I had a big holiday dinner at my house the other evening in celebration of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. Afterward, as I sat digesting the meal and the experience, these thoughts occurred…
Regarding matzah balls: We’ve all heard of turning lemons into lemonade, but this year I turned illness into matzah ball soup instead. In May I experienced a frightening medical “event” that sent me to the emergency room twice and included an overnight hospital admission. Five weeks later, every scary diagnosis was ruled out and it was determined that my event was a fluke – thank God – but that five-week waiting period was scary. As my kids gathered around in support, my daughter Lisa made me a pot of matzah ball soup. It was delicious. And it was just the elixir I needed. And it got me thinking…one of the most difficult things for me to do at the various Jewish holidays is to make the matzah ball soup. Here was a solution to my problem, a new soup chef! It’s mind-boggling that this truly huge holiday gift came to me right there in the middle of my medical misery.
Regarding mashed potatoes and other side dishes: When I think of preparing a Jewish holiday meal, one main image comes to mind – huge cauldrons of boiling water. Such pots are needed to prepare four things on my menu: gefilte fish, mashed potatoes, chicken stock, and matzah balls. The logistics of what-cooks-when – plus the washing of all those pots – have been daunting. Having given away the broth and the balls to Lisa, I turned to my other daughter, Shana, to handle the potatoes. That left me with one very manageable pot – and an indescribable sense of relief. It is said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results. This year we did things differently.
As is always the case, my other guests offered to bring things for our meal and I took them up on it. Hence, salad, hot veggies, kugel, homemade challah, and bottles of sparkling cider made it to our table. This help allowed me to focus on entrees and desserts, which were as manageable as that one pot of boiling water.
As we all sat down to enjoy the meal together, I was aware and grateful that this year’s holiday experience was emotionally filling as opposed to physically draining.
Regarding Bundt pans: This may very well be a reflection on my lack of baking skills, but I often have a helluva time getting a Bundt cake out of a Bundt pan. As much as I grease and flour the pan in advance, there seems to be no guarantee the cake will actually come out of it – in one piece – after baking. For Rosh Hashana my cake fell out of the pan with ease, sending me directly from the kitchen to my bedroom to record the joyous occurrence in my gratitude journal. I could take some credit here and report that I recently threw out my Bundt pan from 1973 and got a new one. Perhaps it has a magical new finish? Or maybe I just got lucky. No matter the case, the lesson of the Bundt pan is gratitude.
Regarding Lego Duplo blocks: Though everyone helped wash dishes and clean up after the meal, even returning folding chairs to the basement, there was one mess that somehow got left behind – Lego Duplo blocks were all over the living room floor. Duplo blocks are the big, chunky Legos intended for toddlers and they are part of the toy collection I keep at my house. All of my grandchildren – now ages 2, 6, 6, 6, 6, 8, 9, 11, 11, and 13 – have played with these blocks through the years. Most memorable was the way little Leo (now 9) would knock down every tower I built. In return, I’d scoop him up and torture him with kisses as he laughed in delight. Recently, my 8-year-old grandson and his 6-year-old brother asked me to buy regular Legos, which I did, though this very tangible sign of the kids growing up made me ache. Thus, when Duplo blocks remained on the floor after the last guest departed, I left them there for a couple of days, cherishing my memories.
Cherishing memories? Yes, I’ve always liked to do that. When I was a child, my family belonged to a group called the Willick Family Circle. It was composed of my maternal grandfather’s eight siblings and their families. Unbelievably, there was a recording secretary for the group, and my mom was it. I loved reading through the green notebook she kept. It contained her minutes, recalling all the good times. I especially loved that each report closed the same way: “And a good time was had by all.”
Regarding our Rosh Hashana dinner 2019 – I think the same benediction applies and I am as grateful for that as I am for the miracle of the Bundt pan.
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