By Marvin Braverman
My mother Emma Snider Braverman was born in Iowa City, Ia., in 1905. She was one of five children of Myer and Selma "Mamaselma" Snider.
While times were tough during the Great Depression (1929-39), our family always had food on the table. They didn't go hungry growing up in Iowa City in the 1930s and ‘40s.
Jewish immigrants brought hundreds of recipes from Europe, and although they didn't have much money, they managed to feed their families. They often didn't need to read from recipes when making a meal.
Photograph: Twenty-fifth wedding anniversary photo, 1950. Pictured with Eli and Emma are children Marlene, Annette and Marvin.
The Orthodox Jewish families that settled in Iowa City early in the last century became a close community. The family and the synagogue were the heart of most activities. Yiddish was mixed with English.
Mother was smart and very good with figures, but after high school she couldn't afford college. She went to a local business school and worked in a bank, where only two women were allowed.
Mother was tall and beautiful and caught the eye of my father, Eli Braverman, a Polish immigrant, and she was attracted to him. In 1925, they eloped to Des Moines, Iowa's capital city, where they were married by an Orthodox rabbi. She was 19 and Dad was 30.
In Iowa City, they quickly became active in the Jewish community. Dad did everything at Agudas Achim synagogue, including helping conduct services and singing. Mother was active in Sisterhood, Hadassah and Pioneer Women and often volunteered as secretary. She had an excellent voice and sang in a local women's group.
My parents had two daughters, Annette (Norman) Dunitz of Tulsa and the late Marlene Garfin of Los Angeles; a son, Marvin (Kay) Braverman of Des Moines, Ia.; six grandchildren; 15 great- grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.
Emma and Elaine Garfin Salsbury
Courtesy of Elaine and Marshall Salsbury
Mother loved playing bridge. When she hosted games in her home, she served only the finest candies and other treats. She took part in bridge parties open to local residents at the University of Iowa student union. She loved record-keeping and kept notebooks on the parties.
The carrot ring Mother made was one of her favorite dishes. It was not a cake dessert. The center was filled with peas and was served during the main meal.
Another favorite was Apple Goodie, baked into a bar.
Photograph: Taste of Home
Like in so many families then, the noon meal was "dinner" and the evening meal "supper." A lighter meal, such as eggs, tuna or pancakes, was often served at supper. Meat and milk were never mixed, and separate dishes were kept. My father came home from work for the noon meal, and the children walked home from school.
Mother often helped her mother in the kitchen. Mamaselma was always baking challah, rolls, cakes, pies and other sweets. Often she would pile high her covered baking on countertops; there was hardly room for anything else. I secretly swiped "pireshkas," an apple-filled roll, from under the covering. Of course, Mamaselma and Mother made many of the traditional Jewish dishes.
Mother kept up with all the relatives far and wide and was a prolific letter writer. No one put more words on a page. She even squeezed words in the margins. If you wanted an update on someone in the family, you asked Mother. If she didn't hear regularly from one of her children, she called them.
Letter: Emma wrote this letter in 1995 to my daughter, Rachele Hjelmaas, on the coming birth of her fourth child. The Elise Brennan mentioned in the letter is another grandchild, the daughter of my sister Annette Dunitz.
Mother lived in Iowa City for over 50 years. She later lived in Des Moines and Chicago before moving to Tulsa, OK, in 1962, to be near her daughter Annette (Norman) Dunitz and her family.
Mother lived her last 15 years in independent living in a Tulsa retirement home and remained active well into her nineties. She died on May 12, 2004. She would have been 99 on June 2.
Mother had a good life. We loved her dearly.
Photograph of recipe card is courtesy of Elaine Garfin Salsbury, a granddaughter
Farideh: I made this recipe with equal amount of butter, instead of shortening, and in a loaf pan. It is delicious!
Emma's original recipe is nondairy.
The batter is quite thick and almost impossible to mix with a hand mixer.
I creamed sugar and butter (shortening), mixed dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately. Then I mix all together by hand.
For more information on the Jews of Iowa, visit the following sites:
Michael J. Bell, "True Israelites of America": the Story of the Jews of Iowa
Douglas Jones, A brief history of Judaism in Iowa