimum, not a maximum grade, i.e. to pass the entrance examinations, we had to know the subjects above and beyond requirements. No, we were not smarter than everybody else; we were drilled from babyhood that education was the key to survival. A logical sequence to this concept was the next one: go as high as you can in your level of education. I have a Doctorate in Education, completed already in the U.S., and my son whom I brought here at the age of six, has a Doctorate in Slavic Studies.
Under the communist regime, travel abroad was not allowed, other than on official business which the Jews had no business to be involved in. I did travel extensively within the country, due to the nature of my job (I wrote articles on arts and culture for a newspaper and wrote and produced scripts for TV). Once I got out of the country, in 1978, I’ve traveled quite a bit, in the U.S. where I live, and in Europe. My favourite place to go to, other than Israel, is North of Italy, and my favourite city, other than Jerusalem, is Florence.
Can you tell me something about how you started blogging, what you enjoy, what you’ve learnt?
I started blogging less than a year ago. I lost my father three days before Passover last year, and when the first shock and the initial numbness wore off, the emptiness hit. I had retired in order to take care of my father, so now I could only work part time. Another thought that affected me very deeply was that my father’s birthday was coming up. His birthday coincided with the holiday of Shavuos, and for twenty years after my mother’s passing, I’d made a big birthday for him with all his favourite holiday dishes.
So I decided to start a food blog and make my father’s birthday in the blogosphere by making all traditional holiday dishes and posting the recipes. My grandmother has not only taught me to cook, but she also imbued me with love and excitement for cooking. I love cooking, I love teaching (I still teach a college course or two every semester – can’t stay away from it!), and I love writing. Put all three ingredients together, and you get a blog.
In the beginning, I was surprised by the interest of non-Jewish and non-kosher readers. I got used to it now, and I appreciate the comments and exchange of communication with bloggers from all over the world. I love experimenting with different cuisines, and it’s great to learn from each other.
What’s your favourite post?
Strangely enough, it’s my very first and the only non-food one.
However, most of it is repeated while answering these questions, so here is my second favourite which also happens to be the second popular
Which is your most popular post?
I would definitely have a problem making a decision, but I looked at the stats, and the decision was made for me. I have no idea why, but it’s this one:
Please share something funky or what most people don’t know?
I live on South Beach – that’s funky in itself! When I was in college, I had a motorcycle. I don’t ride anymore, but I still love bikes. We have a little sail boat called Alye Parusa (Scarlet Sails) after the title of one of the most romantic novels of the 20’s. When the wind is right, it proudly heads with a black cat pictured on the jib. The cat is there for me because I think of myself as a black cat. I am the easiest person to gift because everybody gives me cats. In this house, cats are anywhere you look: coffee cups, pot holders, kitchen towels, cutting boards, throw pillows, and, of course miniatures. The two live ones, Beba and Barmalei, present a non-ending source of amusement.
I have heard that my Kool Kosher Kitchen is a joyful place, and I take it as the best compliment. I want to have fun, and I want everyone who stops by my kitchen to have fun with me!