Three ladies - Three lattes

‘It seems as if this time of year is one endless catering job... I have very little energy or time for spirituality.’

Cartoon catering during the holidays. (photo credit: TNS)
Cartoon catering during the holidays.
(photo credit: TNS)
I am a forty-something-year-old frum-from-birth mother of four. Two of my children are married with young kids of their own. I adore my family, but lately I seem to dread the hagim, especially the long ones. There are just so many meals to cook, sheets to wash and plates to deal with. It seems as if this time of year is one endless catering job. I get to shul in the mornings, but I have very little energy or time for spirituality – I am too busy going over meal plans in my head.
Am I wrong to feel this way?
– Cooked-out in Petah Tikva
Tzippi Sha-ked:
If the Three Ladies can unite on anything – this could be it. Shrieking backs, spinning heads and churning stomachs don’t differentiate between degrees of religiousness. It’s time we all utilize our kops and put a stop to culinary kitchen practices that serve no one.
Back in the golden medina of California, some friends started a practice that (for many years) I frowned upon. For Shabbat and Yom Tov dinners they prepared halla, salad and chicken soup with matza balls. That’s it. For these exclusive LA ladies, money was not a problem. They could have easily ordered takeout; the issue was entirely a matter of principle. Who needs excess food? Why do Jewish holidays have to be punishing for the preparers, and the partakers? Aside from health, weight, food addiction and time management, endless kitchen duty robs chefs of the spiritual component of the holiday. Who has energy for meaningful davening when bodies ache?
Being younger and none the wiser, I balked at their frugal practices. What about guests? Wouldn’t it be awkward?
“We’re doing them a favor,” the women answered, “along with our own family, and ourselves.”
Today I’ve seen the light and you should, too. Let’s start a revolution in our kitchens. Let’s continue to invite guests and all stick to one delicious starter, one main, one dessert.
Less is more: more health, more sanity and more precious time.
Hag Sameah!
The obvious answer is that I’m too busy sprinkling cinnamon on fragrant milchike buns, chopping herring for kichel, and baking round hallot to think about this question. However, on reflection, it possibly encapsulates my relationship with my religion.
Holidays, for me, provide an opportunity to feel part of the whole. Everyone is in Sukkot, whether or not they believe God is watching and taking notes.
Everyone is cleaning for Passover, even those who’ve stocked up with frozen bread. It’s the no-man-is-anisland idea; we are not entire of ourselves.
We gather around the table with family and friends and for a few hours we are all rich enough not to work for the whole day (and sometimes more). We catch up, sing the songs, eat the fabulous food and feel Jewish and connected and part of a people; we are where we want to be.
In the early days of my marriage, when my husband didn’t drive on Shabbat or holidays, the worst part for me was exclusion from family. I resented being stuck at home, while everyone else congregated out of our area. It seemed utterly pointless to me; what a relief when we could once more drive to festive Seders.
As for kitchen duty – I am a reluctant cook. I get zero pleasure from frying onions, or caramelizing sauce. I do it; I can competently feed the masses, but the process doesn’t thrill me.
Except on holidays. I love cooking for holidays. Maybe that’s the God-piece in me? Go figure.
Danit Shemesh:
I don’t know what the kvetching is about. Cooking for family is an honor. We nourish the food with a special spice called love and our deepest wishes for the recipients of our cooking. The kitchen is the centerpiece of the home; food has always been the connecting agent. Family, food and festivities are good news!
Any woman who invests reaps the fruits of that labor. Your sons will remember your smile as you serve the chicken soup and will ask their wives to cook it the same way; your daughters will emulate you. I don’t feel demeaned by my work. On the contrary! Progress for women should not come at the expense of the family unit.
Even more important is the holiday itself. Food is just the means to that end. The hagim are a water hole for the weary. In this world, the travel-worn sometimes forget that they are tired and need spiritual sustenance to survive the material rat race. A holiday provides time to ponder, to breathe, to remember that Hashem [God] is taking care of everything with precision. On Rosh Hashana we crown our King, on Yom Kippur we accept that we need to earn being in the King’s courtyard by working on our character and practices. On Sukkot we remember what is transitory, like brick houses, and what is permanent, like building a home.
What’s the best tool for the metamorphosis from a house to a home? Chicken soup, of course.
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