Saturday, May 9, 2015

Please Remind Me Who I Really Am - Latknishes, aka Mashed Potato Cakes

Oh oh oh, there's a place that I know
It's not pretty there and few have ever gone
If I show it to you now
Will it make you run away?
Or will you stay
Even if it hurts
Even if I try to push you out
Will you return?
And remind me who I really am
Please remind me who I really am

Elliot and Cindy Osher

(Warning: If you're not in the mood for existential blah-blah-blah, scroll down to the recipe. If you are in the mood for philosophical whining, keep reading.)

Cindy Morris (And to think those eyeglass frames are "in" again)
I've been trying to find myself for over 60 years. Who am I?  Good question.  I was born Cindy (no middle name) Osher, but in May, 1962, she ceased to exist when she (me) was adopted by my maternal grandparents. Then in May of 2013, she was resurrected.  Back from the dead, although you still can't get her birth certificate, the one that gives her parents' names as Joyce Nathan and Meyer Osher.  But you can get a birth certificate for her doppelgänger, Cindy (still no middle name) Morris, whose parents happen to be Beatrice Albert and Hyman Morris. Then on October 20, 1974, while waiting to walk down the aisle to become Cindy Rothfeld, my father, with tears in his eyes whispered, "Goodbye, Miss Morris."

Cindy and Robert Rothfeld

Pop always was a sentimentalist, and I'm sure he had no idea that less than a year later, I would go back to being Cindy Morris.

Cindy Morris, again

On April 30, 1978,  I remarried Robert, but decided to keep my maiden name at work. Which thoroughly confused a very dear lady who sometimes answered my telephone, and who for years, had told callers that this was "Miss Morris' wire."  She knew that I remarried my first husband, but wasn't going to use my married name at work, which somehow equated to her telling callers that this was "Mrs. Morris' wire."  I did tell her, gently, that Mrs. Morris was my mother, but she never did get it straight, and after a while I gave up and became "Mrs. Rothfeld."  Since she was an old-fashioned dear, this might have been her intention all along.  The marine insurance industry was not tainted by the least bit of feminism back then.  There were only two female average adjusters in the whole world, and no females working at an executive level.  It was even worse in London, at Lloyd's, where all marine insurance was ultimately connected.  Never mind that a year after I remarried, Margaret Thatcher became the Prime Minister of Great Britain; that was fine for the British Empire, but not for the Marine Insurance Division of Lloyd's of London.  Or Alexander & Alexander.  Or the American Hull Insurance Syndicate.

Robert and Cindy Rothfeld, Take Two

How did I get off on this topic? Well, that glass ceiling was part of the reason Mrs. Rothfeld went to law school in 1987.  After 3 1/2 grueling years (I worked full time), I graduated, mirabile visu!   When asked what name I wanted to appear on my diploma,  I realized that I wanted to honor my father, Hyman Morris, who had  passed away in 1983 and who would have been immeasurably proud to know I made it through law school. Enter stage left, Cindy Morris Rothfeld.  She's the one who took the Florida Bar exam and who was admitted to practice in Florida and before the Supreme Court of the United States, and she's the one who has a passport.

Cindy Morris Rothfeld at Children's Legal Services, 2012

Cindy (finally has a middle initial) M. Rothfeld is the one that signs pleadings and has appeared in court before some good and not-so-good and even the occasional godawful judges.  (One day - not today! - I'm going to indulge in a full-fledged, no-holds-barred, names-will-be-named judges rant, covering 23 years and four different counties.  Let me just say that I have personally met two U.S. Supreme Court Justices, and had the thrill of being admitted to practice before that Court during a ceremony in which all nine Justices were on the Bench.  Each and every one of the Justices was incredibly kind, and more importantly, respectful to everyone seated in their Courtroom.  Having experienced that, and also having heard Antonin Scalia tell a small group of us that Supreme Court Justices were just like regular people, and still had to put their pants on one leg at a time, I want to throw this question out there to those Florida judges who have been an embarrassment to the Bench and the legal profession: Who the hell do you think you are?  What part of "Professionalism Demands Courtesy" don't you understand?  Do you really think that a courtroom is the right place to exercise your pitiful little egos?" )

Third Place Winners at Moot Court Competition, 1990. I was still Cindy Rothfeld, and he is  Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.  We were both thinner then.

Cindy Morris Rothfeld with The Notorious RBG and Cory Rothfeld, 2003

Cindy M. is the one who is winding down after a long career.  She's getting ready to rest on her laurels.  Soon she will become a living memory, not all that different from Cindy Osher.  She's there, she'll always be there, just not necessarily accessible.

The resurrected Cindy Osher with Cousin Steve Schneider, 2013
His mother and my father were siblings.  Osher siblings!  There you go ...

Now, that Cindy Osher chick is the one who is hoping to plan the First Ever Family Road Trip to Brooklyn.  She is honing to meet with a whole bunch of Osher relatives, establish family bonds, break bread together, that sort of thing.  Cindy Morris is going to tag along to hopefully see friends from high school and college and friends from the days of the glass ceiling. Cindy Rothfeld will be there as well, waving her baton and playing Pavel Chekov to Robert's Hikaru Sulu.

Cindy Osher Morris Rothfeld Morris Rothfeld née Osher

Are you following this?  I know that there are times my writing is a bit esoteric, and my mental meanderings are being understood by maybe five other people.  But I do not think it is unusual for People of a Certain Age to ask these questions: Who was I - Who am I - and, Who will I be?  That's the tough one, for me at least.  I know that I came out of the crucible of law school a completely different person.  I had a plan, a purpose, and the confidence to move forward on it.  But that was almost 25 years ago.  That law school graduate, along with the overachieving workaholic she became, is gone forever.  Thanks to fibromyalgia, I couldn't get her back if I wanted to. And I don't want to, because after Bethe died in 2013, I came to realize that overachieving workaholics do not necessarily live long and happy lives. (Perhaps it was also no coincidence that the same day Bethe died, the supervisor announced that she was reassigning paralegals to different attorneys, and that a partnership that had worked with the utmost success since 1996 was being destroyed for no good reason at all.  Having your heart ripped out twice in the same day is too much for even the strongest among us.)

I do go by one other name: "Mom"

Many years ago, a friend and colleague of mine found his practice had been negatively (and perhaps unfairly) impacted by a case in which he represented someone who had committed an unspeakable crime.  But this is a small community; emotions ran high, and memories are long.  After the dust settled a bit, he surveyed the damage, and said, "Well, I guess I'll just have to reinvent myself."  And he did, quite successfully, going on to hold an important position doing important work.  But I've had to reinvent myself too many times over the years, and I'm running out of ideas.  Then again, I'm the Navigator, so I suppose I'll eventually find where I'm supposed to be heading.

Is this what Frank Sinatra meant when he sang "I'm in the autumn of my years?"  Food for thought, and speaking of food, my big cooking plan is to make an enormous choucroute garnie, and serve these potato cakes on the side.

So I came across a recipe for something called a mashed potato latke, which caught my interest because such a thing cannot exist.  A mashed potato cake is not a potato latke anymore than Chicago deep dish is a pizza.  I reworked the recipe from scratch, and came up with something delicious.  It tastes like the inside of a good knish, and it's fried in oil like a latke.  But it's NOT a latke.  Make no mistake about that.


4 large potatoes, peeled, cut into cubes
6 tablespoons chicken schmaltz, butter, or a combination
1/2 cup sliced green onions, green parts only
kosher salt and ground black pepper
1 egg
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup griebenes (optional)
canola oil for frying
additional flour for coating the potato cakes

Boil the potatoes in salted water until done, about 20 minutes.  Drain well. Mash together with the schmaltz and/or butter.  Don't fret if there are some lumps.  Lumpy mashed potatoes, like bow ties, are cool.  Stir in the green onions, salt, and pepper.  Let the potatoes cool down, and then add the egg, stirring  constantly until it is fully combined.  Stir in the 6 tablespoons of flour, then cover and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

When ready to fry, heat the canola oil in a skillet over medium-high.  Form the potato cakes by using a medium sized ice cream scoop; gently drop the scooped potatoes onto some flour; flatten with a fork dipped in flour, then carefully turn and repeat. Immediately slip the potato cakes into the oil; lower the heat to medium. Depending on the size of the skillet, you can fry 4 to 5 at a time.  Drain on paper towels.  These are delicious with the usual latke accompaniments - applesauce and sour cream - but they are not latkes.  I can't emphasize that enough.

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