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Lifetakes: The Traveling Cholent

Rebecca Feldbaum

Then came the Shabbos I spent with a warm Moroccan family, where I realized I was insulting the couple by not trying their unique cholent

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

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I’ve never been a huge fan of cholent.

Somehow a meat-potato-bean mixture that sits all night long in a pot on a blech or in a crockpot on a counter holds little appeal, even on a frigid Shabbos day.

For many years, my aversion contended with politeness. When I spent my seminary year in Israel, I politely turned down taste-testing cholent. And then came the Shabbos I spent with a warm Moroccan family, where I realized I was insulting the couple by not trying their unique cholent. (I mean, eggs were floating on the top…) They told me it was a little “hot,” but I took a spoonful and soon big, huge tears were rolling down my cheeks. Yep, it was hot, all right — hot peppers H-O-T! My polite days were over — no more cholent for me!

Back in America, I enjoyed Shabbos meals in many different homes — minus the cholent. One particular family, the Cohens, was especially kind to me and I became a bas bayis there. Mr. Cohen was known to make a delicious cholent, but, try as they did to convince me, I just could not bring myself to taste it.

Eventually I married and had my own home. Wanting to be the perfect eishes chayil, I made cholent for my husband. It wouldn’t have won any cooking awards, but he was satisfied. My cholent-making came to a complete and total standstill during my first two pregnancies. There was no way I could have that smell in our home.

So imagine my husband’s (and my own) complete and utter surprise when I was pregnant with my third child and I craved — yes, craved — cholent! Our first son was born and I realized that male genes must really need meat. For my fourth pregnancy, I had a reliable indicator of the baby’s gender: I wanted cholent, so it must be a boy. (It was!) But that was it for me. Once the pregnancies were over, I went back to my avoid-eating-cholent-at-all-costs mode.

Time passed, and I went through a very hard, life-changing experience. I did my best to keep myself on an even keel, but some days were harder than others. At that period in my life, I returned to the Cohens for Shabbos. Come Shabbos morning, I asked for a bowl of cholent, and was soothed by each spoonful.

Somewhere deep in my subconscious, I must have associated their cholent with a simpler, more carefree time in my life. When I ate it, I honestly felt like I was nourishing my neshamah that was in such turmoil.

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