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My Secret Ingredient is So Secret...
One For Each Night: Chanukah Tales and Recipes

A few years back, I composed a book of holiday stories and recipes, One For Each Night: Chanukah Tales and Recipes.  The recipes are my mother-in-law's--Hilda used to be a caterer in Philadelphia, specializing in desserts.  Each story centers around food (I'm Jewish!) and the recipes correspond--so, for example, there's a mandelbrot recipe that goes with the story, "What Mandel Brought." The illustrations were done by Heather Serratt, and they are adorable.

At some point, I asked my mother-in-law how she liked the book.  She liked it, she said, but her recipes were a little different from those in the book.  Um, well, you gave me these recipes!  No, she said, my recipes vary just slightly.

A great chef is like a magician and no one should know the secrets behind the curtain or behind the kitchen door.   And if you do claim to know them, the magician-chef will alter them just a tad.  And that's the way it should be.  Chef Hilda guards her secrets as a matter of principle.  Her touch makes them unique.  Her love of cooking and of her family makes the ruggelach a little sweeter, the matzo balls a bit fluffier.

But my recipes come very close, Ladies and Gentlemen!  Every cookie you place on the plate will get eaten, and year after year people will ask you to bring that ruggelach again, the one from the Chanukah book. 

Zingerman's delicatessen in Ann Arbor includes the book in their Chanukah baskets.  So for goodness sake, don't tell Mo that the real recipe rests with a 95-year-old woman in Philly, who still bakes like a possessed, good-natured wizard!