First Friday of the New Calendar Year
my family began observing 'Friday Night Dinner', otherwise known as Shabbat, when I was around four years old. my parents may have been observant since they'd been married, or longer...I know it was a tradition on the kibbutz where my dad grew up, and I'm pretty sure my mom grew up with it as well, like generations of other New York City Jews. my memory of it in my life only goes back that far, but it's pretty well far enough to be considered an enduring tradition in my life. my grandparents on my mother's side would usually join us, and we'd eat around the table in the dining room instead of at the 'regular' table in the kitchen. Friday Night Dinner was a major pain as a teen, because I couldn't go out with my friends or my boyfriend until it was over, and it lasted for hours. as a young adult, I never gave engaging with it a second thought, though every now and then I'd end up at one at my brother's house (he took over the tradition when his own family started growing, and our mom goes to his house, now) or at a synagogue sponsored event. I don't believe I've Ever hosted a Shabbat dinner, though I've wanted to, and even if I can't do them consistently, week after week, year in year out, with my extended family, it's still worth doing for me, for my teen, at least once. while we were cuddling on the couch this morning - our 5 minute snooze button - I was reminiscing about how his Grandma had done the same with us when we were kids, and suddenly realized it was Friday...and since we didn't have any after school/practice plans, I decided we should have Shabbat dinner! (which met with a resounding NO, of course. teens are so pleasant.)
for me, growing up, Shabbat dinner consisted of:
- a clean house
- traditional dress, or something between school clothes and formal wear
- the 'good' dishes/silver on the big table in the dining room with the Sabbath tablecloth
- lighting candles
- some quick prayers
- chicken soup
- main dish
- side dishes
it's already 11am on Friday afternoon, and my life looks nothing like my mom's, with her cleaning lady, privilege, and years of experience being a traditional Jewish mom - but we all have to start somewhere, and the Shabbat dinners of my early youth were certainly more modest than the ones we had when I was in high school, up until I was in my mid-20's, and my parents sold that house. so my version is going to be just perfect for what it is. a first try. a leap of faith in the spontaneity of playful nostalgia. anyway, if I'm gonna get this done, I'm gonna need to get started...there's no way I can do what my mom did, with the time and resources I have, and my limited capabilities in the kitchen, but here's what I can do:
- cleaning the house is gonna be a low priority in favor of getting the meal together.
- I'll get dressed when it's all set to go, before serving.
- setting the table - will fall to the teen when he gets home.
- find some candle holders, and check to make sure I have Shabbat candles (pretty sure I do).
- gotta hit the liquor store for Manishevitz...I hope they have it!
- I'll need a challah, too...unless I can bake one? no, don't push it.
- chicken soup...I think I have everything I need: chicken (frozen, but apparently that's ok. I already put it in the fridge to thaw, since I don't have to start it until later), carrots, celery, onion, a potato for the hell of it because I have a lot of them, salt, pepper, parsley, oregano.
- salad - I've got spring mix and spinach. plus carrots, celery, green pepper, scallions, cherry tomatoes, croutons, and creamy Caesar dressing.
- main dish - I think I'm going to make chili. I know I have everything for that, because I bought it all at the store yesterday.
- for a side dish, maybe steamed broccoli, and also possibly green beens?
- I need a dessert, unless I can think of something to make, but I'm going out anyway, so...
- we don't drink coffee, but there's tea and cocoa in the house (and liquor, for that added warmth in the cup).
I need to mention, here, the two free bags of groceries that showed up on my porch by way of my dear acquaintance J, who I met through some disadvantaged women artist weekly brainstorming meeting group (they set it up, and it met at her offices) - my car recently broke down, and I remembered a few years ago I needed snow tires, and J got me in touch with the United Way who were able to help me buy them. so hoping the United Way might help me again, I called J to see if they might be able to expedite the process in any way, and to see if they could give me a ride to or from the mechanic's when the car was ready (they live close by), but we crossed communications and missed each other. BUT - they left two bags of groceries on my porch, and when I got home, the bags were waiting there for me. carrots, onions, potatoes, celery, milk, cheese, oatmeal, a whole chicken and two additional 2.5 lbs. packages, spinach, spring, mix, eggs, butter, bread, pb & j, two boxes of pasta, and two jars of red sauce...it was so sweet and kind, and welcome. I already made one pot of soup from that gift, and a pot of mashed potatoes, and I'm feeling pressured because I want to use it all before it goes bad! ugh, I'm in a race against time, here, and I have to get back to it!
ok, so the shopping list is simply Manishevitz, challah, and dessert, so I'm gonna run out and get that at 2pm, before I start the cooking portion of this evening's entertainment around 3 or 3:30. I'll clean up until then, and have the teen clear the table off so he can set it nicely with my Sapta Lisa's dishes that are tucked away in the back of the cabinet when he gets home. when all that's handled, the food is ready, he's showered and we're both dressed, we'll light the candles, say the prayers, serve, and enjoy!
chicken soup is technically done, but I'm letting it simmer for however long, and the chili is cooking, with the timer set for 1 hour. yay! got the Manishevitz and the challah, bought a box cake for dessert, because that was what I thought I could handle. I haven't even looked at the directions to see when I need to start it, yet! so, I just need to make the salad, and the sides. I wished I had thought to make mashed potatoes, and I guess I still can, because I think that goes better with broccoli, and we can just have that as one side (potatoes and broccoli), and green beans for the other. seems somehow better to me. so I guess I should go put those up if I want them to be ready...was just taking a quick break after getting it all on track!
That. Was Freaking. Fantastic. I just hosted my first successful Shabbat dinner! I made: chicken soup with carrots and noodles, a pot of chili, roasted potatoes/broccoli/garlic, steamed green beans with butter, and a salad. the teen came home in a mood, and made a big show about how much he hated everything and how my asking him to shower, dress, get out a tablecloth, clear and set the table, find the candle holders and get two candles to put in them, was the most heinous thing I ever could have asked of him, but I gave him a firm talking to, told him his tomorrow's freedom depended on his willingness to participate in my rather important to me endeavor tonight, so he complied, and he even got in the spirit in the end. once the food was ready, he was ready, and the table was ready, I got ready, and he actually took a picture of the table. then we lit the Shabbat candles, said the same prayers my dad used to say, from his book, sipped the wine and broke the bread, and sat down to our meal!
the teen had two bowls of soup, most of the green beans (I was allowed a spoonful), and one scoop each of chili and roasted veggies, but no salad. I ate Everything...I'm so stuffed! Success! after we cleared the table and set all the leftovers aside to cool, he was released to play video games while I did the dishes, filled the tupperware containers to pack into the fridge and freezer, mixed the cake, and put it in the oven. just as I decided to check in again, the timer went off ~ ~ ~ needs more time, which is fine; it gives me more time to finish the paragraph while the cake cools for 15 minutes, at which point, we will finish off our Sabbath meal extravaganza, and put a big, gold star in my Jewish Mama book. feeling pretty good, yes I am!
cake was both moist and fluffy, with gooey chocolate bits mixed in. we didn't even get to the cocoa...food coma now. zzz...
*based on the teen's dad posting "My guitar says it needs a band soon, or it's moving to LA. and taking the amp with it." on facebook, I've been hearing one of my all time favorite happy songs play in my head (I posted it in his comments, wondering if he remembered it, how much I loved it, and doubted he did), which I played while cooking. well, for about 6 minutes of the cooking, because I went ahead and played it twice.