Every Jewish recipe contest needs a judge who’s a Bubbe. Why? Because Jewish food is passed down by Bubbes. Recipes scribbled down on old notecards in cursive handwriting that is beautiful and totally unreadable. Dishes meant to be cooked for hours upon hours, which our Bubbes (and for some of us, our Zaydes too) would do, and with pride, for every Jewish holiday. Brisket. Matzo Ball Soup. Borsht. From the Old Country. Or from Israel. Or from Spain. That’s the awesome thing – Jews come from everywhere, so our food is from everywhere too, but with our people’s twist.
That’s why we’re so excited about the 1st Annual TC Jewfolk Recipe Contest. We know you’ve got a few tricks up your sleeves passed down from your Bubbes, and we can’t wait to see them!
Speaking of Bubbes though … our first judge for the contest is …
Leora’s Babu! Also known as Dr. Malka Goodman.
TC Jewfolk: Why does everyone call you Babu?
Babu: Because of you, Leora. You couldn’t say Babushka. So you said Babu. And the name stuck. Everyone who meets me calls me Babu.
TCJ: What’s your earliest cooking memory?
Babu: My Babushka lived with us. And she cooked. So the first thing that comes to mind is my Babushka making cinnamon rolls every Friday, and we used to have it Saturday morning for breakfast, and the house used to smell marvelously. I was about 8 or 9. Those cinnamon rolls. I can almost smell it. The best you ever imagined. And they were beautiful.
TCJ: What would you say is the genre of food you cook?
Babu: Mostly Italian. And Jewish of course.
TCJ: Are you a better cook than other Bubbes out there?
Babu: I think so. And I’ll tell you why. People, our friends, whom we invited for dinner here, I prepared dinner for them and I used to prepare sophisticated food like Beef Wellington. And our friends said, I cannot invite you for dinner in return, and they didn’t. Because they could not match.
TCJ: Have you ever watched Top Chef? MasterChef? Chopped?
Babu: I used to watch Julia Child many years ago. Her personality interested me. But no, none of these new shows. People watch these shows and they don’t cook the stuff. They don’t. That’s what I read. People watch the shows and they buy TV dinners. We never had a TV dinner. Did I ever give you a TV dinner? Never had it.
TCJ: When you’re not being a Bubbe to your grandchildren and great grandchildren, what do you do with your time?
Babu: Nowadays? I read. I take classes. I meet friends a lot. I reached out to a lot of people that I never even met until Zayde (my husband) died. I’m volunteering at Sholom and the Temple of Aaron. But I don’t volunteer by baking cookies. I want to have conversation. To have empathy with people who need it. To be a friend.
TCJ: What’s your favorite restaurant in town? Why?
Babu: Probably Meritage. For several reasons. For one thing, the food is wonderful. For another, they have oysters. And the third reason is nothing to do with the food, it has to do with the fact that they have valet service, and we used to go to concerts upstairs.
TCJ: What kind of a doctor are you? Can we call you Dr. Babu?
Babu: I’m a child and adolescent psychiatrist. And I worked with families. Dr. Babu (she laughs). That’s cute. People called me Dr. Malka but I like Dr. Babu better.
TCJ: What are you most looking forward to about judging the 1st Annual TC Jewfolk Recipe Contest?
Babu: Dissemination of Jewish cooking among young people. Young Jewish people. I think we have to keep the tradition alive of Jewish cooking.
TCJ: Any words of advice for the aspiring chefs who will be submitting recipes and – if they’re lucky – cooking for you?
Babu: Use good ingredients. Garbage in, garbage out. Use only the best, the freshest that you can. Mix a little love with it too.
Click here to learn more about the 1st Annual TC Jewfolk Recipe Contest, including eligibility, prizes, and how to submit your recipes. Deadline to submit is December 31!
The top 5 finalists will cook their recipes for Babu and the other TBA judges on January 4, and the winners will be announced at CrossRiver KosherFest on January 11.
The recipe contest and our sponsorship support of KosherFest are possible thanks to support from Natan/NEXT: A Division of Birthright Israel Foundation and the Oren and Sharron Steinfeldt Foundation.