♦ Misunderstood

Dear Shaina,

Just got your out of order blog post and loved the recipes and the message.  I am moved by your depth and commitment and willingness to experience life in all of its dimensions.  I was just getting around to sending my response to your last post.

Jump To Recipe

I have to say I am relieved to get the Shabbat letter, not only because it is “nicer”, but really because it feels more like the authentic Shaina. I know you have many dimensions and I don’t begrudge you any of them, including your anger, even when its directed at me. But it is a relief to hear your more familiar self. In the meantime, I still need to respond to your Sept 7 letter.

I have read and reread my last letter to you, and yours to me, trying to understand your response which felt angry and unfair.  Perhaps I am not communicating well, or maybe you are reading more into my comments than I intend. I did not use angst as a label, but as a short hand description of what you most vividly described as your feelings these days. And I have no intent or need to try to throw any fixes at you.  In fact, I feel proud of your self-awareness and your ability to articulate your feelings… which is what I thought I was trying to communicate. But I obviously missed the boat on that one.

Of course you could have predicted my questioning of my life in Birmingham, as I could have predicted your questioning.  It’s a life process, something I’ve done most of my life… and something I expect you will also do throughout your life.

You think I had a clear vision in my 20’s? Hell no! I had dreams and hopes and yearnings and frustrations and lots and lots of uncertainties.  I was way more clueless than you.  I ultimately “fell into” this life, which wasn’t exactly the one I had in my “plans,” and I am continually amazed at how well it has all turned out despite the unexpected twists and turns. I was lucky to find love in my life, but not always sure I would, especially when I was your age.

What has become more clear over the years is the value of experiencing the moments….the good, the bad and the boring…while continuing to pursue those experiences that provide meaning, fulfillment and wholeness to your life…and always wrapping yourself in the love of family and friends.  Do I think we’re on the same page? Sort of…just very different stages of life, very different pursuits.  Am I concerned? Not at all. This is part of the experience of life, and I am glad you are having it.

So, just to be clear – this is not a pep talk.

I am not in the least trying to fix you. Nor am I the least bit concerned about where your life is going.  I actually think you do a pretty good job of balancing your “suffering” with pleasure and your stability and productiveness with risk-taking and adventure, with a little partying thrown in for fun.  So, go be angry at someone else.

Coming home from Oregon was a bit of a let down…heat, humidity, laundry and lots of bills and junk mail.  I am looking forward to relaxing at the beach and having some real-time conversations with you.  This little “just for fun” letter writing experiment is not so easy and not always so much fun either, so I am looking forward to some plain old talking it out.

I am also trying to get a little prepared for the holidays and starting to think about menus.  Since we’re going on the “cleanse” right after Rosh Hashana, I want to make some things that we can eat after our holiday meal.  I am thinking veggie chop liver (are eggs okay on the cleanse?), kasha with mushrooms and onions and a new Indian cucumber salad recipe.  Of course, I am going to make some of the traditional stuff also…Bubbe’s potato knishes, and maybe a kugel or two, and some apple crisp, of course.  Any requests? I’ ll send holiday recipes next time, when I figure out what I am doing.

Even the veggies are art in Portland

In the meantime, I got inspired to cook something delicious for dinner tonight.  We had so many creative, beautiful, unusual meals in Portland. So I tried something new tonight and it didn’t turn out quite how I wanted it to. But I am prepared to share a recipe with some modifications that I hope will produce better results.  It did look sort of pretty…even though my photos aren’t nearly as nice as yours.

I know we’ll be doing lots of shopping and cooking while you’re here and I am looking forward to cooking with you and watching you trash my kitchen.


Mom xoxoxooxoxoxooxoxoxooxox

Thai Cucumber Salad (modified with roasted eggplant)

Original Cucumber Salad


  • 1/2 c brown rice vinegar
  • 2 stalks lemongrass ( white part only) sliced
  • 2 tsp sugar or agave or splenda
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cloves garlic

Finely chop and blend in a blender or food processor

  • 4-5 small Persian cucumbers sliced
  • 3 scallions thinly sliced diagonally
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1 jalapeño seeded and minced (optional)
  • I added a little sweet red pepper sliced

Marinate sliced veggies in dressing 15 minutes

Final Outcome

before serving

  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro … More can be added to taste after eggplant is added
  • 3/4 cup chopped peanuts for garnish

I made this recipe and the dressing was a little strong. I really was disappointed in the flavor and overall taste. I recommend using less jalapeño.  I happened to have an eggplant that I was planning on roasting.  I cut it up in cubes, mixed it up with a little oil and salt and pepper and roasted it in the oven on the convection bake setting at 375 degrees until the edges were browned and the eggplant was soft.  I ended up mixing the eggplant with the dressed cucumber salad and added a little fresh basil. I topped it all with chopped roasted peanuts. Adding the eggplant to this salad saved the day and made a very substantial and tasty veggie side dish.

Let me know what you think if you try it.

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