By Bonnie Fishman / San Francisco Bay Area
The 1979 Sister Sledge hit had it all going on (with a slight tweak) as far as I’m concerned:
“We are family
I got all my sisters
(And cousins) with me!”
Another great verse from the song:
“All of the people around us they say
Can they be that close
Just let me state for the record
We're giving love in a family dose.”
It all began about six months ago when my first cousin Jane and her wife Carmela, from Savannah Ga., made plans to visit the Fishman Family Compound here in the south San Francisco Bay area in mid-April. “Let’s have a reunion! Just Fishman first cousins, no offspring.” Had we ever done that before? Nope. Well, why not now? My two sisters and I, all compound residents, rallied the rest of the cousins. They came from far and wide–-all the surviving first cousins except for one. The cousins arrived in waves, Jane and Carmela first, then the rest, from Detroit, Minneapolis and Tel Aviv.
Upon arrival, all of us donned our custom-made Michigama West T-shirts and gathered in front of my barn (our house) for a family photo. My good friend, Marie, came over to take the pictures. She told me the joy and excitement were palpable. And they were! We are all big animated talkers (and opinionated!). We had lots of laughs, too. Pure joy!
We Fishman cousins are the products of four Fishman brothers born to Russian immigrants between 1910-1920. Two of the brothers, my dad, Mickey, and his older brother, Herman, started a sports camp in 1946 in northern Michigan known as Camp Michigama. Seven of us grew up together at the camp for three summer months a year. We were raised as one pack - a boy and six girls born within six years.
It was almost commune-style: whichever parent was available to watch the litter, that’s whose job it was. We spent many summers together for 15 years. We stayed close. As a matter of fact, four of us, two sets of sisters, shared a house in Ann Arbor one year while attending the University of Michigan. Distance didn’t squelch our friendships over the years.
Prior to the cousins’ arrival on April 15th, my sisters and I had a meeting to discuss who would be sleeping where, airport runs, shopping, swimming, and even a piano night sing-along with Motown tunes as well as old folk songs. Our discussion then turned to more “serious” matters of who among us would host which dinner and what we would serve. Nancy created a meticulous meal schedule so, God forbid, no one would go hungry. Not with this bunch! We even tucked in a few meals out to give us a break. Also, one night, Carmela made a beautiful Italian dinner and another night, Beth cooked a traditional Persian-Jewish meal. We passed leftovers around from building to building, swapping items out as if they were bargaining chips.
The Persian dinner that Beth made was one of my favorites. It consisted of the classic Persian rice–a large rice cake with a crispy potato top–and gondi, which are meatballs. You place the rice in the middle of a large soup bowl and pour the gondi and soup on top. Beth has graciously provided us with her mother-in-law’s gondi recipe. It is simple to make, nutritious, and a good do-ahead-of-time meal for company.
Let us know here at The Insider what you and your family enjoy. Sometime the simplest things in life are the most joyous–being with relatives, friends, and great food!
Yield: 15 meatballs
2 medium onions, cut into large chunks
1/2 lb. ground chicken
1/2 lb. ground beef
1 tsp. cardamom
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 3/4 c. chickpea flour
chicken broth (see below)
Mince the onions in the bowl of a food processor. Add the chicken and beef. Puree together until well blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl when needed. Add remaining ingredients and puree thoroughly.
Using wet hands, scoop the mixture into 1/3 cup portions. Line a cookie sheet with foil or parchment paper. Gently roll the portions into balls and place on the pan. Refrigerate for at least an hour before adding to the broth.
Chicken Broth (for Gondi)
Yield: 8 servings
3 qt. water
3 lb. chicken thigh quarters, on the bone
1 lg. onion, 1/4” dice
3 carrots, cut into 1/4” rounds
2 medium parsnips, 1/4” rounds
2 celery stalks, 1/4” dice
1 tsp. turmeric
Place all the ingredients in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil; turn down to a light boil or simmer. Cook for 1 hour.
Remove the chicken from the soup. When cool enough to handle, remove and discard the skin and bones. Shred chicken meat and add as much as desired to the soup. Reserve the rest for another time. Season well with salt and pepper to taste.
Add meatballs to the soup. Heat through for 15-20 minutes.
Bonnie Fishman attended the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London. Later, she owned and operated Bonnie’s Patisserie in Southfield, Mich. and Bonnie’s Kitchen and Catering in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. She has taught cooking for over 35 years and created hundreds of recipes. She is now living in Northern California.