Humans of Beth Am Blog

Sandra Braun: Chunt not Chulent!!

If not every Friday, almost every Friday, my mother made chunt for Shabbat. "It's CHUNT, not cholent," she would say insistently to anyone who called it anything other than that. My memories of chunt are set in stone, as this scenario repeated itself over and over again as I grew up in Detroit, and continues today when I make chunt, or when I visit my parents, who still live in the house where I grew up.

I woke up on Saturday morning to an aroma-filled house. I guessed my mom was still in bed, as the house was quiet and still--my dad and brothers had probably already left for shul. I got out of bed and walked to my mom's room, which was darkened from the drawn shades. She was lying in bed with her eyes closed but looked up at me, nostril wide and with her signature grin and nod, she said, "Can you smell it? The whole house smells like chunt!". We both gave each other a smile and nod while she got out of bed and in our nightgowns we went go downstairs for breakfast. "We have to taste the chunt to make sure it's okay," mom said.

My mom and I knew the chunt was going to be delicious. We could tell by the rich brown color, and the liquid on the top. This meant my mom used the perfect amount of water and that there was sufficient fat on the meat and juices from the marrow bones to make it look this way.

Mom served chunt into two small glass bowls, being sure to get a piece of potato, a small piece of meat, along with some of the bean and barley mixture--saving the kishka for later (because cutting into the kishka would only serve as proof that we snuck before everyone else). Having been in the oven all night long, the chunt was steamy hot, and just as i was about to put some in my mouth my mom said, "It needs salt!". We put salt on our chunt before tasting it. "Mmm, delicious!", she said, with her signature nose, grin and nod. And after having our taste of chunt, and maybe a little bit more, we went upstairs to get dressed and came back down for tea and reading until everyone came home from shul.

When Dad and my brothers came home, my dad said the kiddush before we snacked on a typical kiddish (פאַרשפּייַז) of homemade gefilte fish cut into quarters, homemade pickled herring (that neither I or my siblings ate), and kikhel and 7-layer cake from Zeeman's Bakery. Afterwards we sat down for lunch of salad, left overs from Shabbas dinner and chunt. For whatever reason, maybe because we skimmed the juices from the top when we snuck our little taste, the chunt at lunch was not as juicy as it was just a couple hours earlier. Everyone served their own portion, with Mom reminding us, "It needs salt!". After taking her first bite, she leaned over to me (I always sat to the left of my mom at mealtime) and whisper in my ear, "It's always better for breakfast!"