By Michelle Trauring
When Rebecca Edana decided to host a Hanukkah party, the local actor neglected to add one particular friend to the guest list.
And, with no shortage of chutzpah, Amy Kirwin called her out.
“I’m known for my FOMO,” the artistic director of the Southampton Arts Center said of her “fear of missing out” with a good-natured laugh.
“She wanted to know how I wouldn’t have invited my few local Jewish friends,” added Edana, sitting next to her.
“Her only Jewish friend, as far as I knew,” Kirwin interjected.
As it turned out, the party was for family only, Edana explained to her friend via text message, lessening the blow by insisting Kirwin would be her Jewish cook-in-crime should they ever throw a festive party together — “and then we would film it, because it would be hilarious,” she said.
A light bulb went off. “We should do that anyway,” they texted each other simultaneously.
Immortalized as a screenshot, the exchange is saved for posterity, considering what came next — in four minutes flat — marks the newest creative endeavor for the pair of meshugganahs.
“Amy texts me back, ‘I’ve created an Instagram account, a Facebook page, and a YouTube channel for our show. I’ve sent you the invitation, I’ve made you an admin on it,’” Edana said.
“‘Two Jews Making Food,’” Kirwin said proudly.
“And sure enough, I log on and there’s already 20 likes to the page,” Edana said.
The online series, which kicked off Friday, December 20, with a Hanukkah feast, will revolve around cooking, sharing recipes and “feeding the world with humor and delicious noshes,” Kirwin said, navigating a roadmap of Jewish holidays and traditions with episodes slated throughout the end of next year, from Purim and Passover to Shabbos and Rosh Hashanah.
“I think it will answer a lot of questions,” Edana said of the series. “With Jewish cooking, you either get it at the deli, or you get it at someone’s home for an actual holiday. But lots of people haven’t been to a Jewish home for a holiday, and they don’t always know why we eat what we eat, or what we’re eating in general.”
“Or that, in most cases, what we’re eating actually has a story behind it,” Kirwin said. “Because we’re Jewish, everything has a story. We’re the kind of Jews that are not-so religious, so for us, it’s about culture and tradition. We want to demystify Jewish cooking by making it relatable by explaining why it is what it is.”
“We are not aficionados on Judaism,” Edana added. “We’re just two Jewish chicks who like to cook food.”
Both raised in Southern California, Kirwin hails from Ashkenazi ancestry — the more common Jewish heritage typically traced to Central Europe — while Edana’s family is Sephardic, descended from Jews who lived in Spain and Portugal, and settled in countries along the Mediterranean Sea, as well as North Africa, Syria and Palestine.
And while differing geography resulted in varying culinary traditions — Sephardic dishes can include rice and beans, and incorporate fruit, while Ashkenazi staples tend to be blander — food plays no less a role in either, the women agreed.
“It’s just so typical of Jewish cuisine for it to evoke memories of family and holidays,” Kirwin said, who anxiously awaits the Passover meal every year.
“It infiltrates your life, you can’t help it,” said Edana, whose favorite Jewish dish is, by far, matzo ball soup.
“And as a Jew, food is everything,” Kirwin said. “It doesn’t matter how full you are; you’ve just eaten and you’re already talking about the next meal.”
“We can’t move on until we know what we’re doing,” Edana said.
For the Hanukkah episode, Kirwin and Edana will prepare traditional brisket and green beans, as well as latkes, or potato pancakes, and kugel, which is a noodle pudding — with no shortage of Jewish shtick and laughter.
“These recipes are familiar and I hope that what we can make it seem like is that it’s not that magical, it’s not that mysterious, and it’s fun,” Edana said. “You’re supposed to be in a kitchen having fun with your family. Things are supposed to go wrong — that’s kind of how half the food got made, anyway. We hope to take traditional recipes and find our own.”
“And screw them up,” Kirwin said. “We will be putting a twist on things. Rebecca has proposed something for the Hanukkah meal next week that I’m very …”
“Hesitant,” Edana said.
“I’m hesitant because it’s so radical”
“I don’t think it’s that radical. I love that you think it’s radical.”
“Because I’ve never heard that story before.”
“That’s why I think we should tell that story and make it.”
While “Two Jews Making Food” ultimately began as a lighthearted idea, the series also serves as an inadvertent response to the outward rise of anti-Semitism seen across the country in recent years, and the East End is no exception.
“I once had a man tell me that Jews made him uncomfortable because they’re very insular,” Edana recalled. “And I think people just have misconceptions. Part of what we hope to do is make it relatable, to have people see how this food is made and go, ‘Oh, my mom makes something like that,’ and make it seem like it’s not such a mystical food or religion. It’s just people, and it’s families, and it’s stories, and it’s laughter, and it’s fun.”
“It’s love,” Kirwin said. “And although the initial intention was really just to have fun and to do something we love, in doing that, we actually are creating this vibe of, ‘Let’s just all have some food, enjoy it, enjoy each other.’ We all have something to bring to the table. It doesn’t matter who you are.”
The first episode of “Two Jews Making Food” with Amy Kirwin and Rebecca Edana premiered at 3 p.m. on Friday, December 20, on Facebook Live. The meal focused on Hanukkah dishes, from latkes and kugel to brisket and green beans. To tune in live for future episodes, visit facebook.com/twojewsmakingfood, or watch the premiere on the “Two Jews Making Food” YouTube channel.
“Two Jews Making Food” Schedule, 2019
January 2: Resolution Schmesolution: New Year’s Indulgences!
February 5: Winter Warmth — Jewish Comfort Food
March 4: Purim! The Good, the Bad and the Tasty
April 1: Passover Mandelbrot Bake-Off, Rebecca vs. Amy (Hers has nuts in it and I feel weird about it, Amy said)
May 6: Shavuot – Blintzes Galore!
June 3: Shabbos Dinner – The Best Roasted Chicken
July 3: Independence Day Noshes
August 5: Tu B’Av Love — Jewish Valentine’s Day
September 2: Apples & Honey on Rosh Hashanah
October 7: Sukkot Harvest
November 4: Thanksgiving Excess
December 2: 8 Crazy Nights/8 Types of Latkes