Jewish Woman Magazine

Bubbe Wisdom: Two New Books Capture the Essence of Remarkable Grandmothers

By Susan Tomchin
Winter 2011

We all know the Jewish grandmother stereotype—a stocky woman with a halo of gray hair, clad in housedress and apron, wearing sensible shoes and support hose, ready to dispense chicken soup at the first sign of a sniffle.

What we don’t see in this cardboard portrait of Bubbe is her intelligence, her wisdom, her depth of caring and her resilience.

Two delightful new books capture the essence of remarkable bubbes—with the help of their grandchildren.

Ilene Beckerman, known for witty and inspiring “everywoman” memoirs, among them the bestsellingLove, Loss and What I Wore (the basis for the off-Broadway play adapted by Delia and Nora Ephron), has written a delightfully heartfelt and humorous bouquet of a book to her late grandmother, Ettie Goldberg, entitled The Smartest Woman I Know (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, $15.95).

After the death of her mother, Beckerman and her sister came to live with her grandparents, Ettie and Harry Goldberg, who ran a stationery and magazine store on Madison Avenue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. “After raising three children while working in the store seven days a week, she found herself, at the age of 65, raising two grandchildren while working in the store seven days a week,” Beckerman writes.

Though she had only a third-grade education, Ettie dispensed wisdom to everyone, from Ilene and her sister Tootsie to customers such as Sara Delano Roosevelt, FDR’s mother, who confessed her worry about Franklin’s polio. “Don’t worry,” Ettie told her, “your son’s got a good head on his shoulders. Someday he’ll be president.”

Ettie had something to say about everything from beauty to dieting, from marriage to the importance of eating. When Ilene was upset about having to wear glasses, Ettie told her, “It’s not the end of the world. There’s already been a Jewish Miss America. Now we need a Jewish woman president—so go do your homework.”

Both humorous and poignant, The Smartest Woman I Know pays homage to a woman who, says Beckerman, had she been born in the late 20th century instead of the late 19th century, “probably would have been the superstar of advice bloggers.”

The bubbe in Feed Me Bubbe: Recipes and Wisdom From America’s Favorite Online Grandmother(Running Press, $16), by Bubbe and Avrom Honig, is known for dispensing advice about Jewish cooking through her cooking show, Feed Me Bubbe, on JLTV and

Though we never learn Bubbe’s real name, we see her photo and learn her background. Born in 1927 in a small New England town, where she has lived all her life, she worked for many years as a bank teller, yet served a hot kosher meal every night of the week. At age 80, with the encouragement and media expertise of her grandson, Avrom, she began a whole new career showing the wired generation how to cook “Jewish.”

Now she is busy making videos and fielding calls and emails from all the people who have discovered her online. She once got a desperate early morning call from a woman in the South who wanted to prepare latkes for a Chanukah party and didn’t know whether to use raw or cooked potatoes. Of course, Bubbe set her straight. “It’s amazing to me that there are so many people out there who need my help,” she writes. “They don’t know how to stuff cabbage! They’ve never tasted chopped liver! They can’t remember ingredients for matzo brei!”

Her book is filled with Jewish comfort food classics, as well as other easy-to-prepare recipes. There’s Bubbe’s Brisket, Chicken and Meatball Fricassee, Mushroom Barley Soup, Easy Chicken Schnitzel and Marble Mandel Bread, but also Eggplant Lasagna, Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes and Turkey Egg Rolls. Along with the recipes, Bubbe tells stories about her life, including the time she burned her first pot roast. She includes menus for holidays and other occasions—a picnic, an hors d’oeuvres party, a get-well-soon remedy—a reminder that with good, down-to-earth food comes the opportunity to get together with family and friends, something we all need more of in our busy world.

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Brookline Patch

The Persistence of Recipes

Family food traditions are passed down on grease-stained index cards and YouTube.

By Shanna Giora-Gorfajn

Nearly every family has at least one kitchen secret. Maybe Mom and Dad ordered takeout seven nights a week, but the trick was knowing what to order where and when. More likely, there was a sacred recipe for rice pudding, or chana dal, or stuffed cabbage. The little variations in ingredients and technique are what make your grandmother’s chicken soup uniquely hers—and are also what lead to lively spousal debates about whose grandmother had it right.

Any attempt to replicate the one of these dishes without years of careful observation is often doomed to failure, because the many of the recipes cannot be reduced to precise measurements and times. Clemenza’s sauce recipe from”The Godfather” is about as vague as it gets, calling for “a little bit of oil” and “some tomatoes” followed by a directive to “shove in all your sausage and your meatballs.” But the really important part of the recipe comes before Clemenza even mentions the oil: “Come over here, kid. Learn something. You never know—you might have to cook for twenty guys some day.”

Twenty guys was nothing to my maternal grandfather, who learned to cook for a crowd when he joined the U.S. Army during World War II. Though he made his living as a butcher after the war, Grandpa also went on to cater parties and dinners for friends. I remember cooking alongside him when I was a child, but I rarely—if ever—noticed him measuring anything. This is largely how I gained the confidence to cook by intuition, fiddling with ingredients and techniques until the dish looks and tastes right. Make the same thing enough times and eventually you will get consistent results—and if it’s not exactly the same as last time, who cares?

Grandpa also liked to demonstrate simple ways to present food attractively: a bed of lettuce under a composed salad, cheesecake sliced cleanly with a hot knife, stuffed cabbage rolled so tightly it could hold its shape through three plate transfers. His recipe for a mashed avocado-and-egg spread may not have included exact quantities, but it contained instructions to serve the dip in hollowed-out avocado shells. A note scrawled at the bottom advised, “If the top turns brown, stir around before serving so it looks green again.”

I spent most of my life assuming that everybody thought as highly of Grandpa’s cooking as I did. Of course, I was mistaken. Reminiscing with my great-aunt last year, she conceded that her brother-in-law was an accomplished cook, but—and here you must imagine her conspiratorial whisper—his food was always so salty!

Salty food or no, I regret not having more of his recipes and advice. There are countless details I wish I knew concerning dishes I never thought twice about when he was alive. For example, that same great-aunt speculates that he used tomatoes in his chicken soup, but she can’t recall whether it was a dollop of canned paste or a cupful of puree. By the time I was old enough to keep track of what was going on in the kitchen, he was taking shortcuts with bouillon cubes instead.

Luckily, there are other grandparents out there who are willing to divulge their family secrets. Five years ago, Avrom Honig set out to make a demo video to aid in his job search, and he convinced his bubbe (Yiddish for “grandmother”) to stage a cooking demonstration entitled “Feed Me, Bubbe.” After the video attracted a wide audience, Avrom produced another episode, and another. The online show took off and “Bubbe”—she never reveals her real name—became everyone’s kitchen grandmother.

Bubbe moves about her kitchen with a comfortable familiarity and cushions her instructions with gentle encouragement.

“Everyone needs an easy beginning…and eventually they will develop their own tastes and style of cooking,” Bubbe told me. “Once someone gets the spark from starting to cook they can’t help but want to learn more.”

Bubbe also seems to subtly reassure her audience that imperfection is okay. Who can resist a teacher who dishes out noodle kugel only to turn away from the camera as she remembers that she needs forks to go with it? Any overwhelmed novice chef would be comforted to hear Bubbe introduce her lesson on cheese blintzes with: “I got a little lazy the last several years and I bought frozen blintzes. And they’re not bad.”

After recording a few dozen episodes, not to mention several endorsements and media appearances, Bubbe and Avrom released a cookbook earlier this year. With extensive narratives and each recipe laid out in a conversational style, the book reflects Bubbe’s reassuring online personality.

If, like so many other viewers, you are determined to adopt Bubbe as your own, you may have your chance this weekend. Avrom and Bubbe will be at the Brookline Booksmith on Sunday afternoon. If you can’t take Bubbe home with you, at least you can bring home her signed cookbook.

And if you don’t have your own family recipes to learn and make your own, you will always have hers.

About this column: A bi-weekly exploration of eating seasonally, locally and mindfully. Look for the Bounty Hunter every other Friday on Brookline Patch.

The Emily Rooney Show

Thurs. 12/01/11 Feed Me Bubbe Cookbook

Feed Me Bubbe Cookbook

Since 2006, thousands of online fans have benefitted from the kosher culinary wisdom of Bubbe – the 85-year-old host of “Feed Me Bubbe.” Bubbe launched her new career at age 80, with the help and tech saavy of her doting grandson and producer, 27-year-old Avrom Honig. And now, the Bubbe empire is expanding with the publication of a companion cook book. Feed Me Bubbe: Recipes and Wisdom from America’s Favorite Online Grandmother includes all of Bubbe’s classic recipes, insights and stories.

  Bubbe, star of Feed Me Bubbe – which can be seen on cable channel JLTV and online at
  Avrom Honig, Bubbe’s grandson and the creator of Feed Me Bubbe

Boston Herald

November 30, 2011

Bubbe’s kitchen

By JOSHUA WALOVITCH    |  Page 32,33
The best part about spending Hanukkah at Bubbe’s house isn’t the eight days of presents; it’s the eight days of great food. 

Since 2006, JLTV and online viewers have enjoyed the kosher culinary wisdom of one bubbe (the Yiddish word for grandmother) in particular — the 85-year-old co-host of “Feed Me Bubbe.” 

The other half of the team is Avrom Honig, 27, of Worcester, Bubbe’s…

Episode #35 Pickled Salmon

Episode #35 Pickled Salmon

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Episode #34 Sweet Stuffed Baked Potato

Episode #34 Sweet Stuffed Baked Potato

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ZVI (Iggy) Goodman Margaretten’s choice for NOVEMBER 2011:

Feed Me Bubbe
Recipes and Wisdom from America’s Favorite Online Grandmother
Bubbe and Avrom Honig
September 2011 Running Press
Feed Me Bubbe is all about taking you into Bubbe’s kitchen. Based upon the popular online and televised kosher cooking show seen all over the world this book includes all of Bubbe’s classic recipes, insights, and stories that are sure to touch the heart. Her voice and wisdom come across each page through a format that makes cooking fun and comfortable for any skill level. Discover Bubbe’s favorite Yiddish songs and create menus that will be sure to please any palate. This is a must purchase for any fan of Feed Me Bubbe and anyone interested in experiencing the feelings, memories, and tastes of being a part of Bubbe’s kitchen. So pull up a chair, sit down, have some chicken soup, and as Bubbe says at the end of every episode “Ess gezunterhait!” Eat in good health.
Picture sitting around the dining room table while your Bubbe, your grandmother, is in the kitchen cooking your absolute favorite treat. Be it the smell of chicken soup with matzo balls, the sounds of the sizzling oil as latkes are being prepared.
And the smile on her face as she would bring in that meal to the table for all to enjoy. Those memories, feelings, and moments are what the highlights of our childhood was made of. Bubbe wants you to feel that connection, revealing only need to know information, making you feel like Bubbe is adopting you into her family. This is not your typical book, yes it includes recipes but this book has a “Yiddish Word of the Day”, stories, words of encouragement amongst other surprises that makes any human soul want to know more. We worked very hard to get the results that we knew the fans expected to see at the end of the day. In addition we wanted to make this book accessible to those that may not have seen the show online or on TV through JLTV in which the book is based upon. If you have not seen the show for yourself take a closer look at Bubbe’s incredible world up close and personal through this book in what our fans affectionately know of as Feed Me Bubbe.

Above is the official blurb. Now, for mine. Avrom Honig is a nice Jewish grandson. A college graduate, he gives great nachas to his Worcester family. He wanted to get involved in the media business after college, and was trying to make a tape/dvd/reel to show his work to prospective employers. He wasn’t happy with his sample dvd, and his father, in a fit of angst, said, why don’t you video your bubbe. And that is how his octogenarian bubbe became a media star, and part of a PBS Frontline documentary. He taped her making homey meals and giving advice, and these became an online sensation, a cable TV show, annual Beyond Bubbe Cook-off at WGBH in Boston, and, now, a cookbook
The cookbook is filled with stories, recipes, and cooking advice. There are memories of growing up in New England, marrying, and raising a family. The recipes are kosher, basic, easy, and heimisch. Each page has a Yiddish word of the day. There are recipes for latkas, blintzes, bulkelach (cinnamon rolls), chopped chicken livers, mock faux chopped liver, chopped eggs and onions (she uses olive oil), salmon puffs, chopped herring, Israeli style herring (tomato paste and apples), and pickled salmon. There is a story about a neighbor’s first taste of nova lox, the Catskills, a Boston area snowstorm and its food requirements, balancing work (she worked) and family and a daily hot meal for her growing family. Oh, there is the story of a crock pot and a frankfurter sliced lengthwise. Then there are more recipes, such as ones for pickles, black radish salad, homemade horseradish (with a story), and lime laced fruit salad. Naturally there is a recipe for chicken soup, and a gogol mogol drink that can cure you. There is fish chowder (cuz she is in New England), yellow pea soup with frankfurters (or hot dogs), meatball stew, lots of soups, bubbe’s burgers, and lettuce and tomato and onion on toasted bread. There are old family pics from the album. These are the foods your bubbe would make for you. There is baked fish cakes, sole stuffed with salmon, roasted chicken, mock gefilte fish (made of… chicken!), turkey eggrolls, turkey cacciatore (which she once flew with on a jet to California to feed at least ten relatives, because that is what bubbes do). Her brisket is to LIVE for, as is her beef or vegetarian tzimis, pitcha, cholent, pepper steak, pot roast, spaghetti and meatballs, corned beef, beef tongue, as well as kugels and desserts

Jewish Humor Central

Last summer we introduced our readers to Bubbe, an 83-year-old grandmother from Massachusetts, who stars in Feed Me Bubbe, a series of 20 web videos, preparing traditional Jewish recipes for a new generation.
This week, a book based on the series, called Feed Me Bubbe: Recipes and Wisdom from America’s Favorite Online Grandmother, is making its appearance wherever books are sold, including the online sites Amazon.comand
Here’s an episode from the Feed Me Bubbe series, where Bubbe demonstrates the art of preparing stuffed cabbage.  A link to the recipe is posted below the video.  Enjoy!

Your New (To You!) Favorite Show: “Feed Me Bubbe”

Now that “Breaking Bad” is back, my Sunday nights are a little more stressfull and nerve-wracking. It’s a good idea to watch something light-hearted and silly after stressing out for an hour over Walter White. Since I don’t have cable, I watch the show with a couple of good friends at their house (and try to win over their cat, with no luck so far) every week. Our post-“Breaking Bad” unwinding has included “Adventure Time” and “Bob’s Burgers,” to name a couple. Last night, I was introduced to “Feed Me Bubbe.”

Originally, I thought it was a cartoon. It sounds like something nonsensical that would come out of Cartoon Network or something. But no, it’s Bubbe (Yiddish for “grandmother”) walking you through her family recipes. Bubbe and her grandson Avrom talk about the food and the memories and traditions associated with it. You’ll also learn some Yiddish.

What a way to destress, indeed. My next step will be to try some of these recipes. Chicken schnitzel, anyone?

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Episode #33 Pepper Steak

Episode #33 Pepper Steak

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Jewish Humor Central

Look Out, Rachael And Emeril — Here Comes “Feed Me Bubbe”

Two years ago, an 83-year-old short, stooped, white-haired Massachusetts grandmother with a kindly face was happily retired from her bank job.  Then her grandson Avrom Honig graduated from Worcester State College with a degree in communications.  That was the start of a new career for both of them — Avrom as the producer and Bubbe (she will not disclose her real name) as the star of an online cooking show.
Now, 30 episodes later, as Linda Matchan wrote in the Boston Globe,

…she’s inundated with e-mail — ‘‘without exaggeration, hundreds, even thousands’’ — from fans from as far away as China and Africa who want help roasting chicken or stuffing cabbage, or to confide in her about their tsuris (troubles).

She’s got a website (, a frequently updated Facebook page (‘‘on the set right now working on the cholent episode’’), and an online store selling her T-shirts, aprons, even a ‘‘Feed Me Bubbe’’ ringtone (original klezmer music, composed by a fan).

Bubbe’s newfound fame is a uniquely 21st century phenomenon, made possible in a world where anyone who blogs, tweets, Facebooks, or YouTubes can vault to celebrity. But this is also what makes Bubbe’s story so unusual. Until recently, her life was so low-tech that she thought the Internet “came out of the air, just like nothing.’’

Though she didn’t set out to do so, Bubbe has managed to stand out from the pack by embracing the new technology while just being herself, cooking old-fashioned dishes in an old-fashioned kitchen in old-fashioned ways. In the process, she has tapped into a market of peripatetic, family-starved young people who are hungry for more than just chicken soup. They’re hungry for Bubbes.

For that very reason, Bubbe – who lives in a suburb west of Boston – doesn’t disclose her real name on the show, and she declined to give it to the Globe as well. “I never want to be recognized. People write me and say I remind them of their own grandmother,’’ says Bubbe, who believes she fills a void in the lives of grandmother-less viewers. “So how can I have another name?’’

In the video below, Bubbe congratulates YouTube on its fifth anniversary and notes that Feed Me Bubbe is celebrating its fourth anniversary.  We follow this with one of Bubbe’s cooking videos in which she prepares sweet and sour meatballs.  Enjoy!

Episode #32 Cholent

Episode #32 Cholent

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Episode #30 Eggplant Lasagna

Episode #30 Eggplant Lasagna

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Episode #29 Passover Brownies

Episode #29 Passover Brownies

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Episode #28 Passover Breakfast

Episode #28 Passover Breakfast

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I love you Bubbe!!! this series is absolute genius.

I love you Bubbe!!! this series is absolute genius. I found you some months ago while searching for a good matzoh ball soup recipe. I ended up having to quadruple the portions, given the number of guests, plus I wanted to reduce everything down to intensify the flavors. we had it with a gorgeous pastrami a friend brought back from the deli in his old neighborhood in long island — steamed it for about four or five hours and served it on slices of freshly baked rye that our baker friend made just for the occasion. utter, utter bliss.

thank you so much for this series, A & B! it goes straight to the best things in the world for me: family, tradition, comfort food, laughter, sharing. I cook for a living, and let me tell you, I wish it could always be like this.

Alex S — Columbia, SC (via Feed Me Bubbe Facebook Group)