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When Ziti Was Young

Perel Grossman

Monday, October 06, 2014

There I am, mustering up my full dignity as I stand regally, lank locks of pasta festooning my sheitel, delivering a eulogy for an insect. Okay, maybe I’ve got a little explaining to do. Let’s turn the calendar back by about seven days and pick it up there…. I’m rather pleased with myself. Departing from my usual minhag of shopping and cooking haphazardly only 24 hours prior to Yom Tov, this year I’m set to create menus a full week in advance. Woo-hoo! I crack open the neon green marble notebook marked Grammar Grade 3 and fold back the first three sheets of paper, each filled with childish scrawl. Three whole pages for an entire school year. Another banner educational season for Cheder Atika D’Rockland. Brandishing my pen like a samurai warrior poised to attack, I take a stab at the heading: SUCCOS MENUS 5775. (Okay, I actually write Succos ’14, but I want to make a good impression here.) Beneath it, I write Wednesday Night, then jauntily flip over the page and inscribe the following pages with the day of the week and time of day for each meal. There. Enough work for one night. The next day, I pick up where I left off. This year I am going for a theme of Simple and Natural. My husband has been campaigning for this style of cooking for years. Every Yom Tov, he grimaces as platter after platter of sugary, oily foods are carried out of the kitchen and placed on the table. On top of that, my daughter Rochie is on a strict diet. Of course, she told me not to make anything special for her. Right. Like I’ll let her starve right in front of my eyes.  Visions of steaming pots of chicken soup, succulent roast chicken, baked potatoes delicately seasoned with just a few aromatic spices, and wholesome fruit compote float across my mind’s eye. Just like Bubby Perleh used to make them, in the Old Country. I’m jarred out of my reverie by a female voice whose owner is desperate to get my attention: “Ma-ah!” Malky approaches briskly, head slightly lowered, indicating a readiness to do battle. Standing before me, her eyes narrow with suspicion. “Ma-ah? What are you planning to make for yontif?” I slam shut the neon green notebook, folding my hands casually over its cover. “Why do you ask?” I respond with fake nonchalance, tucking an imaginary stray strand of hair back into my snood. “I don’t know. I just got the feeling that you’re gonna do one of those simple, healthy menus and —” “And what?” “My chassan is coming for the first meal!” she wails. “And I don’t want him to think we’re… simple!” 

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