Pictured Above: Amy Kirwin and Rebecca Edana daydream about the possibilities of their new project, “Two Jews Making Food” | Tom Kochie photo
When Rebecca Edana and Amy Kirwin got together this Tuesday in their secret test kitchen in an undisclosed location somewhere on the South Fork, they were busy concocting a cocktail revolving around a jelly donut for their new cooking show, “Two Jews Making Food,” which premieres Friday in a Facebook Live and YouTube video stream.
There’s a Hebrew name for these jelly donuts, given out at Hanukkah in a celebration of all things related to oil. But neither of them could remember it.
“We’re not the best Jews,” Amy whispered into the phone. But Rebecca was quick to butt in: “We are the best Jews!”
“Ok, we are the best Jews, but we’re not super informed. We gotta look stuff up,” said Amy.
Rebecca and Amy aren’t professional food show hosts, but they’ve honed their comedic timing on the stage. Rebecca can be seen frequently in productions at the Hampton Theatre Company in Quogue, and Amy is the Artistic Director of the Southampton Arts Center.
The two met when they were both in a production of Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” at the Southampton Arts Center.
“We have a lot in common. We’re both from L.A., we’re both Jewish, we both love food,” said Rebecca.
“Every time we get together, some kind of schtick happens,” said Amy.
The two would love to tell you that they’ve been honing and refining their idea for “Two Jews Making Food” for years, but the truth is they haven’t.
A few weeks ago, Amy was sitting in her car, early for a meeting in Hauppauge, and she was bored. So she texted Rebecca, hoping they could exchange Bitmoji cartoons for a few minutes before the meeting. But when Amy found out Rebecca couldn’t come to an event at the Southampton Arts Center because she was going to a Hanukkah party, Amy was hurt.
“How do you not invite the only Jew you know to a Hanukkah party?” she asked.
“I said, Amy, it’s just family. If this was a friend party, you would be here cooking with me,” said Rebecca.
“And we would film it,” said Amy.
They agreed. Amy disappeared for five minutes.
“I thought she’d gone in to her meeting,” said Rebecca. “Then she came back, and she’d made a Bitmoji logo and Instagram and Facebook accounts for ‘Two Jews Making Food.’ She said ‘We’re going to do this.’”
The show is not going to be scripted, and Amy promises “shenanigans galore,” then giggles at her malappropriation of a Yiddish-sounding Irish word. Turns out Irish culture is something they both dig too. Or maybe it’s just culture in general.
“We won’t always be making Jewish food,” said Amy. “We will also be making food Jews like to eat. Like lasagna.”
“All people’s backgrounds are beautiful,” said Rebecca.
“For many Jews, especially on the more Reform side, a lot of people feel it’s just as much about tradition as it is about religion,” says Amy. “Being Jewish is classified as an ethnicity more than as a religion, and there is very much tradition to it. Whether you practice religiously or not, a lot of pride comes with being Jewish.”
“We want to build an understanding of why we’re eating what we’re eating, the history of food and the stories behind all of this,” said Rebecca. “There are family stories and there are religious stories, and there are frighteningly similar stories. Everybody has an Aunt Mildred or an Aunt Sheila.”
For their first episode, streaming live on Friday, Dec. 20 at 3 p.m., the duo are planning a Hanukkah meal of latkes (potato pancakes), kugel (an egg noodle casserole), brisket and beets with goat cheese and arugula (not rugelach!).
Rebecca will also share a story she’s recently heard of Judith the heroine of Hanukkah, which tells the story of a woman’s role in the success of the Hanukkah story: the miracle of when oil meant for one night in the rededicated temple in Jerusalem burned for eight nights, back in the days long ago when lamps burned oil.
But on Tuesday, they were still tongue-twisting over the Hebrew name for the jelly donuts that were inspiring their cocktail: Sufganiyot.
They asked Alexa how to pronounce Sufganiyot. She was mum. They asked the Google Home Assistant. He answered quickly but with a robot’s affect. They seemed suspicious of his pronunciation.
“The real Jews will be like ‘what are you doing?’” said Rebecca.
“Judith must be one of those mystical Jews, from the Kabbalah,” said Amy.
They began practicing making the “ch-“ sound that makes the common spelling of Hanukkah into the more traditional Chanukah.
“If my throat is itchy, it helps with the Ch-“ said Amy.
“I spell it with an H informally, but if I’m writing a card I put in the Ch-,” said Rebecca.
Despite the fact that this project is only just now getting off the ground, Amy has roughed out a schedule of episodes for the new year, beginning with Thursday, Jan. 2 at 3 p.m. and continuing the first Wednesday of the month at 3 p.m. throughout the year.
The January edition is tentatively titled “Resolutions Shmesolutions: An Indulgent New Year,” and Rebecca, a professional mixologist, is pulling out all the stops for Purim in March.
“On Purim, you’re supposed to drink just enough that you don’t know the difference between good and evil,” said Amy.
“If people want to be guests, we’ll consider it,” said Amy. “If you have an interesting custom, we’d like to share it — Italian food, Mexican food, Rebecca loves tacos. I brought some tamales here today. We could do two Jews and a Catholic making food. I don’t think we’ll ever run out of material.”
The two light up at the suggestion that there is Jewish culture, and therefore, Jewish food, all over the world.
“Like having Chinese food on Christmas!” they exclaim.
“We’re open to being invited into people’s beautiful kitchens,” added Amy. “If someone wants to sell a house, we’ll cook in their kitchen and help the realtors: Look at this kitchen. Everything works.”
“We’re wandering Jews making food,” agreed Rebecca.
“Whatever your customs are, do it! Call your family, laugh with your friends, invite people over,” she added.
“Enjoy life,” said Amy.
They both shouted “l’chaim” in unison and then collapsed into a puddle of giggles.