Food for thought: Mi casa es su casa

We're fortunate to genuinely like our neighbors. Their contractor, however, is the devil's spawn.

cake 88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
cake 88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The first egg missed the cup. The second made it to the glass for inspection but missed the bowl completely. I took advantage of the precious moments of silence and successfully cracked the third egg into the glass. As I stood poised, fourth egg in hand, disaster struck. My husband (D from now on) walked in the door with our two-year-old, fresh from Friday morning drop-offs, and then the drilling that had rattled me all morning began again. It started simultaneously by the back and front kitchen windows. In the background, I thought I heard D issue a warning, something about a "ball" and "bouncing." I went to crack the fourth egg into the glass. D was still shouting something about balls, and the baby was making his way in for a hug as the drilling that filled all the space between us got louder. Then, like in a slow-motion kitchen nightmare, the glass bowl bounced three inches forward straight off the counter and tumbled, completing an impressive double lutz, before smashing into 1,637 pieces, covering me, the baby and the newly washed floor in slime. For the second time this week, someone had messed with the "kek" (that's two-year-old-speak for "cake"). I didn't cry. Who would have heard me? Being silent is the only way I know how to deal with the drilling. I quietly handed the baby over to a stunned D and pointed them to the bathtub. I then quickly and quietly picked up 1,636 pieces of broken glass. I'm hoping I don't find the last piece wedged at the bottom of a child's foot. I proceeded to mop the floor, have a quick shower and get back to the kitchen to finish my Shabbat preparations, all without saying a word. My next-door neighbors are wonderful people. They are considerate and kind. In fact, earlier this year, they let me host a family simha in their backyard. We are very fortunate to genuinely like our neighbors. Their contractor, on the other hand, is the devil's spawn. On Wednesday, I silently watched as five tons of rubble were unapologetically dumped in my yard. You are thinking, "Lady! Why didn't you go out and stop them?" The fight would have been me against five workers, one machine and a contractor who used to be a hairdresser. I would have to face down not only a big machine and five burly men but also a man who could snigger at my split ends while destroying my yard. I watched. Five hours into the spectacle, the workers and machine took a break. It was finally quiet enough to call D. I told him of the rubble, and he told me I was exaggerating. I told him he was right. The rubble heap that my children and their friends were base-jumping from was obviously only a bucketful of gravel that had missed its mark. D came home at night. No exaggeration needed. He blew his top; first at a worker who had no idea that so many curses existed in any language. Secondly, at the contractor who did not apologize even once but proceeded to tell us that this is the way things are done in Israel, and that if we don't like it we could pack our bags. If I had a shekel for the number of times that I'd heard that in the last 11 years, I could indeed pack my bags, go back to where I came from and set up shop as an aliya de-briefer. As it got dark, D and the contractor argued to the point where it was agreed that the rubble would leave our yard the following day and that the grass would be replaced. I knew that our 13th wedding anniversary had come and gone, that we had not even had a moment to drink to our health and that the anniversary "kek" would remain untouched. As I lay in bed feeling wretched for myself that my anniversary had been spent with rubble (and I don't mean Barney), I realized that I had it good. I was livid that some idiot saw my yard as a dumping ground, but what upset me the most was that D needed to waste four hours persuading the idiot to move the rubble. D, in turn, was infuriated that I had spent most of my day watching as our yard was being systematically destroyed. It wasn't the yard we were upset about, or even the missed anniversary. It was that someone had so little respect for our respective spouses that they thought nothing of wasting their time. Thirteen years down the line, I'm just starting to grasp the meaning of love. It's not pretty trinkets wrapped in a box given on a specific day. It's the man that at 10 at night is yelling himself hoarse telling a contractor who used to be a hairdresser that he needs to pick up the last 10 centimeters of rubble by hand so as not to tear out the grass. He needs to sweep away the remaining rubble and wash away the dust because, God forbid, he finds out that his wife was picking concrete bits from her garden. Don't get me wrong, jewelry would be nice; but if I had to choose between jewelry and a man who doesn't want me to pick up rubble, I choose the man. As I contemplated the empty egg tray, the first tear of frustration threatened to cascade down my cheek. And as I looked up to heaven for salvation from the noise, the front door opened again. In front of me were placed a dozen eggs and a plastic bowl. I choose my man. If you don't have one, find one. And if you do have one and he doesn't measure up, train him. And if you have one and he does measure up, hold on because the road ahead is filled with drill-happy hairdressers and too many people telling you to go home. A man who is unwilling to let you bend down to pick up the rubble is an essential accessory while talking to builders or baking a kek. Kek (or Shabbat Tea Cake) This is the cake my children love most. I make it every week because if you follow the recipe, it will always work out; and its simplicity makes it a hit with kids and adults alike. 2 cups granulated sugar 1 cup canola oil Finely grated zest of half an orange or 1 lemon 1⁄4 cup orange juice 4 large eggs 3 cups flour 3 tsp. baking powder 1⁄2 tsp. salt Sugar for sprinkling Preheat oven to 180ºC. Line and grease an extra-long loaf tin or two short ones. Set aside. Use a stand mixer or a hand-held one. Pour the oil, sugar, zest and juice into a bowl. Mix until well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add the flour, baking powder and salt all at once. Mix until thoroughly combined. Pour the batter into the prepared tin(s). Don't worry that the batter fills only half the depth of the tin(s) - it will rise. Sprinkle the top generously with sugar and pop in the oven. Check after 45 minutes (though chances are it will take an hour) or until an inserted knife comes out dry.