I've put myself in an impossible position. Contrary to professional standards of journalism, I promised my grandmothers they could have prior approval of the details in this article. Family over business, as they'd say.
What did they think?
"Praise the children more," Pearlie says of her daughters. "They're the best. They don't come better. And you make Grandpa sound like a finagler and a gambler. You should portray him as a family man. Family always came first for him. He was such a good man."
There is one other little thing, Pearlie says, laughing. "The Salvation Army runs this building. Do you have to put in the part about my, you know, crotch?"
And Tessie? "It's OK," she told me, obviously holding back. "It's all right. I still don't like that you're talking about me. I don't want to be popular."
"Did I get anything wrong?"
"If I didn't want you to write it, I wouldn't have told you," she adds, shrewdly reflecting the advice most press agents offer their celebrity clients. "It's my simple life. But it is so."
SAY GOODBY, BUBBES
Tessie: The more you live, the more you learn, the more you can forget. Farshtayt? ("Understand?")
Pearlie: People are so good, you have no idea. Anything else you want to know, Joyala?
GRANDMA PEARLIE'S FAMOUS FRENCH TOAST
I put in two eggs, two large eggs. I put in just a cup of milk. And I put in a little drop of vanilla. You can use almond flavor or vanilla. If you don't want to use it, you don't have to use it. And a little sugar. I start off with a teaspoon and I find if I feel I need more, then I just add a little more, but don't forget the children put syrup on it, see, so we don't need it that sweet.
You can use any kind of white bread, sliced, if they like white bread. If you like whole wheat, you use whole wheat.
Now, you can fry it in butter, you can fry it in the no-fat, no-salt margarine. If I haven't got margarine, I use butter.
Soaking the bread, that's the secret. You have to have your oil or butter or whatever you put in there melted, and you mustn't leave it in too much in the milk. If you leave it in too much in the milk and the eggs, then it gets sloppy and then you can't have it like one piece. So you just put it in, take it out. I don't use too much grease. While it's frying, I see if it needs it, and if it's starting to burn, then I just add a little more, because I try to use as little as possible.
And that's the whole big spiel.
GRANDMA TESSIE'S AMAZING MATZO BALL SOUP
First of all, the chicken should be fresh. A good chicken. Usually, the non-Kosher chicken is not so fresh, because non-Kosher can stay in the freezer who knows how long? But if it's a nice, fresh-killed chicken, I clean it up. Take out all the feathers and all. Clean. And then, let's say for a chicken, you need four pounds. It's a good chicken already.
You put in some water in the pot to cover the chicken. Slowly, you bring it to a boil and take off the stuff. It gets foam, like. The fat. Nowadays an hour and a half is a lot. You cook it slowly. You put in vegetables, like carrot and celery. I don't like onions. I don't use no pepper, just salt. Very plain. Other people put in other stuff, yet. It's not like liquid when it gets cold. It's so like Jell-O.
I take out the carrot with a spoon or when I pour off the soup. I like the carrot. I don't like the celery to eat. I remember my sister Leah, she used to put in all kinds of vegetables. And he, Harry, her husband, he ate it all, the vegetables. I couldn't stand it, to see him eat it.
The matzo balls, you cook it separate, not in the soup. Let's say I make two eggs, is more than enough. For one person it's even enough one egg. And I put in a little matzo meal, about a half a cup. I beat it up good with a little salt. You can even put in a drop of pepper, which is OK. A drop of seltzer makes the balls fluffier, maybe a tablespoon of seltzer. I don't know the measurements. That's why I can never give anybody any recipes. Because I just mix it and I see, when it starts getting thicker or so. It's important you should let it stay a few hours, so it hardens up by itself.
Then I boil up a pot of water. Throw in the balls. But don't make them bigger than a walnut, or it'll come out like a big peach. Let it boil for 40 minutes. And that's all. So what?
published in the Los Angeles Times