My Bubbe, Your Bubbe
One Jewish grandmother dispenses recipes and wisdom for all
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.