Feb 6, 2015 (You are 8 days old!)

Dear Layla,

I don’t want to forget the time your Zal Papa and I spent with you and your mom and dad when you were born. I hope that someday you will be a delighted new mother and will find the account of your first few days helpful.

Baby products have changed a lot since I had your mom 33 years ago. The disposable diapers we used didn’t have resealable tabs, nor did they change color when the diaper was wet, so that you could tell right away if a diaper change was necessary. Also, we put babies on their stomachs to sleep, but now research says you must sleep without loose sheets or blankets and be on your back. There is now something called “tummy time” which means you get put on your stomach when you are awake so that you learn to lift up your head. Your mom and I joke that when YOU have your first child and she comes to help you, she will marvel at all the new and improved diapering technology and will have to learn the latest sleep rules.

Before you were born, your mother wanted us to come to California to help her and your dad so that they would be able to spend all their time learning how to be your parents. Your mom sent me a list of recipes to be sure to bring with me: chicken soup with matzo balls, noodle kugel (the sweet kind) and her favorite childhood casserole: ground beef, peas, noodles, cheese, and tomatoes. Well, the kugel was a big success. Your daddy had never had it before, and he loved it. Your mom had it for breakfast and lunch, and your Grandma Gina took a couple pieces home with her to eat later with GrandpaBob.

I made matzo ball soup, and Mimaw and GrandpaRob came over to try it. They loved it. So did your dad. But, for some reason, the smell upset your mom and we froze all the leftovers. I hope she’ll be ready for it in a couple of months. The same thing happened with the cheeseburger casserole.

So, here I am, and homemade food isn’t really what your mom wants. Only one week ago, she was still pregnant. Her body and her taste for food change daily. Mostly, she wants to eat pizza or In-N-Out Burgers, but since she wants to have lots of healthy milk for you, she drinks her milk and eats fruit and peanut butter. Milk, apples and peanut butter—pretty much her standard diet for much of her childhood! Update as of April 23: Your mom has given up eating anything with lactose in it because she thinks it upsets your stomach. Good thing that she isn’t really someone who cares a lot about food!

I look at you and wonder what foods you will remember fondly when you are an adult. What recipes will you ask your mother to send you when you cook for yourself for the first time? (I asked my mother to bring stuffed cabbage, which she did. I still love stuffed cabbage!) I wonder if you will even prepare food at home when you are an adult. I hope you will because preparing food is, for me, an expression of my creativity and because cooking for others (and with others) brings a particular joy that I have found nowhere else.

Traditional Noodle Kugel
From Mrs. Glasser in Uniontown with whom I lived in January of my senior year of college while doing a teaching internship

This is a very good dish to prepare in 2 square foil baking pans. Freeze one and save to take it to someone who is sick or just had a baby. It is creamy, nourishing and excellent comfort food.

1/2 pound fine noodles
1 block (3-4 oz.) cream cheese, softened
2 blocks FRIENDSHIP brand (Jewish) farmer’s cheese (7 oz. each)
(There is a cheese called Farmer’s cheese that you find near the cheddar, etc., but that is NOT what you want. For kugel you need the crumbly packaged stuff from Friendship, which is like a hard cottage cheese. Substitute cottage cheese if you need to, making it as dry as possible. This stuff freezes well, so when you find it, buy extra and stick it in the freezer.)
3 eggs
1 stick melted butter (If you want to be healthier, you can get away with ½ stick!)
1/3 C. sugar
2 C. milk
1/2 C. raisins (You can chop up any kind of dry fruit in any combination to make ½ C.)
1/2 t. salt.
1 t. vanilla

For topping, mix together:
3/4 C. crushed graham crackers
1/4 C. melted butter
1 T. powdered sugar

  1. Boil the noodles, drain well.
  2. Beat the cheeses, eggs together, add melted butter, sugar and blend again.
  3. Slowly beat the noodles into the wet mixture, adding all of the other ingredients. You will have a very loose batter.
  4. Pour into a slightly heated, well-greased pan (Long rectangle 9 X 13 X 2 or 2 square pans as noted above.)
  5. Sprinkle topping on top and bake at 350 º for about an hour—less if in two pans. Check at around 50 minutes

Love, Granmamindy

Mindy Sanjana | Pittsburg, Pennsylvania

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