I come from quite a long line of good cooks and bakers.
My great grandmothers, both of my grandmothers and my mom. And now my sisters, my cousins and me.
And with so many cooks and bakers in one family, sharing recipes has become a bit of a pastime.
And of all the recipes that we share, it is our challah recipe that is our most important.
The recipe was passed down from one of my great-grandmothers on my dad's side, and she used to make it by hand. I spent quite a bit of time with her when I was little, and one of my very first memories is of standing on a chair in her kitchen on Thursday afternoons while she kneaded the dough that would become her challah.
When my parents got engaged, my great-grandmother bought my mom a Kitchen Aid mixer, and passed along that same recipe. It would be a few years before my mom started baking challah, but my great-grandmother gave her the tools, knowing that before long my mom would be measuring flour, yeast and water to follow the recipe that had become our heritage.
When my great grandmother passed away after a long and beautiful life, my dad's mom took up the challah-baking torch, using that recipe that tasted of my great-grandmother long after she took her leave of this world.
I was about ten when my mom made her first challah, and nearly every Friday afternoon since the smell of baking bread has filled her kitchen.
When my sisters and I got married, my grandmother's present to each of us was the Kitchen Aid mixer of our choice and the recipe so that we could start baking challah of our own.
I don't get a chance to bake every week, but last night I did. I measured and mixed and kneaded and braided, and used the recipe that is inscribed in my brain in indelible ink.
And as I followed the familiar steps I felt, as I always do, a link to the generations of women who came before me and the ones who are here with me now. To the women who have grown me, shaped me, and made me.
This is our recipe. This is our heritage. This is what we bake. This is who we are.