BY NAFEESA SHAHID SPECIAL TO SHALOM TODAY
There are tons of Jewish traditional cookbooks on the market, but not a lot of cookbooks with an audio compact disc to accompany them for those cooks who are blind or have impaired sight. But then again, "Grandmom Grode's Gourmet Goodies" is also probably the fIrst book dedicated to a grandmother by a grandson she cooked back to health. "I got sick in 2000 and was diagnosed with HIV," said David New, the publisher of the cookbook and grandson of Elizabeth 'Betty' Grode.' "Shortly after that, I got spinal meningitis." Now recovered from the disease and regaining his ability to walk, New is selling a cookbook on the Internet that he helped to edit. He said working on the cookbook helped him while he was recovering from spinal meningitis. While New had the disease, he lost. his hearing and was on a lot of narcotics. When his condition did not improve, he was sent to Jefferson Memorial in Philadelphia, where his grandmother was living. Eventually, he recovered his hearing. He was still weak and the doctors kept giving dire forecasts of his health to his family, said New,' a resident of Delray Beach. He turned 31 in a hospital bed and, as a grim birthday present, lost his sight. "I went from having perfect vision to no vision in seconds;" New said.
"They tried to reattach the retinas, but that did not work." The doctors suggested his family put' him in a hospice, because he was unable to walk and was blind. He was over meningitis but he had suffered complicaII tions due to the disease and weighed II only 120 pounds. I However, the family was adamantly against it and fInally the doctors simply suggested they feed him to get his strength back. Grandmom Grode had not left' his side since he came to Philadelphia. She fed him everything to get him to gain weight, even his favorite poppy seed cookies. "I started feeling better," New said. His weight went up to 180 pounds and he got some strength back. Aftera while, he was feeling better and was released from the hospital. Although he was in a wheelchair and still blind, he decided it would be great to have his grandmother's recipes preserved for generations to come. He alwayswanted to do. this and he had Elizabeth Grode with her grandson David New holding some of his favorite recipes made by her at his house in Boca Raton., started by videotaping her several years ago. ' "It wasn't the best modality for sharing her recipes, so when I became well, I thought I would put her recipes in a book," New said. "I wasn't doing it to make a profit. I was doing it for Grandmom.", While he was bedridden for a year, he typed up all her recipes, which were on small strips of paper. She squinted to read them and he typed using a screenreading software program called Job Access with Speech (JAWS). HIs mother and sister proofread the recipes. Throughout the years, Grandmom Grode developed her recipes. They became her own by how she adapted them to her taste.
"I adapted them from family recipes," she said. "I used different combinations for a few but most of them are mine." And' although she said she doesn't use anything other than the oil or butter for the recipes, she could not completely indicate that they were kosher. She learned how to cook on her own. "When you are raising a family, it is a thing you learn," said Grode, 93. "[David] loves everything I make and that gives me a nice incentive to cook. I don't mind baking, 'cause [the family] loves everything I make." Now she uses the cookbook as a reference when she is baking, instead of the scraps of paper she used in the past.
New printed one book in large print just for her. She still bakes every day, New said. "She is so wonderful," said New, 34. "She constantly gives but doesn'taccept anything in return. This was a way to give back o her without her slipping a'$10in my pocket. I am glad she let me do it." So is Grandmom. "[The book is] wonderful and beautiful," she said. "It is easy to read and understand. The photos are right there and real looking." The cookbook has 52 recipes with 19 under the miscellaneous subheading. New had a professional photographer take pictures of Grode's dishes. Then New contacted Insight for the Blind, which records books for the Library of Congress, according to its Web site. It is the only volunteer recording studio under the Library of Congress that runs on donations only. "I had new blind friends who expressed an interest in' ethnic cookbooks having an audio CD," said New, explaining his reason for including a CD with the book. "I wanted it to have something extra. I individually put the CD in an envelope on the jacket cover of the book." The recipes wete read by Connie Zimmet and each recipe was placed on its own track, allowing the listener to skip from one recipe to the next. New's favorite recipes are the poppy seed cookies, the kugel, the chocolate chip cake and the schnecken. Since New is more of a gourmet microwave cook, the recipes' presentation' were done through his eyes. "Anybody should be able to do [these recipes]," he said. "I don't do stove top cooking, but I got a George Foreman, [grill] . " For more information on the Talking Book program, visit www.loc.gov/nls.
To order "Grandmom Grode's Gourmet Goodies," visit -www.grandmomgrode.com. For more information, call 561-381-3811.