Chutzpah

Serina Menache's Pineapple Sponge Cake

Sarina Menashe’s Pineapple Sponge Cake

Chutzpah

In the beginning, the Menashe family lived humbly in the back of the first store they acquired up the corner from First Street on First Avenue in Que Que.  Still, Mrs. Sarina Menashe prided herself in producing delicious Sephardic meals for the family and a sumptuous table for special occasions.  They never had to go to hotels.  She baked the best cakes in Que Que.  During the War there were always cake sales.  Barney Kahn would only buy her cakes. Her specialty was pan sponjado (sponge cake) filled with pineapple and fresh cream.

Chutzpah

Nick, a relative of Sarina’s, was the son of a rich man in Eifel Flats.  He had not married out of faith, which would have put his parents into black to mourn publicly for a year and disgraced the family for a lifetime.  But he had married an Ashkenazi girl.   He brought his new wife, Joyce, and his bull frog of a mother-in-law, a snob from Johannesburg, for dinner.  As usual she carried her Pekinese dog.

From early morning there had been a hive of activity in the kitchen as Sarina and her daughters Katie and Rachel prepared for their arrival.   Out of the chaos emerged a wonderful aroma that wafted to the dining room even before the array of dishes were brought to the dining room table.

With the dishes passed around, plates full, and the meal underway, Nick’s mother-in- law reached down.  She pulled out of her handbag a small parcel.  She opened it revealing lox (smoked salmon, a great delicacy).  She proceeded to cut a piece.  She placed it on her daughter’s plate.  She tried to put some on Nick’s plate.  He protested.

Mr. Aaron Menashe, sitting at the head of his table, could not believe his eyes.  At Sarina’s table!

“If she comes again, I’ll give her poison,” he said afterwards.

She never appeared in their house again.

 


 

 

16 Comments

  • betty

    Reply Reply January 27, 2012

    The height of rudeness, knowing full well it was an insult….bully for Mr. Menashe! Do you have the recipe for the sponge cake with pineapple? Would love it for sure!
    I miss your luscious and incredible meals, Diana. the best hostess I know!
    ………and effortlessly presented!!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply January 28, 2012

      Betty, Solly Menashe, a relative, opened a bakery in Phoenix, Arizona in 1979 after he emigrated from Rhodesia. Now retired he owns a company that sells software on how to manage a bakery, works as a bakery management consultant and compiled a cookbook called Las Comedicas de Rodis (Sephardic Delicacies from Rhodes) inspired by the family heritage. The sponge cake recipe is in it.
      Yes, we do have such happy memories of our wonderful feasts together. A favorite of ours still is your golden shores of acorn squash surrounding a lake of brown sugar and butter…not to mention sitting around your kitchen table spread with newspaper with a great big pile of Gulf coast prawns and a bowl of melted butter. MMM good!

      • Diana

        Reply Reply January 28, 2012

        Email from Abe Menashe with a request to post:
        Hallo Diana,
        Our Que Que house you depicted so aptly, was the ONLY house the Menashe’s lived in. Dad would never move to the “snooty” suburbs being developed. Besides he never had a car. It was more convenient to walk the one block to A. Menashe Corner.
        Nick Amato, the person in Eifel Flats had an elder brother Albert. A great hearted man who ended up in Toronto with his only living child Norman. I am still in touch with Norman. He is a Boffin in Cabala.
        Finall, my mother’s name was Sarina. Her Great Grand Daughter Serena (my Son Julian’s Daughter) is a Doctor having graduated over 3 years ago at the same College (The Imperial College , London, only he gained his PhD in Chemical Engineering) is to be married on 5th May, in the Yorkshire Dales to John Sykes, also an Imperial College graduate in Geology. John was the College Rugby Coach. Serena was an (over 6ft forward) in the Ladies 1st team. John will be applying his talents by relocating and Consulting, from Perth Australia, to Mining Corporates. Going back to the wedding.
        Julian has taken over (virtually,) a Lord’s Mansion which about 8 months ago appeared on a BBC morning show. My wife, Pauline,, second son Mark and wife Rose; from the USA, our daughter Dr Louise and her family will hopefully be there as well. I am looking forward to the occasion. Abe

        • Diana

          Reply Reply January 28, 2012

          Abe, Thats amazing the family never moved from the original house. We are a so much more mobile society today, the average American family moving every seven years, and to think of never owning a car! There really wasn’t any public transportation, except the train, which was our life line of course. Rhodes’ Cape to Cairo rail dream was what really opened up Rhodesia.
          I am sure you will enjoy all the pomp, ceremony and family at the wedding in May at the Lord’s Mansion in Yorkshire. The family has come a long way. Congratulations to you all. Diana

  • Nace Menashe

    Reply Reply June 6, 2012

    Interesting Story. I named my daughter Sarina. It is also name of a women I fondly remember growing up who immigrated from Rhodes, Greece and lived in Portland, Or USA. I live a grew up in Portland. Lots of Menashe’s here. Is Que Que a city in Zimbabwe?

    • Diana

      Reply Reply June 7, 2012

      Nace, I have written a series of stories of the Sarina and Aaron Menashe family who owned a haberdashery store in Que Que (mid way between the two main cities of Bulawayo and Salisbury (now Harare)) in Zimbabwe (formally Southern Rhodesia).
      http://www.oncecalledhome.com/2012/01/just-in-time/
      and following stories of their background mentioning his prior immigration to Portland OR.
      I am still in touch with one of the son’s, Abe, and have written a number of blogs about his career in Bulawayo beginning:
      http://www.oncecalledhome.com/2012/05/an-independent-rhodesian/
      I saw him in London this week and can put you in touch with him if interested. I am back on the Oregon coast. Perhaps we could meet?

      • Nace Menashe

        Reply Reply June 10, 2012

        Diana,
        What a coincidence that you are at the Oregon coast. I would like to meet you. FYI: I showed my mother your Chutzpah story and she said. “I have met Solly Menashe, see I have his cookbook”. Do you ever travel into Portland? I could also travel to the Central or North coast for a day trip with my wife and children to meet you. If you wish please contact me directly at my email address with your phone number and I can call you to set up a meet.

        • Diana

          Reply Reply June 10, 2012

          Yes, I have a digital copy of his cookbook also, courtesy of Abe. Look forward to meeting you. Diana

  • Solly Menashe

    Reply Reply September 12, 2012

    What a suprprise. Stumbled onto this blog by chance. I was born in rhodes and moved to Rhodesia in ’39, first to Eiffel Flats for a couple of weeks then to Salisbury. After graduation worked there ans in South Africa as a consulting engineer until ’79 when i moved to Scottsdale. I was unable to register as an engineer so I asked how can I make any dough for my family – I was told I could make a lot of dough if i bought a bakery – hence my short profession as a baker. Used my engineering experience with computers to write a system to make my life easier. Sold bakeries (now three of them) in ’85 and atarted a company which commercialized my software for bakeries – became #1 in the world. Sold that in 2006 and retired.
    created the Sephardic recipe cookbook and all the proceeds were from the sales were used to air condition the synagogue in Rhodes. Diana, if you are ever in Phoenix please contact me – would love to meet you.

    • Diana

      Reply Reply September 12, 2012

      Solly,
      Grand to hear from you. I wrote a number of stories about the Aaron and Sarina Menashe family who settled in Que Que in the 1920’s and owned a haberdashery store. I have over 130 blogs to date (posting weekly on Fridays at 8 am. You can subscribe and receive it automatically if you like. I will not share my directory with anyone and it is secure.)

      Here are the direct links to the Menashe story about their immigration from Rhodes:
      http://www.oncecalledhome.com/2012/01/just-in-time/
      A total of eight stories follow in the series.

      The stories were told to me by Abe Menashe (Aaron’s son). He sent me your recipe book on line which I much enjoyed. I had no idea that Sephardic cooking was so much influenced by the Mediterranean and differed from the Ashkenazi delicacies with which I was familiar.

      Much earlier I wrote about Aaron’s two sisters who worked for my father briefly right after they graduated from Medical School (late 40’s) in a blog:
      http://www.oncecalledhome.com/2011/05/the-difference…five-shillings/
      This was a story my father often used to tell and absolutely no malice was intended. It is human nature to think that the more you pay the better the product, which isn’t necessarily true. I think this is a sweet story of their youthful naivety but believe the sisters took exception to it.

      I am so glad you made such a success of the bakery and combining your computer and bakery skills into a blueprint for others to follow. I’d love to visit you in Scottsdale when I go on tour with the novel based on our families experiences in Que Que. I am almost done.

      I would love to have your comments on the Menashe stories…(or anything else as you read along.)

  • Lynette Benaltabe

    Reply Reply October 29, 2012

    I bought the cookbook, SEPHARDIC DELICACIES FROM RHODES while visiting the synagogue in Rhodes. It is fabulous! Now that I am back in the U.S., how can I order more copies? Please advise. Thanks.

    • Diana

      Reply Reply October 30, 2012

      I will put you in touch with Solly Menashe in Phoenix. I have an on line copy but I am sure he will be happy to sell you a hard back.

  • Ena Haines

    Reply Reply April 21, 2013

    I have enjoyed reading your stories of a different world.
    I just reread the letters my grandfather, Emil Raeburn, wrote to my mother in the mid-1950’s from Que Que. He was a displaced Viennese who came to Rhodesia via London. His letters say that he initially lectured about his trip across the Sahara, then started a restaurant, apparently called Le Chanteclar, in Que Que. One of the letters has a return address of Gabbari Ranch, the rest just a PO Box number.
    Does any of this sound familiar to you, Diana? He died there in 1957. I don’t know what his wife Kay did after that.
    Thanks for any recollections or ideas on where to find out more.

    • Diana

      Reply Reply April 22, 2013

      Ena,
      Yes I remember Le Chanteclar. It was quite a big restaurant with a number of pot plants inside. (I don’t know why I remember that.)
      It was well situated, attached to a petrol station at the round-about on the Salisbury/Bulawayo Road, as you came into town from the Salisbury side, so it caught all the weary travellers at the mid way point on the 300 mile journey between the two main centers of Salisbury and Bulawayo. But it was separated from the town itself, on that side, by the full length of the Railway Park and the railway housing for two full blocks before the commercial center commenced. This isolated it somewhat from the hustle and bustle of the daily townsfolk traffic. I’m sorry I don’t remember your grandfather at all. (I turned eleven in 1957).
      I do remember Kay Raeburn very, very well. In 1957, my father’s position as the mine doctor at the Globe and Pheonix Mine was made redundant, (along with many others). Fortunately, my father had already established a private practice in town but we found ourselves without a house and there was nothing suitable in town. He subdivided a large plot he owned in Hillandale into four, retaining the largest at the top of the hill with a beautiful view for us, selling the others off. Kay Raeburn bought the lot next door (the others were at the bottom of the hill) and she built on it also.
      Kay was wiry, with silver hair cropped like a boy, unusual for those times, and didn’t wear lipstick. She was rumoured to have been tortured as a prisoner of war in WWII.
      She was very intelligent and a very good typist. She was a very loyal political supporter of my father’s and worked tirelessly in his various campaigns. She typed, and retyped all the manuscripts for my father’s three books and various booklets and pamphlets. Routinely he would get up at 4 am and write until 6.30 am when the ‘cookboy’ arrived with early morning tea and exchange the handwritten notes to be delivered next door. In the evening he would edit the manuscript she had typed and send it back over the fence. The pace was always very fast and demanding. She was a saint!
      She got me a pen pal in French Equatorial Africa, (I think it was) and all the letters had to be translated for me by her.
      In about 1975 or so she sold the property (or perhaps it was an estate sale?) and Elmer and Elizabeth Philipson bought her house. He was the son of the premier butcher in town who also owned the ranch Forestvale on the Bembezaan River. Elmer had qualified as a vet. They subsequently moved to Comox, Vancouver Island. You might be able to get a picture of the house from them if interested.
      I hope this is helpful.
      I am sure your Grandfathers story of how he came to land in Que Que is a very interesting one. Perhaps you would like to share it with me on the blog?

  • Kay Menashe

    Reply Reply May 30, 2013

    I am the Kate mentioned in the note.
    I write this at age 92 in Sea Point, via the hand of my son David.
    Everything in the article brought wonderful memories. Everything exactly as written.
    Thank you for the article which brought me great joy and memories.
    Kay (Menashe) Gotlieb
    Sea Point
    Cape Town

    • Diana

      Reply Reply May 30, 2013

      Kay, It is wonderful hearing from you. I am so glad you enjoyed the blogs about the Menashe’s as told to me by Abe. You must be one of the sisters my father wrote about when you were newly graduated from medical school and worked for a short time at the Globe and Phoenix Mine Surgery with him before going on to Great Ormond Street Hospital. It is so wonderful to be young and idealist. I hope you have not lost the joy of living and doing good. You can read that blog here:
      http://www.oncecalledhome.com/2011/05/the-difference…five-shillings/
      I would love to have your comment on it!
      Stay well. Diana

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