Thursday, April 21, 2011

On Being a Minority

Thanks and welcome to my new followers. I can't believe I'm almost at 300. And don't forget to leave a comment on Jenyfer Matthews' post (scroll down to Tuesday). She's giving away an ARC. And why haven't you entered my contest? It's not that hard!

We're in the midst of Passover, and it's interesting to compare our celebrations over the past few years. Two years ago, we were still in Florida. No family around, so I invited another couple (non-Jews) to share our Seder. Last year, we were renting a small apartment in Monument, and although I had no real kitchen, family was nearby, so I went to my daughter's house and cooked, and we had the first "family" meal in quite some time. This year, we're up in Divide, and we can have a family Seder again.

I discovered that ethnic foods here are 85% Hispanic. A little Asian, and a smattering of Indian. I was able to find a few "Jewish" items in the local chains. (We have one small grocery store in Divide, and its ethic food section is more like 95% Hispanic. For "real" shopping we go to Woodland Park, where there are 2 grocery stores and a Walmart.)

I checked out the "Jewish" offerings at the two grocery stores there. Yes, they had a few items, but not the special "Kosher for Passover" variety. I figured the kids down in Colorado Springs would be able to get the appropriate foodstuffs, and would take advantage of their finds.

Again, since my daughter has the most room, but works all day, I volunteered to do the cooking. On the way down, we made a quick stop at Walmart for something entirely different, but I did a quick sweep through the grocery section to see if they had stocked anything for Passover. I didn't expect it, as they have never had any "Jewish" foods. In fact, at Christmas/Hanukkah time, I asked a clerk where the wrapping paper was, and said, "Not Christmas." He asked if I was a Jehovah's Witness.

At any rate, at the register, the clerk recited her, "Did you find everything you needed?" line, and I said, "Not really." Her response was, "That'll be $10.42." I did ask if there was a Passover section I might not have seen, and got a blank stare. "Passover," I said again. She shrugged and said, "I guess you could try Hobby Lobby."

As for writing: I could stick something in here about putting your characters in situations where they don't have what they're used to, but I think you can extrapolate for yourselves. Instead, I'll share a recipe. This one is Jessica's, and I confess I haven't tried it yet. All commentary is hers.

5 cups flaked sweetened coconut
3 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla
2/3 cup mini chocolate chips or finely chopped chocolate

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheets with silicon mats or parchment sprayed with cooking spray.

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Scoop out 1 inch mounds, placed about 1 inch apart, on a lined cookie sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes, until just turning brown. Cool and store in a sealed container between sheets of waxed or parchment paper.

The macaroons will keep nicely for several days. Variation: Divide the coconut mixture in half, and add the chips to one half, leaving the other half plain. Adding cocoa powder also works, but you'll have to experiment with the amount until they're chocolaty enough!

I form them into balls with medium pressure, instead of just scoops, to help them hold their shape.

Makes about 5 dozen macaroons.


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Oh, that would be so frustrating! No surprises about your Walmart report. I avoid that store until I *have* to go there. I'm thinking Amazon would be a good place to order from (they stock non-book things, of course) and then there's the free shipping half the time. What a pain, though!

Kathryn Scannell said...

I'm not Jewish, but I appreciate how you're feeling. When my wife and I were getting our civil union almost three years ago, just after NH passed them, we went to city hall to get the license. The information person looked blank, and tried to direct us to the city office which handled labor complaints. She was nice enough once we said, no it's kind of like a marriage license, and sent us to the right place, but it was still kind of surreal.

NH is surprisingly cosmopolitan. Manchester is the 2nd largest city, but it has 3 oriental markets, several hispanic markets, at least 2 middle eastern stores, and most of the big groceries stock a wide range of ethnic foods, including Jewish. There are several items I enjoy picking up when they go on clearance the week after Passover.

I have an observant Jewish character in a WIP, and it's caused some amusing confusion in our local crit group. At one point the character protested that he couldn't do something - he needed a minyan for it. One of the other members looked at it, scratched his head, and asked me if that was a typo for minivan. That sent the two Jewish members of the group off into a major fit of giggles.

Terry Odell said...

Elizabeth: if we could avoid Walmart, we would. but that means driving 40 miles to the "city."

Kathryn - Minivan! I'm still laughing. But it's always tricky to work information into your book. I run into that with cop stuff--they know the jargon, so having them explain things to each other isn't true to character.

Maryann Miller said...

Thanks for posting the recipe. Macaroons are one of my husband's favorite cookies. I may make him some for Easter.

Your experiences at the stores are amusing on the surface, but the fact that people are so clueless about other religions and other cultures is so sad. That is one of the reasons we have such prejudice and hatred. We don't know and appreciate other experiences. I am so glad I learned to embrace world religions when I was studying to be a chaplain.

Elspeth Antonelli said...

How frustrating for you! I'd echo what Elizabeth suggested and investigate online sources. I hope you and your family are enjoying a peaceful Passover.

Mary Aalgaard said...

It is frustrating. It makes you feel like you're the outsider. That recipe looks delish.

Terry Odell said...

Maryann - I think it's the cluelessness that puzzles me. But then, we're now living in a very remote (and VERY conservative) area. And I think it's cool you'd make a "Passover" recipe for Easter.

Elspeth - now that I know what (not) to expect, yes, I'll arrange a more timely shopping trip. Or see if stores will special order what I need.

Mary (and Maryann) let me know if you try the recipe.

Jemi Fraser said...


We live in a smallish city. The stores are getting better about including a wider variety of foods. Thankfully!