Bayla “Bubbe” Scher is a video star. With the help of her grandson, Avrom Honig, she hosts a monthly podcast called Feed Me Bubbe, in which she cooks traditional (though healthful) Jewish classics from her Worcester, Massachusetts, kitchen. Bubbe and Avrom talk to CHOW Editor in Chief Jane Goldman about the miracle of frozen latkes, the care and feeding of moist brisket, and the universal love of bubbes.

It feels kind of, I don’t know, presumptuous to call you Bubbe, but I guess that’s how the world knows you.

Bubbe: That’s right, well, that means grandma.

You know, along with Robert Rodriguez, the director of Sin City, you are my favorite food online stars.

Bubbe: I’m honored!

You’re awfully good on-camera. Do you rehearse?

Bubbe: No, well, no, everything is ad-libbed. I’m not an actress; this is me naturally.

You’ve been wonderful from the first episode. Have you learned anything about how to cook on-camera?

Bubbe: Avrom helped me a lot as far as how to face the camera, especially when I’m near the stove, and how to hold the spoon so they can view what I’m doing in the saucepan. Little things that you would never think of, and then when he shows me the results, I says, “Well, you’re right.”

Keeping up the patter too, describing what you’re doing, is difficult for some people. Did you find that to be hard?

Bubbe: No, it’s something that I do continuously. I tried to go according to a script, and it didn’t come out well, so I said, “I have to take my chances, be myself, and do it just the way I would do it without the camera.”

Are you known as a good cook?

Bubbe: Basically, yes, within the family.

Avrom: That’s how the whole show came to be in the first place. I wanted to [make podcasts], and we were eating Bubbe’s Jelly Jammies at the time, and my dad said, “Why don’t you just tape Bubbe; she makes excellent food.” And then we were trying to figure out a name, and finally my dad’s like, “Just call it Feed Me Bubbe.” I knew that was it, and I called up Bubbe and told her about the whole concept of the show.

Bubbe: And I laughed and said, “Oh well, all right, I’ll do a couple of shows to help you out.”

What do you traditionally make for Hanukkah?

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Bubbe: Well the most traditional is potato pancakes, latkes.

Hanukkah has become the holiday of the deep-fryer, is that accurate?

Bubbe: Well, deep-fryer, frying pan, whatever.

I have avoided making potato latkes, because of the grating potatoes and squeezing them …

Bubbe: Oh you’re doing it the old way!

Yeah, now I see you can do it easily.

Bubbe: No, you don’t have to squeeze it; use your blender.

What’s the best thing to put on them when you’re eating them?

Bubbe: It’s a matter of choice. The traditional [topping] is applesauce and served with sour cream if it’s a dairy meal. If it’s a meat meal you would just use the applesauce. … But you know, Jews are all over the globe, and so everyone has added their own. Now [latkes have] become hors d’oeuvres: At many affairs they make them silver dollar size, and they go around with applesauce. Some like to put smoked salmon or chives or even caviar on them.

So you can freeze them and reheat them?

Bubbe: Oh, this was a miracle. When the children were going to school, they went to a Jewish day school, so for lunch the PTA made potato pancakes. They had a very small kitchen at the school, so the mothers volunteered to make [the latkes] in [their] homes. That meant three good-sized frying pans going, and I had to figure a way of holding [the latkes] so they’d be tasty and good for the children. So that’s when we discovered the freezing method, and that worked even better because when you put a frozen latke in the hot oven it becomes even more tasty and more crispy.

We have a few recipes of yours that we’re going to post. I want to ask you for any tips that you have for making these foods—one of them is the Luchen Kugel.

Bubbe: Oh, the luchen kugel years ago was very rich and very tasty. You know, getting older you have to cut down for cholesterol and all that, so after experimenting I found that I can do it with skim milk and low-fat sour cream and low-fat cottage cheese. And that has cut down a lot on the fat. It tastes very good and has passed the family test—they’re my tasters.

I noticed that you also use margarine. Is that necessary? Can you use butter instead?

Bubbe: Oh absolutely. The only reason I use margarine also is that butter is an animal fat compared to a vegetable fat, and that has a little more in calories and cholesterol and fat content.

My mom used to put raisins in there.

Bubbe: It’s a matter of choice, whatever you prefer, whatever you’ve grown up with. The one I made I figured would be a basic one: It has the cheese, the sour cream, and the taste of vanilla. And if you didn’t want to do that you could always add fresh pineapple.

How about brisket? I didn’t see a video on the site.

Bubbe: I haven’t done that yet. We’ve got a lot of requests—hundreds and hundreds of emails—and Avrom and I decided the ones that we got the most emails we would do first. So brisket will eventually be on there.

Can you give us a quick rundown of what you do?

Bubbe: You can make it either in the oven or a Dutch oven on the stove. I make it simple. I like to use those little whole allspice, three or four whole allspice. And you have to watch it, add a little water so it doesn’t dry out. Garlic, onions, salt, pepper, the usual spices, and the main thing is to watch it that it doesn’t dry out.

So you can screw it up?

Bubbe: Well, you screw it up if you don’t watch it, because it has to be slow cooking, and you don’t want to overpower it with water, you want to observe. The juices and the flavor will come from the onion and the meat itself. So the water is to help it so it will sort of steam and roast at the same time.

Do you make sufganiyot?

Bubbe: No, I don’t make doughnuts. That takes deep-frying, and I don’t want to bother with that, because I’m trying to concentrate on healthy and nutritional. But I’m making cookies.

Tell me about the Hanukkah cookies.

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Bubbe: Hanukkah is a holiday where a lot of children take part—there are games and everything—and I’ve been getting a lot of emails from preschool teachers and kindergarten teachers, and from children. And I was really excited to get emails from children; I suppose they’re very savvy with the computer, and they wanted something they could make with their bubbes. So I thought cookies would be the best thing for them to make. So I’m going to have holiday cookie cutters; it can either be for Christmas, we have people who …

Avrom: They come from all over the world. Just the other day, Bubbe, you were telling me we got one from …

Bubbe: We got one from Johannesburg, South Africa, and China and India, and I thought, “Gosh, how could they get in touch with me from so far?” But they do. So we figured a nice sugar cookie and show them how we’re decorating them, and that’s something that they can enjoy and be able to serve to company or for themselves and be very proud of their capabilities and what they’ve made.

What’s your complete Hanukkah dinner?

Bubbe: We generally have a dairy meal. I have my Baked Fish recipe, and along with that I make my potato pancakes so that I can serve the sour cream with it, which is dairy, and applesauce. And a nice salad. Occasionally if more of the grandchildren come in from out of town from college, and I want them to have an extra-special meal, for another day I will make a meat meal, and for that I like to make a good pot roast, because I feel that the pot roast will make a good balance with the potato pancakes and the applesauce. And chicken soup of course, chicken soup and matzo balls is a must as far as my grandchildren are concerned.

Is that how you start the meal?

Bubbe: I start it sometimes with a little bit of chopped herring or salad, depending on the weather and the time. And then I have the matzo balls and the chicken soup, and I have to have enough, because grandchildren, bless them, one dish is not enough, they have to have two servings.

Avrom: It’s true, we always have to have a second serving of soup.

What is your favorite Jewish holiday to cook for?

Bubbe: I like the New Year. The beginning of the new year, it’s the beginning of fall, it has a holiday feeling, and that’s where I really concentrate on. The others too, but that’s my favorite.

Avrom: It’s the whole idea of having a sweet new year.

Bubbe: That’s right, the honey and start the new year off right. It’s a nice time of year, after the summer, everyone can get together, and family-wise we look forward to it.

Did you know, Avrom, that this was going to be such a big hit?

Avrom: I had absolutely no idea it was going to be such a big hit. I was just posting it for my résumé so I’d be able to show it off when I was trying to find a job, and little did I know that we’d started getting contacted by all these people and before we know it we’re looking at 18 episodes with more coming.

And so far it’s just been you and your bubbe. Are you planning on having any other family members make guest appearances?

Avrom: So far that’s pretty much it. There was one time that we ended up doing a video for Carson Daly, and my zadie—that’s Yiddish for grandfather—he became a big part of that. Carson Daly said, “Those grandparents are hysterical.”

Bubbe, how do you feel about being hysterical?

Bubbe: When Avrom approached me with this, and I said, “You know, I’ll do one,” then he came back: “Will you do one more recipe?” “All right, two recipes.” Then he came back and said, “Bubbe, you’ve got to do more,” and I said, “What are you talking about? What do you want me to do? I’m retired!” And he says, “Look at all the emails.” And at that time I didn’t know what blogging was, or any of these terms in computers. And I sat down and started looking at the emails, and I thought, “Well, I guess it’s for real.” That’s how we started, and the emails kept increasing, asking for different recipes, different ideas, and I said, “Avrom, there must be a need for it.”

Avrom: Yeah, definitely, to get to a point where the Wall Street Journal [registration required] goes and [writes about us], that was unbelievable, and then having ABC News call up. We never expected any of this to happen—it was supposed to just be something for the family and just for myself personally. But Bubbe managed to personalize this by not using her name and allowing everyone to call her Bubbe; it creates this family feeling, in that people feel like they are really emailing their own personal bubbe, grandma …

Bubbe: They tell me, “When I look at you I feel like I’m in my bubbe’s kitchen, you make me so comfortable, you reminded me of things way back when.” You know, this is memories and feelings, it’s not just the cooking—it has something more in it. And these emails keep coming and coming.

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About chalutzproductions

Chalutz is the hebrew word for pioneer and the name fits since the online broadcasting world is an experience which Podcasters and Vidcasters were pioneering at the time of our creation.

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