Everybody has that one dish that they say their “Bubbe’s (or Zayde’s) is best.” As part of an ongoing series, we’ll be interviewing Sholom residents and families to discover what those dishes are. (If you have a dish – and a Bubbe or Zayde! – that should be featured in “Bubbe’s is Best,” email [email protected].)
This month’s featured bubbe is June Berg—or GG June, as she is lovingly called by her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. June was the first female president of the PTA for the City of St. Louis Park in the 1950s. With her husband Bob, she founded the Ronald McDonald House in Minneapolis in 1979. June’s plucky energy and compassion for people has propelled her through her meaningful and rewarding career.
Despite her long list of achievements, June’s favorite topic is her family and the annual fishing trip they take to Ruttger’s Lodge every summer. The twenty-seven family members spend the whole week on boats, fishing for large- and small-mouth bass. The family has so much fun that one of June’s great-grandkids insists that she’d rather go fishing with GG than go to summer camp!
How do you cook the fish that you catch?
GG June: I doctor up the flour with different seasonings and fry the fish in part Crisco, part butter until it gets really crispy and good. I always make sure the fish are cleaned properly. I used to tell my children I’d give them $5 for any bone they found.
During the interview, June relaxed in her cheerful living room at Sholom’s Knollwood Place Apartments with her daughter, Suzie; grandkids, Noah, Aimee and Cassie; and great-grandkids, Cloe, Allie and Leo.
What are some of your favorite family traditions involving food?
Cassie: Growing up we always had Shabbat dinner at my grandparents’ house. Even when I was in high school before I’d go off to football games or out with my friends, we always went to GG’s house for dinner.
What are your favorite recipes that GG June makes?
Cassie: Cranberry Matzo Ball Chicken, Cabbage Borscht, Herring Salad, Chopped Liver, Fried Bass, Potato Chip Chicken and Tango Bars were among many family favorites.
Tell us about the Cranberry Matzo Ball Chicken dish.
GG June: Well, it’s easy because it’s a full meal in one dish. It has everything in it and it’s really simple to make for company.
Where did you get the recipe?
GG June: Oh, someone gave it to me somewhere along the line.
Noah: But she probably embellished the recipe quite a bit since she first tired it. She likes to doctor things up.
GG June: I love to doctor things up.
Have you always been a cook? When did you start?
GG June: I started cooking because I was hungry and I liked eating! I love watching Rachel Ray on TV. Where she teaches you how to make a dish and then brings it out and serves it. That’s what I’d love to have done in my day—I would have loved it.
Noah: When we are on family vacations and sitting down to a meal, she is already planning the next meal. It’s always about the next meal. She used to love to eat so much.
GG June: I was a wonderful eater.
Noah: She could really put it away.
June made her famous Cranberry Matzo Ball Chicken and served it to her family in her apartment that evening. The chicken fell off the bone and the juices had mildly sweet yet savory undertones. Delicious!
“A lot of it is just what you’re used to,” June’s daughter, Suzie, commented. “When you’re growing up, you like food the way your mom made it.”
GG June’s Cranberry Matzo Ball Chicken Recipe:
2 Chickens & Additional Wings
1 Package Lipton’s Onion Soup
1 – 8oz Jar French or Russian Dressing
1/2 Dressing Jar of Water
Small red potatoes cut into small pieces
1 Can Whole Cranberries
Matzo Balls Mix
Mix together all ingredients except matzo balls. Cover raw chicken with mixture of all ingredients.
Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees, uncovered.
After removing from oven, add matzo balls before serving.