These were the dog days of the month of Tammuz and, impoverished as they were, the citizens of the Balut stood in line to shell out a few coins for a taste of Jocheved’s flavored winter. They queued up, according to the goyim (who queued as well), with their tongues lolling as if they were waiting, God forbid, to take communion. The thriving progress of her business venture fueled the girl’s ambition, and seeking to improve her product, she obtained some recipe pamphlets from the local book peddlers, which (as unread as the rest of her family) she nevertheless set herself to decipher. When she’d laid by a little extra capital, she bought from a general merchandise catalogue an item called a Fuller’s freezing pail. This was a wooden bucket with a zinc interior and a rotating central handle for mixing the preparation of egg yolks, cream, and sugar, and whatever exotic ingredients (jasmine, musk) she might wish to add. The operation involved surrounding the vessel in an azure moat of ice and sal ammoniac, churning with one hand while scraping off the crystals as they formed on the pail with the other. It was strenuous work, to which Jocheved was of course no stranger, and she thrilled at the alchemical process of converting her raw ingredients into sweet confections—a transformation as stupendous as the wonders in her father’s tales. As she expanded her repertoire, so did she increase the volume of her production, crowding the cellar flat with vessels like paint pots filled to the brim, the entire stock of which she sold every day.
Soon she was able to contribute significantly to the family coffers, but rather than simply turn over her profits, Jocheved preferred to present her parents with gifts they would never have purchased for themselves, such as a clothes wringer, a tea urn, a rotary flour sifter, and a japanned coal hod for her irascible mother. Then there was the controversial mohair walking skirt with a flounce and the pair of mercerized lisle stockings, which Basha Puah complained were an insane extravagance and must be returned—though she was seen wearing both skirt and stockings with a touch of hauteur in the women’s gallery of the Vlada Street shul on Tisha B’av. In that same shul her husband, relegated to the rear of the congregation in the pews reserved for the common laborers, could be seen sporting a new pair of knee-high chamois boots. In addition, Jocheved had begun seeking more salubrious accommodations for her family.
Check back tomorrow for the next installment of The Frozen Rabbi. Or, to get each day’s installment of The Frozen Rabbi in your inbox, sign up for the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest, and tell your friends.