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January 23, 1987 - Image 49

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-01-23

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The Great Mandelbrot War

hen my father-in-
law remarried several years after the
death of my mother-in-law, my new
stepmother-in-law, Golda, endeared
herself to me in many ways. She ad-
mired my children, lent her skill as a
seamstress to creating and repairing
charming outfits for them, served us
frequent, delicious dinners and de-
lighted us with her piquant stories of
her life in Europe, told in an accent
replete with amusing malapropisms.
"The dentist took extrays of my
teeths," she would say with a shy
smile. "My teeths were 100 percent,
just so-so-."
Despite all her virtues and the
fact that my father-in-law took a new
lease on life with this marriage, my
sister-in-law, Diane, otherwise a lov-
ing and agreeable person, showed an
instant and permanent dislike for the
new member of the family. "She's a lot
older than she claims," Diane would
comment. When Golda would care-
fully polish the furniture, Diane would
scoff, "She thinks my mother's furni-
ture belongs to her." And Diane's im-
itation of Golda's accent was delivered
with spite rather than with amused
It was understandable that Diane
should resent the woman who was fil-
ling her mother's place. Further, be-
fore my stepmother-in-law's advent,
Diane had served as the head female in
the family, as matriarch to her father
and her three brothers. But Golda
could not be blamed that her many

The way to a family's
heart is not necessarily
through its stomach


Special to The Jewish News

virtues earned her a place in the
hearts of the rest of the family. Even
Diane's children enjoyed visiting their
new grandmother, until their mother's
muttered criticisms discouraged them.
However, a surface peace was
maintained in the family until the in-
cident of the mandelbrot shattered the
calm. Diane took pride in her culinary
skills, and preened herself especially
with regard to her cookies. They were
indeed delicious, and she usually
baked a few dozen for every family oc-
casion and packed them in special
boxes adored with a label bearing her
Ingenuous Golda, hearing that
my husband particularly enjoyed the
traditional confection known as man-
delbrot, or almond bread, presented

him one day with several dozen of
these delights which she had baked
especially for him. When next we saw
Diane, my husband expounded at
length on the excellence of Golda's
mandelbrot. "They were the best I've
ever tasted," he blundered, oblivious of
the darkening countenance of his sis-
ter. "Some of them had raisins, some
jam, and some a nut paste that was just
out of this world."
After listening to several reitera-
tions of these paeans, Diane could bear
it no longer. "You think that's mandel-
brot!" she exclaimed with fine scorn.
"Just wait a minute!"
She disappeared into her kitchen,
and emerged bearing several samples
of her own version of the treat in ques-
tion. "Taste these!" she demanded.

My husband may lack tact, but he
isn't stupid. He bit into one of Diane's
offerings, and strove manfully to find
words to soothe his sister's ruffled
feathers. Unfortunately for the situa-
tion, he is also painfully honest. These
are good too," he managed.
"Too?" Diane exploded. "Too?
Mine are made with pure butter, from
Mother's recipes. Golda's . . . ," she bit
into one of the offending samples,
". . . anyone can tell in a minute that
Golda's have oil in them. What do you
think?" she demanded, turning to me.
I am not fond of mandelbrot to
start with, a flaw in my character, no
doubt. But having in past encounters
nibbled specimens of both Golda's and
Diane's work, I knew that oil or no oil
Golda's mandelbrot tasted better, had
a crunchier and more satisfying tex-
ture and looked prettier in the bar-
gain. To make matters worse, at that
critical juncture Golda arrived, all
smiles, with a skirt she had made for
Diane in hopes of winning her affec-
tion, no doubt.
"I'm on a diet," I said hastily. Then
I remembered that I had just put away
a large portion of ice cream in full sight
of my sister-in-law. "I've already ex-
ceeded my sweets allowance for to-
day," I finished lamely.
The next few weeks played havoc
with my figure. I was called upon to
appreciate 57 varieties of mandelbrot:
mandelbrot with apricots, with cocoa,
with butterscotch bits, with lemon

Continued on next page


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