My mother, Pearl, never thought of herself as a good cook. But she was—at least when she deftly and caringly made her Aunt Eva’s cookies.
I vaguely remember Aunt Eva, one of my grandmother Martha Gluck’s two sisters, from Thanksgivings as a child. Each year we schlepped the Thanksgiving turkey from our house in suburban New York to my grandparents’ apartment off Central Park, and Aunt Eva brought her famous cookies, made from a thin butter-pastry dough spread with jam or cocoa and cinnamon, then carefully crafted into a jelly roll, baked, and sliced.
The cookies came with my family as they journeyed to a better life during the pogroms of the late 19th century. After leaving Krakow, Poland, they tried Vienna for a few years and then London, where they stopped, like so many other immigrants, to make a little more money for the passage to America.
My mother learned the recipe from her Aunt Eva before she died, and continued to make these delicious pastries for family gatherings and for holidays like Rosh Hashanah.
My mother died earlier this year, at 103, so now it’s my turn to make the cookies, taking a pastry cloth, sprinkling flour on top, and carefully rolling up the dough just like my mother did (recipe here). Each time I make Aunt Eva’s cookies, my mother will once again be at my side.
Joan Nathan is Tablet Magazine’s food columnist and the author of 10 cookbooks including King Solomon’s Table: a Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World.