It’s the quintessential arc of our times: from an Occupy Wall Street protest to a reality television cooking show.
The star in this drama: Jeanette Friedman’s cholent recipe.
Friedman, a New Milford writer, editor, and frequent contributor to this newspaper, will be appearing – briefly – on “The Taste,” a cooking show premiering on ABC on Tuesday night.
Friedman was one of 16,000 people who sent an e-mail to apply to compete. For the initial interview, she made the pareve cholent she had prepared for the Jewish Occupy Wall Street events organized by her son, Dan Sieradski, in 2011, served with a kick – a salsa.
She served it in a blue-stemmed martini glass on a white plate with a red spoon.
Friedman and her cholent passed the first audition. For her second dish – prepared at home – she videoed herself preparing a light summer brunch of beef tongue, lean pastrami, and Israeli and potato salads.
The screen test earned her a visit from a film crew, who came out to her house, interviewed her, and watched and tasted as she prepared chicken, matzah ball soup, unstuffed cabbage, chocolate rugelach, and jalapeno kugel with mushroom sauce.
And then came the call. “The Taste” flew her out to Los Angeles, one of 60 initial contestants who each would have half an hour to make a signature dish in an initial hurdle designed to whittle the field down to 16.
Friedman’s chosen dish: her jalapeno kugel.
But how to prepare and bake a kugel in only 30 minutes?
“I used a muffin tin. All I had to prepare was a single spoonful,” she explained.
Asked to explain her dish, she outlined the history and varieties of the traditional Eastern European casserole, and how she modified a salt and pepper version by adding jalapenos.
“You should have stuck to tradition,” she was told. She didn’t make the cut.
But she’s not disappointed. “I’m already a winner” for making it on the air at all, she said.
“What kind of child of survivors would I be if I bitched and moaned about losing?”
And the taste of Hollywood’s “Taste” has given her a new dream: A cooking show where she cooks her guests’ favorite comfort food “and then we sit and shmooze about their life.”