Writing on Tuesday night close to midnight is, perhaps, a far cry from immediately after sundown on Saturday. But I remember learning somewhere that you can wait as long as Tuesday to do havdalah, if absolutely necessary, so this feels legit. I should find a source for that.
Friday night, I celebrated Shabbat at Heymish, a minyan that recently re-became roving between different people’s apartments. Jonathan was hosting, and I knew it was going to be crowded because he’d borrowed all of our chairs. The format is that everyone sits around in someone’s living room for Kabbalat Shabbat services, and immediately afterwards, the group shares a vegetarian potluck. Heymish means “homey,” and Friday night was just that. (I’m lucky there’s a Yiddish word for homey because, as a child, I always confused “homey” with “homely,” but heymish sounds exactly like what it is.)
My contribution to the potluck was spinach pinwheels, the spanikopita filling I’d made for my birthday wrapped up in puff pastry. It’s a good thing I’d blogged about making that filling, since I had to consult my own recipe to make it again.
The food was great, and I talked to several people about how they made what they brought. For all the cookbook-reading and recipe-sharing that gets talked about, over and over I heard that people couldn’t recreate their own recipes. It was a lovely, if somewhat frustrating, theme to emerge, especially since I really wanted recipes!
Edward made fantastic rice and lentils, much better than what I made a few weeks ago. He didn’t follow a recipe, but he did tell me about making them. He caramelized the onions for an hour or so, cooked the lentils, added the rice to the lentils and cooked that (I can’t quite picture the cooking times for all this, but it seems to have worked), then added some butter, salt, more salt, and probably another spice or two that I’m not remembering.
Rebecca made a great stir-fry, and here is her approximation of what she did:
Carrots, sliced into “pennies” (7)
Sweet potatoes (2) – slightly baked, but not yet mushy
Yellow onion (1)
Fresh ginger (eh, I used maybe 3 Tbsp.)
box of sliced mushrooms, further chopped up
3/4 cabbage, shredded
3 c. spinach
3 scallions, diced
Maybe some other veggies – if you have them around and you want to throw them in
Soy sauce (I used the low-sodium kind)
Extra firm tofu (one block – or more)
Hoisin sauce (optional)
2 eggs, scrambled (optional)
“I sweat the onions and carrots together in some sesame oil and then put them on medium to keep sauteeing. In another pan, but mostly because this wouldn’t all fit in one pan, I started on the mushrooms, ginger and cabbage. I added some soy sauce to both pans at this point, and then kept adding as I tasted. At the very end I incorporated the spinach to the mushroom/cabbage pan until it was wilted. Then I transferred most of that pan to the carrots/onions pan, but kept some mushroom/cabbage/ginger mix in the other pan, diced up the tofu into little cubes, added a little peanut oil and started sauteeing in that pan. I added the scallions at the end of that go-round and then added the whole mess to the other pan with the (now) cut-up sweet potatoes (skins off). If you want, now’s the time to scramble the eggs in the other pan and then add those to the finished stir fry. That’s it!”
Rebecca told me I could rephrase or clean-up her recipe, but no need: it’s such a liberating semi-description of how a lot of good ingredients can turn into a great meal! I had several conversations last week, unconnected to each other, about how cooking is something tangible and satisfying that we can do for ourselves. When your to-do list goes on forever (and you add “shower” and “eat” just so you have something to cross off) and long-term projects have no end in sight, you can still chop some veggies, make some rice, and have a concrete accomplishment in front of you. The moral of the story here is that experimentation with food pays off. And even when it doesn’t in terms of taste, or in terms of time that you “should” have spent doing something else, it’s still a valuable, hands-on experience. Something, plus a little time, turns into something else that can feed you.
Learning that, like me, so many of my friends often cook without recipes, makes me wish it weren’t quite so late at night and I could figure out the right metaphor to compare this experience to the rest of life. Maybe it’s that we all think that everyone else knows what they’re doing, but really everyone is making it up as they go along. Maybe it’s that there’s no right way to do anything, and every moment, every dish, is a reinvention. Maybe it’s that it’s ok to pour your heart and soul into something not knowing how it will turn out. Whatever it is, I’m glad I had the experience of eating all these lovingly created concoctions with so many lovely people.
P.S. I pretty much slept through what would have been lunchtime on Saturday. And sometimes that’s a perfect Shabbat expression, too. Though I’m pretty sure I ate some ice cream at some point…