Becoming Malka and With Love, The Argentina Family by Mirta Ines Trupp
Mirta Ines Trupp searches for family history and her identity in her memoir, With Love, The Argentina
Family and in her historical fiction, Becoming Malka: the story of a Russian, Argentinian, American and
Teachers couldn’t pronounce her name and students couldn’t figure out what group she belonged to. “
Here at home, I struggled to find myself within the American tapestry. I was acutely aware of how different we
seemed to be from others. Not only were we immigrants, but we didn’t quite fit the mold. … I couldn’t find
In With Love, The Argentina Family, Mirta frequently to visit the Argentina family and her, when her father
begins working for Pan Am. . Where does she belong? Who is she? Her identity struggles are internal and
historical and she cannot be compartmentalized. Guided by her extended Argentina and US family,
Mirta becomes fiercely patriotic yet pulled to Argentina.
Mirta told me, “As a child, growing up away from my extended family of grandparents, aunts,
uncles and cousins, I had a mish-mash of rituals and traditions in my brain. I couldn’t differentiate between
Argentine customs, Yiddish baba maises (literally grandma stories) or Russian superstitions.”
Mirta’s story defies stereotyping, showing that umbrella terms are narrow and “more often than not, label and
corral people into groups that are simply inaccurate. Clichés about the color of skin or the choice of foods are, still to this day, floating about in our society. Spanish-speaking peoples are not all ‘brown.’ Not everyone eats tacos or spicy foods...The idea of Jews being of various ethnicities, color or creeds is a foreign concept to some. It is, in fact, very similar to the Latino misconception, because a person can be 'black, brown, or white' and come from a Spanish speaking nation. Jews can be 'black, brown or white' and speak Hebrew, Yiddish or Ladino.”
In Becoming Malka, Molly Abramovitz travels to Moscow and then Odessa to research the generation before Argentina. With the help of the Queen of 8 Wands, magical (and mythical) Tarot card, Molly appears in 1900 in the household of her great-grandmother, Malka, for whom she was named. Perfect for the Young Adult crowd, this historical novel searches for family and identity. Shown are wonderful descriptions of fashion, dances, food and superstitions (Never stand in the threshold of a room!) and sadly the ever-present Anti-Semitism, eventually forcing the family to leave for Argentina. Confused about her Jewish identity, Molly explores Judaism. Like the author, she becomes proud of who she is and determined to learn more.
In both books, food is a center at celebrations. Mirta’s family happily cook their diverse cuisines. “The women in my family were amazing cooks- none better than my own mom, of course! …We do eat today much as we ate growing up. Weekends are still famous for Argentineasados (BBQ-gaucho style) and flan (crème caramel) with dulce de leche (a dense, creamy caramelized milk spread). Jewish holidays wouldn’t be Jewish holidays without kreplach, kugel and knishes. Brisket is not traditional in Argentina- my family would prepare different types of roasts….We love to eat ñoquis (gnocchi)and milanesa (breaded, thin slice of prime beef from the peceto, round roast cut) or the nalga (eye of round) a.k.a. cotoletta alla milanese because Argentine food is very much Italiano.”
Mirta shares a favorite family recipe for Passover: Matzah balls with Tuco. I have to admit I was a bit skeptical with this previously unknown recipe but, boy! This was fabulous! Try it with your seder or because you want to try a traditional matzah ball recipe a la Argentina!