I am Cayla Hochberg. And before that, I was Cayla Rubinoff, the third generation of Rubinoffs to not only be born in Toronto, but to live either on or near Bathurst Street. My sister Sari and I both live at Bathurst and Wilson. One of my other sisters, Mara, lives way up in nosebleed country at Bathurst and Elgin Mills, and my brother Corey lives at Bathurst and St. Clair. My mother grew up on Dequincy Ave, just off of Bathurst near Wilson, and my father attended Bathurst Heights Secondary School. My great uncle owned Rubinoff’s Groceteria at Queen and Bathurst. And his brother, my Grandpa Sam, owned Parkdale Groceteria, near the corner of King and Bathurst, which at the time, was where Bathurst Street –and, I guess, my family- began. He ran the shop while my grandmother, whom I was named after, took care of my dad and aunt in their apartment above the store.
It’s been almost 100 years since my grandfather opened that store and so much has changed in Toronto since then. Instead of groceterias, we shop at grocery super-stores. And where my grandmother yelled out the window for my father to come off the fire escape when dinner is ready, I send group texts to my husband and kids. And instead having to wait for the weekly Mahj game to show off about our kids and share recipes, Jewish women are now sharing stories and trading recipes using Facebook, Instagram, and blogs. For example, two weeks ago my sister, Sari, posted a picture on Facebook of two giant pots of chicken soup she had simmering on the stove with a caption underneath explaining that she was getting ready for Shabbat. Now normally, I would’ve been simmering my own soup for Shabbat, but since my husband was out of town, my hands were fuller than normal and I hadn’t even began to think about dinner. But…because of this picture, I knew my sister had more than enough soup and thus, I invited myself and my children over to her house for dinner. I sent her a direct message on Facebook informing her we’d be coming and over the course of the next hour or so, even though we were both “working” we sent about a dozen text messages divvying who would make what for the rest of the meal. Later that night, we posted a picture on Instagram of me and my sisters lighting the Shabbat candles and saying the prayers.
That chicken soup story is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how social media has become such a big part of my life over the past few years. In 2009, I decided to run the New York Marathon in order to raise money for Sloan Kettering Cancer Hospital. I knew that this was huge undertaking, not only to train for the 42.2 km that I would be running, but also to meet my $2500 fundraising goal. I had read that making yourself accountable to your friends and family by telling them about your goals makes you more likely to be successful. That theory is what prompted me to start my blog, Running, Recipes, and Reading, documenting how I was preparing for the race. I wanted my donors and potential donors to know how serious I was about my goals. As my training runs became longer, so did my blog posts. Instead of just writing about how much I ran, what I cooked, and what I read, I wrote about how I felt and what I thought about all of those things.
Once in a while, someone would comment on what I’d written, but those times were few and far between; I didn’t think that many people were actually reading it. So you can imagine my surprise when months later, after I’d finished running the marathon, and thus, stopped writing my blog, I received an email from a friend of a friend asking why I stopped writing and did I have any more recipes for Quinoa. And then I got a message from a man who said he wrote a very similar blog from his home in Boston, but instead of being called Running, Recipes, and Reading, his blog was called Running, Reading and the Red Sox.
Those, and a few other comments, prompted me to start writing again. Since I was no longer writing about running, I changed the name of my blog to It’s Not That Serious and in addition to recipes and reading, I also wrote about politics and family and whatever else was on my mind that day. The more I wrote, the more people read. Because of my blog, I was interviewed on CBC news, got to interview celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, and was flow to Paris to write a series of blog posts; that was definitely the highlight of my blogging career.
I wish I could tell you that since then, I have quit my job and am now writing full time. Believe me, I wish I could tell you that. But the truth is, being a full-time blogger just doesn’t fit my life right now. So at the ripe old age of 41, I retired from my career as a “professional” food blogger. I still write my blog, but only when the mood really strikes me; usually it’s either something I want to get off my chest or sometime I don’t ever want to forget. But for the most part, my involvement with social media has shifted to Instagram and Facebook where I still share what ate and what I’ve done, but now my experiences are summed up in a picture, a caption, and a couple hashtags.
I started my blog for a specific reason, but that doesn’t you don’t have to have a reason to start you blog. You don’t have to be a professional writer. In fact, for every one “famous” food blogger, like Oh She Glows or Shiksa in the Kitchen, there are probably 100 amateurs, like this one by a woman named Maggie who writes a blog called Vittles and Bits. In each of her blog posts, she tells a little story and writes a recipe to go with it. Sometimes I am interested in the recipes but I am always interested in her little stories. If you’ve ever told you kids stories about when you were growing up or told a friend about an amazing new restaurant you went to or if you’ve ever written down a recipe for someone, then you can write a blog. And you most certainly don’t have to be a computer whiz, just find a kid to help you out. When I wanted to start Instagramming a couple years ago, it was my then 10 year old daughter who set up my account and taught me what to do.
Because kids are so good on computers, people think that social media is more for kids and less so for us “old people.” But I think it should be the exact opposite. Kids get to be with their friends all day every day at school, whereas with our crazy lives, most of don’t see our friends nearly as much as we’d like to. Social media allows us to keep the conversation going, no matter where we are and when we’re posting. I don’t know about your kids, but every time I post something on line, my daughter freaks out and says I’m so embarrassing. And the truth is, when I was her age, if Facebook and all that would’ve been around, I would’ve said the same thing to my mom. A few months ago, my son called me begging to make his Bubby, my mother, take down a comment she’d posted on Facebook on his birthday. While I completely understand why, as a 15 year old high school boy, he was embarrassed, I told him to just let it go. Two months later, on New Year’s Eve, my mother unexpectedly passed away and now my son cherishes that embarrassing message because it is her: her thoughts, her voice.
That’s what social media is; it’s your chance to make your voice, your thoughts, your recipes, and your pictures be around forever. I wish Facebook and Instagram and blogging had been around all those years ago when my family was just starting out at the foot of Bathurst Street. I wish I could have seen pictures of what my grandmother’s dining room looked like with the whole family crowded around a table for the Seder or read her recipes or heard the stories of whatever mischievous thing my father had done that day in school. Perhaps those photographs and recipes are in a box somewhere but with both of my parents and all of my grandparents gone, I have no idea where those boxes might be, or if they even still exist. And thus, except for the few stories I remember and the few photos that remain, all of those memories, recipes, and pictures are gone forever.
Just like the Bathurst Street Kitchen Cookbook is a collection of recipes that tell the story of Jewish Life in Toronto, social media is a collection of stories, pictures, and recipes that tell the story of your life. So when you start cooking from The Bathurst Street Kitchen Cookbook, or any cookbook for that matter, take a picture of it, post it on Facebook or Instagram, write a blog post about what happened the night you served it, and don’t just pencil in the alterations next to the recipe in the book, share those changes with the world! That way, you children and grandchildren and their children and grandchildren will always know not only how to make your famous coffee cake or stuffed mushrooms or chicken soup, but they will also know you, the woman who made it.
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