My mother’s last name wasn’t Goldstein, Goldblatt, Lowenstein or Lefkowitz. It was Ross. Well, actually Ross was her married name. Harriet Ruby Gross was her maiden name. I went thru high school feeling extremely grateful that Gross wasn’t my last name. I mean the kids really terrorized a girl whose last name was Hicky. I can imagine what they do to you if your last name is Gross. I hear it now. “You know she’s really Gross. I mean Literally!”
When we would come home from school and mom would try to feed us some horrifying vestibule from the old country, (not the old country she was born in which was New Jersey but the old country her parents were born in; Hungary,) like Kishka, (don’t even get me started on Kishka, I think it’s cow intestines stuffed with potatoes, chicken fat and assorted meat parts, I don’t really want to know because I’ve eaten Kishka. Kishka also applies to the region below the bellybutton and above the groin.)We would announce, “MOM that’s really gross!” to which she would reply, “Don’t say Gross! That’s a lovely Jewish name and now they ruined it!”
They by the way, is a generic name given to any of a host of conspirators who take something nice and ruin it. Like for instance, “They” made the lovely pine trees Christian by anointing them as Christmas trees. “They have to take everything nice and make it GOY!” Mom would announce every Christmas season. “A pine tree was just a pine tree, until “They” ruined it!”
But I digress, my point is, mom’s last name wasn’t exactly ringing of matzo balls and Kreplach. When I finally decided to compile my many memoirs which were largely inspired by and often about my larger then life mother. I realized that while the title, “The Devil and Mrs. Goldstein” was an apt teaser of borsht lasagna to come, “The Devil and Mrs. Ross” didn’t quite work. Much the same way folks meeting a woman named Mrs. Ross weren’t quite prepared for mom who was more then Jewish, she was, if there is such a thing, uber Jewish. Now the name she should have had Mrs. Rosenthal would have worked but it had been de-jewishized.
I’d grown up thinking my dad’s name was shortened when his father came thru Ellis Island, the way lots of names did. “Rosenthal… what the heck!…Let’s just go with Ross. Next in line!” I didn’t find out until I was well into my 20’s that out of 12 brothers and sisters it was only my dad Marty and his idol; big brother Sam who shortened the name. They were both enterprising businessmen and didn’t want to suffer the wrath of anti-Semitism across this country in the 1940’s. So they went with Ross; a nice safe, generic name. I guess it was true. The only famous person I know with the last name Ross, is Diana Ross, not exactly a yenta. The name Ross never suited me as a last name, far too normal, I suspect, but it worked fine after an I was added to make Rossi, as my first and later on, my only name. Folks tend to think I’m Italian until I drop one too many Oys.
Harriet Ruby Ross almost sounds like an intellectual or a politician or a mathematician or a poet, or perhaps a musician and in fact my mother was all those things.
She played the violin at one point with an orchestra that I recall was the New Jersey State Symphony. She wrote poetry, one piece won a contest and was written about in a local paper. She was a brilliant mathematician, a college professor, spoke Yiddish, German, French and English.
But while I still sit in awe of all the accomplishments the over-achiever Harriet Ruby Gross- Ross made before I was born, I never really knew that woman.
The woman who raised me. Harriet, the larger then life, Yiddisha mama who saved more money on coupons than most people make in their lifetime, who could scold you in four languages sometimes at the same time, who believed that if her children visited a church we would be brainwashed by the “They’ and ruined the same way they ruined Easter eggs, this is the woman I grew up with.
She also taught me that laughing at life was often the best way to get through it and that there was only half joy in buying anything full price.
The name Harriet Ross simply doesn’t fit this woman and so I have decided to simply give my mother (god rest her soul) a new name. Why you ask. For the reason Jewish woman always answer a question with a another question. Why not?
So for all those in earshot, I shout out, loud and proud, I am Harriet Ruby Gross Ross Goldstein’s daughter!
Now I have to go. With all this excitement. My kishka’s are killing me.
June 26, 2010
dragged my tired tuchas out to ptown for some of the three R’s
takes me about 4 days to shake off nyc when i come out here
so i’m still all jittery and wackadoo
plowing down the street like i’m late for something
never occurs to me how much city life makes you speed up
till you try to slow down
so on that note
pease and happy summer
June 25, 2010 Comments Off
hey kids, sorry not to post sooner but its june and ive been knee deep in wedding food
this weekend i made my specialty
well its my kimchi recipe and im a jew
so thats what its called
anyway it was killer and even the korean guests came back for seconds, so that’s a compliment
hope you’re all staying cool if you can
meanwhile here’s how i make my kimchi
cut up cabbage, daikon, carrots, cucumber, radish
cover in kosher salt, then cover in water and let it pickle overnight
make a dressing out of red hot chili flakes, fish sauce, garlic, sugar, rice wine vinegar,scallions, fresh ginger and love
next day wash off your veges and marinate in this fiery stuff
try to cut some of the heat with loads of sugar
marinate in this for two days, then serve
June 21, 2010
i have to say i don’t know diddly about soccer
and if it weren’t for the fact that just about every bar in the east village had folks spilling out of it and onto the side walk hooting and hollering and drinking beer and wearing soccer shirts and if it weren’t for all the banners that read
i wouldn’t have even known that it was like a big soccer thing
so while i was at the gym
i decided to plug my ear plugs into the bike and check it out
i heard this terrible buzzing
and at first i thought there was something wrong with the tv
then i realized there was something wrong with the crowd
they were possessed by a thousand bees
then of course i turned on CNN
cause i couldn’t take another second of the noise
and heard all about the horn controversy
damn right they should ban those suckers
i mean sheesh
i dont even like soccer
and i was turned off pronto
by the horrible sound of a thousand horns
it must be worse to be on the field
so from one
non sports babe
who knows nada about soccer
i say hell no
your stupid ass horns
June 14, 2010 Comments Off
hey kids had something of a fabulous experience today
i dragged my jewish tuchas out to the WNYC headquarters to tape live on NPR’s morning takeaway show
the bit i was on was called smackdown and if you scroll down to my linkie love list
to Rossi on NPR
you’ll find me and my fabu barbecue sauce
the show went great of course my dears
but dear lord
this gal is NOT a morning person
how on earth do you early morning folks do it
what is your secret?
i don’t even want to know what the world looks like before 11am
June 9, 2010