05 March 2010

Melbourne: Shabbat down under

The weather report indicated possible showers today, and the heavens have really opened up, with thunder, rain and hail. Glad I'm inside today!

After nearly two weeks of travel, jet lag has finally hit.

This past week was spent kicking back, frequently napping and getting the travel fuzz out of my brain.

My hosts, Ziva and Sam Fain, couldn't be nicer, and their two pooches are wonderful.

Last night, for Shabbat dinner, I cooked up a Persian Shabbat meal of abgusht, gonde, khoresht-e-lubia sabz, rice and golden tahdiq. None of the guests had ever eaten Persian food before and it seems this was a big hit.

For readers unfamiliar with the cuisine: abgusht is a chicken soup flavored with handfuls of mint and parsley, carrots, parsnips, onion and lots more. Gonde are meatballs of ground chicken, grated onion, roasted chickpea flour, cardamom, turmeric, pepper and salt, cooked in the soup.

Khoreshts are stews with meat and vegetables and/or herbs. Lubia sabz are green beans. This particular dish uses very lean stew meat, sauteed fresh green beans, lots of carmelized onion, crushed tomatoes, whole tomatoes, lime juice and cinnamon. Shirazi salad - finely diced tomato, cucumber, red onion dressed in lime juice, salt, pepper, and a little olive oil - was also on the table.

Ziva has a beautiful herb garden, and there is nothing like the taste of fresh-picked herbs (two kinds of mint, flat-leaf parsley, basil, oregano and more). It really made a difference. She also has a small vegetable garden, and a big fig tree in her front garden.

Dessert included watermelon and cantalope slices, strawberries and blueberries.

This week, we visited the new Holocaust museum that is just opening - school groups are already going through it. I met many of the volunteers, and some of the JGS people, including Lionel Sharpe, on our quick visit.

The conference starts tomorrow, so I'm trying to kick back and go over materials.

I've connected with my long-lost cousins from Bobruisk who have lived in Melbourne for quite some time - they are still in shock over my phone call and one of the brothers and his family live only a few blocks from my hosts! They are Katsnelson and their mother was a Talalay. We will spend one day next week together. Another day will be spent with Bene Israel friends from India, who have lived here for many years.

On Sunday, March 14, the plan is to be in a place called Kangaroo Flat for the Bendigo Family History Expo. My hosts are planning a visit down to Phillips Island to see the penguins (I love penguins). Sydney is also on the list as I will be seeing my cousins, Bob and Di Conley.

Stay tuned for the conference first day report!

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