The summer has gone by and we, once again, find ourselves in our favorite place — the kitchen! Once again we delight in preparing our favorite holiday dishes. We will have our Holiday tables glistening with the soft lights of the silver candlesticks, whose shimmering glow will be reflected in our silver kiddush cups and glass bowls filled with apples and honey.
Now, you might be tempted to think that just about anybody could prepare the Holiday table – just find a good cookbook, follow the instructions, and Voila! Well, you think so? Wrong!! The truth is that many a time I was invited to other peoples’ Yom Tov tables, and they did just that. They followed instructions meticulously, recipe by recipe, measuring every cup and spoonful, and yet . . . something was just not quite right. And, by the way, it had nothing to do with the talent of the individual chef.
Over the years I’ve discovered that just following the rules is not enough. You have to develop a special relationship with your food. You have to show sensitivity, respect, patience, and most of all – Love! You have to put your all into the food. You have to cherish it and care for it. It is your creation, your masterpiece! You give birth to it.
It’s not easy! Years ago, I decided to become a caterer. I soon discovered that it was not for me; it was a big mistake! The very word, “cater,” indicates a will to alter the food according to the dictates of the customer. Only you know how to create your masterpiece. How to prepare it, warm it, and serve it at its best. No one should ever force you to adapt your recipes. Never let anyone tell you differently.
One year, I was asked to prepare a meal for someone on Yom Kippur Eve. As always, I prepared the traditional dish of “Kreplach,” or Jewish ravioli, which is eaten three times a year (on Purim and Hoshana Rabba, as well). I shaped each Kreppele with great care, filling it only with the best meat and onion, etc. They turned out splendidly, each one was, l’havdil, like my “baby,” and I felt like a proud Yiddishe mamma! I wrapped them up carefully and drove them over to my customer, along with the other holiday dishes.
I arrived at my destination, knocked on the door, and I offered to bring all the food in, one tray at a time. The man was in a big rush (rude?), and snapped, “I’ll take care of that,” and proceeded to shove me aside. He strove over to the trunk and piled a tower of kreplach, a mile high, on his arm. Sure enough, to my horror, he dropped them all. My precious unique creations were reduced to garbage, all over the man’s front lawn!
Needless to say, I was devastated. But maybe it was just as well. This person would never have noticed the work that went into those kreplach: the special care taken to insure that every fold would remain in place; the hours of late night labor; the dicing of the onions and parsley; or the special sauce I had prepared for them. In any case, from that moment, I left the catering business, and decided to concentrate on those people who truly appreciated good food.
This advice I freely give out to anyone who is interested: If you want to be a truly great “Balabusta,” following the recipe is just not enough. Remember: it takes time, it takes patience, and it takes — Love!
Happy High Holidays!
La Rabinessa Liora