I am not a vegetarian for the sake of my health, but for the health of the chickens
Isaac loved kasha (roasted buckwheat groats), and nothing in the world could diminish that love. “It’s my food. My body needs this food!” he would exclaim. Having eaten kasha in Poland his entire youth, he both spiritually and physically craved this grain.
When I first met him, Isaac had been a strict vegetarian for almost thirty years. When people asked him why, he always said, “I am not a vegetarian for the sake of my health, but for the health of the chickens. For the animals, every day is Treblinka.”
In Poland and the Ukraine, kasha had been highly popular among the poor because it was so inexpensive. My family was of Russian and Polish background, and my grandmother cooked kashe-varnishkes (kasha with bow tie noodles) as naturally as one bakes a potato in America.
by Isaac Bashevis Singer (November 21, 1902 – July 24, 1991)
from Master of Dreams: A Memoir of Isaac Bashevis Singer
as told by Dvorah M. Telushkin
Chapter 9: Secret Kasha
image – eschipul
The author goes on to describe Isaac Singer, reading the kasha package.
“Buckvheat has over eighty percent of the protein quality of eggs,” Isaac read to me from the Wolff’s brand kasha box. “Vith none of the cholesterol or fat. Plus buckvheat keeps glucose levels in check better than any other carbohydrate.”
I read this and thought, “Ohhhh, a food nerd, there’s another thing we have in common. He can be a bastard sometimes, but he likes what he likes, he has a sense of humor and he reads the kasha box to whoever will listen – probably if anyone is there or not.”
Storytellers do that. They tell the tale in a way that lets you in. They speak, you become like another person in their room.
This memoir is the story of a storyteller, Isaac Bashevis Singer, told by a storyteller, Dvorah Telushkin. Devorah, if you google your name one day and see this, please take note of my encouragement to publish another book. I will quote you!
As for Isaac Bashevis Singer, on October 5th, 1978, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature. He’s probably best known in the popular media for the novella “Yentl the Yeshiva boy,” a tale of transgendered identity, set in 1870’s Poland. Doesn’t ring a bell? By the time it became a movie, “Yentl” underwent a few plot twists. Singer did not approve.
Of course “Yentl the Yeshiva boy” wasn’t his only story – check out Singer’s bio on the Nobel Prize web site. If you’d like to hear Singer’s voice, his Nobel lecture is available as an audio file. He gives his speech in both Yiddish and English. There’s just something about that language. I don’t understand Yiddish, but the shape of it does something to me; of that, Singer would approve.