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The aspect of people’s culture that runs through the whole story made the greatest impact on me. Whenever Miriam and her family prepared food, they shared it with the neighbours. Despite the difficult economic times, everyone shared the little resources with neighbours and friends. They had difficult time finding water, as they had to walk for miles in order to get it. Even though they underwent the hard conditions in preparing meal, the process of sharing was essential because people lived as a community. Miriam’s husband had to ride the bicycle past three distant cities just to buy eight inch of ice, part of which they give to the neighbours (Ehrlich 315). The sharing spirit enabled them to undergo the tough times with ease. Miriam said they were pioneer survivors. Times were so hard that they stayed for thirteen years without eating meat. People valued collective responsibility as everyone took part in every event or situation. When Miriam’s husband came with the ice and invited neighbours, they all came with something. No one was empty-handed. One brought a cholent, a thick casserole, another brought thick carrot stew, some brought cooked fruits which they put in the Miriam’s basin. This shows how collective and close they were. In the house, they shared the chores. In most cases all family members have their duties: the mother cleaned the house while the grandmother washed the dishes and Miriam prepared food for the whole family. Before the Sabbath day, they all did the cleaning of the house collectively while the dad did repairs (Ehrlich 284).
The relation of food and celebration to religion is one that challenged me in the process of reading. It is not clear how the Jewish culture related to their institutions or how keeping the kitchen clean affected the Sabbath day. In my understanding, the food people eat has nothing to do with religion. Miriam said they had to ensure the house was extremely clean before Sabbath. Before the Passover, they had to disarrange everything clean then put them back in place (Ehrlich 322). Another thing is why they value of the kitchen is so high. Miriam said that when her mother visited them they spent most of their time there.
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The material just shows Miriam’s life around the kitchen. She and her mother spent most of their times there either cooking, washing the dishes or arranging the utensils (Ehrlich 291). It makes Miriam’s existence miserable, as her life outside the kitchen is not mentioned. We need the information of what Miriam and her family do outside their home and kitchen. The material does not explain what the family was doing in Israel and what caused them to move to America. Miriam does not explain what they really did to get out of the hard life conditions they faced before. From her narration, her life still rotates around the house chores and taking care of the children.
In the material, it is not clear why Miriam strongly identified herself with the cultural attitudes of the Jewish at the time when she did not like their institutions. Back then, Miriam narrated that she found the religious practices to be so irrelevant to the type of life that she was leaving (Ehrlich 319). The point of entry to the text was in time when Miriam started the kitchen world together with her mother in-law. Another entry point is when Ehrlich began to understand the importance of appreciating and preserving culture and traditions of the past (Ehrlich 287). It was noticeable during Miriam’s painful stories about her life in Poland. They enabled Ehrlich to trigger her religious awakening and she started to understand the choices limitations and possibilities of life.
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