Monthly Archives: September 2011

Shalom Aleichem

Friday morning, I was telling a student about the song, Shalom Aleichem, that many people sing at the beginning of Shabbat dinner.  One explanation is that singing this song at the beginning of Shabbat welcomes the angels into our home and creates a peaceful setting for the rest of the day.  I’m not much for angel imagery, but I do like setting the scene for Shabbat with those words.  In a fit of rushing to get ready for Shabbat while it was pouring rain outside, we ended up driving to the Grad Network potluck dinner at Emily’s place, so I sang Shalom Aleichem to Aliza in the car.  Perhaps not traditional, but fitting nonetheless.

I was incredibly happy to see so many new people at this potluck; the beginning of the school year really is a special time.  I also think we learned a lot about just how much food we need to feed people at a potluck, especially when wine seemed to be the main item people wanted to contribute.  Josh has often said that Philly is especially good at potlucks, so all you new folks: it’s ok, you just got here!  But seriously, I hope that as we continue to do this kind of dinner, people will get more interested in contributing food, and especially in contributing food that they make themselves.  In case you’re just tuning in, I kind of have a thing about that.

The combination of the car, the baby, and a room full of grad students making merry conversation with each other meant that we ducked out early and went straight to bed.  Somehow, even with a reasonable night of baby-tending, we woke up for Minyan Tikvah in a bad state.  Services were lovely, the weather held out, Aliza looked adorable in Sheila’s dress, and the home-hospitality-lunches-following-services experiment went smoothly.  But oh, the exhaustion.

We had lunch at Bertram’s, and he made a middle eastern feast for us.  I don’t have it to include right now, but I really want his recipe for eggplant and tomatoes.  It was incredible, maybe the best eggplant I’ve ever eaten.  He also had a thoughtful and impressive variety of beer, including creme brulee stout that, for some reason, had a Jewish star on the label.

We even had a nice walk back through the city.  But all that tired just bubbled up and erupted when we got home, and it was not pretty.  And though I feel guilty admitting it, I said to Marc, “I wish someone would just take her away for a few hours so we could both sleep.”  Instead, through some series of delirium-induced events, I ended up lying on the hardwood living room floor next to Aliza (she, at least, was on a blanket), trying to will her to sleep so that I could nap.

Instead, there was a knock on the door.  And though I generally avoid this type of comparison, and I’m not much for angels (see above), and though it, perhaps sounds overblown or insincere, and though I could not possibly have any more commas or justification in this sentence, with all my heart, I am honestly reporting that at that moment my Shabbat angels arrived.

Beverly, Naomi, and Sara were taking a walk after their Tikvah lunch at Sara’s, and they just wanted to stop by to say hello.  Within about 2 minutes of that knock on the door, they had Aliza packed up in her stroller and out the door, and I was asleep in bed.  I don’t think I’ve ever needed a nap so badly in my life, and they arrived and made that happen.  It was magical.  It was otherworldly.  I’m really glad I had sung Shalom Aleichem the night before and primed my Shabbat for angels.

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What a week

If my life were a reality show, let’s say I had immunity this week.  Let’s also say that I totally deserved that immunity for pulling off a humongous party on very little sleep and making it through one of the craziest work weeks of the year.  Aliza definitely helped!

But actually, I still have a million work-related things hanging over my head, so I’ll be brief.   Oh to be a Jewish professional in September.

So…cooking for Shabbat…not so much.  Heymish was blissfully close to home this week, so I threw together a quick spinach salad and some dressing that turned out to be very popular, and I managed to get there to make the minyan.  This was Aliza’s first time at kabbalat Shabbat services!  Other people actually cooked things, and on the heels of the recent Grad Network kugel cook-off, I definitely enjoyed Warren’s lemon kugel.  I also learned that Trader Joe’s makes a great carrot cake.

Saturday, I ate a burrito made out of ingredients that happened to be in the fridge, plus some more spinach salad.  It’s hard to say what was breakfast or lunch or snack.  The day kind of all blended together.  Saturday is memorable, though, for being the sixth anniversary of the day that Marc and I met!

Do me a favor: with the time you’re saving by not reading a longer blog entry this week, do something really productive in my honor.  And have a good week!

Super in a rush salad dressing

Here are the ingredients.  Your guess on the proportions is as good as mine.

olive oil
Dijon mustard
soy sauce
red wine vinegar
clove of crushed garlic
chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper
celery seeds

I recommend making it in a jar that’s about to go out to recycling and shaking to combine.

 

 

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Every day is a whole world

This Shabbat had an awful lot of parts.  Pace yourselves.

I. Pre-Shabbat cooking with no real purpose
II. Dinner part one (no eating)
DNA lecture interlude
III.  Dinner part two (lots of eating)
Sleep interlude
IV. Aufruf
V. Block party
VI. “Ilana of many meals” and meal politics
VII. Board games and spreads
VIII. Post-Shabbat junk food
IX. Thinking about 9/11
X. What Aliza eats

Sometimes it’s hard to believe how much we fit into 25 hours.  Or, as Marc said before we fell asleep, “every day is a whole world.”

I. Pre-Shabbat cooking with no real purpose

I had a whole list of things to make, but I wasn’t planning to eat any of them over Shabbat.  I put together a nice tomato sauce with two weeks of CSA tomatoes, processed and froze three weeks of CSA parsley, and turned three weeks of CSA jalapenos into a really good dip.  Which was all well and good until I realized that I still didn’t have anything to eat.

II. Dinner part one (no eating)

I went to the first half hour of the Temple Med Shabbat dinner to schmooze, meet the new students, and publicize the New Year’s Soiree.  Stayed through motzi.  In past years, I’ve felt like I had to stay at all the Grad Network campus groups’ dinners and as a result, never got to make my own Friday night plans, but this drop-by was the perfect compromise.

DNA lecture interlude

While walking from the work dinner back to our neighborhood, prompted by recent news about Neanderthal DNA in modern day Europeans, Marc answered a whole slew of questions I didn’t realize I had about DNA.  There will be a formal lecture coming up.  It’s crazy stuff, and I can’t wait to learn more.  My husband is really smart.

III.  Dinner part two (lots of eating)

Our real dinner event of the night was at Beverly and Naomi’s, and as we were singing Shalom Aleichem, I realized I’d never been there for a Shabbat dinner before!  We had an awesome salad, rice and lentils (so much, much better than mine), lots of dips and spreads, roasted root veggies, and fried okra which I never expected to like but definitely took seconds.  Marc made rice pudding and chocolate vanilla ice cream, both non-dairy, for dessert, and there were two different kinds of ginger cookies.  I thought Aliza might roll over again, but Yael reminded me, “You don’t roll on Shabbos!”

It’s also worth pointing out that we had multiple invites this Friday night, and I almost decided to host a work dinner at the last minute for all the new students who just moved to town.  The lessons here are 1) I may have almost mastered being in two places at once, but more than that is just crazy, and 2) I can be responsible for me and my Shabbat plans, but I don’t have to always be responsible for everyone else’s in Philadelphia.  More on hosting in part VII.

Sleep interlude

It was really just barely long enough to even bother noting.

IV. Aufruf

Judah is getting married in a few months, and it was so good to have the opportunity to celebrate here in town.  And thankfully we had lovely weather for the surprisingly long walk to and from Society Hill.  Services, a long stretch of crying baby, and a shorter stretch of catching up with Judah, were followed by bagels and tuna salad at kiddush.

V. Block party

There were a lot of babies!!!  It was fun to hang out with all the moms and share stories and struggles and successes.  There were a ton of people there who I don’t think I’ve ever seen before, but it seemed like they all really knew each other.  Maybe it wasn’t true, and people were just being friendly, but it got me thinking a lot about where people find their communities.  Because even though I was having a great time and was glad to see all the neighbors around, as soon as Ilana, Joline, and Sara walked up, I was like, “Oh yeah, these are the people I really know.”

VI. “Ilana of many meals” and meal politics

I introduced Ilana to Sara on the block, who said, “Are you Ilana of many meals?”  My friends are famous to my blog readers (many of whom are also my friends)!  That’s cool!

Perhaps I should have realized this before with more specificity, but my blog means that people know who’s hosting and when they’re not invited.  I would love to think that, at its best, the blog is inspiring people to host more meals and to think about different aspects of their Shabbat practice, but I hope it’s not also making people feel excluded.  It’s taken me a long time to realize this in different aspects of my life, but there’s usually no real differentiation between insiders and outsiders other than self-perception.  If you want a Shabbat meal to go to, host one.  And hosting other people usually means an invitation in return.

For the record, Ilana didn’t invite us to lunch this week.  She had other people over instead, and that’s great, because actually communities should be made of many different parts and combinations of people.  I felt bad having to turn down multiple invitations this week, but also totally thrilled that there were that many meals happening.  I have a lot to say on this subject.  You’ve been warned.

VII. Board games and spreads

Marc opted for Torah discussion at Beverly and Naomi’s over the block party, and Sara and I joined them for some snacks, a game of Settlers, and the requisite purple freeze pop.

VIII. Post-Shabbat junk food

Somewhere in the middle of playing Settlers, we started talking about nachos.  And didn’t stop until we were back at our house eating them, along with homemade salsa courtesy of Naomi, french fries, root beer liqueur mixed with cream soda courtesy of Joline, and the jalapeno dip I made right before Shabbat.  Turns out there was a use for it after all!  Considering I didn’t really eat a single meal, per se, on Saturday, I managed to eat a lot of good stuff.  Also, my alcohol tolerance has been reduced to nearly zero.

Jalapeno Dip

4 peppers, or however many you have
white vinegar
olive oil
garlic
salt

The scariest part of this is roasting the peppers, which I did over an open gas flame on the stove.  The first time I did this, I melted the tongs.  USE METAL.  Roast until the skin is black, then put them in a bag to steam for a few minutes.  Peel off the skin and remove the seeds.  Put in a blender with everything else and give it a whirl.  I put everything in the food processor before remembering that the blender works better, but whatever.

IX. Thinking about 9/11

Over nachos, I asked if 9/11 was a defining moment for my friends.  It really was for me, in large part because I was a senior in college and about to make a transition into some form of adulthood, and I already knew life would never be the same again.  The way in which I remember the details of that day is haunting, but also, having ice cream that night with my friends and our peace studies professor and hearing about nonviolent resistance was inspiring, challenging, and formative.  I went to a lot of protests that year.  I sang a lot of peace songs, many of which I find myself singing to Aliza these days.  I felt like I was part of a movement, and that maybe we had the potential to effect real change.  I’m not even going to bother saying that it all feels kind of naive now, because it was so real and tangible then.

X. What Aliza eats

With all this talk of food, I’ve spent a paltry amount of time writing about the task that typically interrupts all my meals: feeding Aliza.  I knew that breastfeeding was something that I wanted to do, but I had no idea how consuming it would be.  No pun intended.  To date, I have fed Aliza in bars, synagogues, parks, restaurants, and cars.  I’ve fed her standing and sitting, though sadly, I can’t seem to be able to feed her lying down.  I’ve fed her in front of friends, strangers, grad students, and pretty much all our relatives.  And I’ve fed her at every.  possible.  time.  of day.  And I’m still totally mystified by the process, amazed that all of Aliza’s growing is thanks to something my body makes for her, and that, actually, even four months into it, breastfeeding is sometimes still really challenging.

I mention this all now because after the nachos, Aliza accidentally pinched her food source so hard that I cried.  A lot.  But actually, I also mention it now because right before the nachos, I joined the remnants of the block party and had a great conversation with a couple of the other new moms about breastfeeding.  The camaraderie and understanding were so substantive and validating and reassuring, and I thought, “Oh yeah, these are the people I really know, too.”

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Exhaustion sets in, and I make two soups

I never have enough time to get everything done that I want to get done at the beginning of the academic year, and now I’m trying to get everything done while working part-time and mommy-ing full-time.  Turns out that’s impossible.

So, Friday afternoon, with a mountain of emailing in front of me and wildly ambitious dinner plans, I fell asleep. Somehow, magically, dinner still happened, and it was pretty damn impressive.  We all need to pat ourselves on the back once in a while.

I made tomato soup and corn soup, and if I could make both of these in less than 2 hours (including peeling and seeding the tomatoes, shucking and cutting the corn off the cob, and stopping to feed the baby), then I never want to hear anyone say they don’t have time to cook.  California Pizza Kitchen does this neat trick where they serve two kinds of soup in one bowl, and they stay separated.  I achieved this (with Marc’s help) by pouring both soups into opposite sides of the bowl simultaneously.  I also had plans to make jalapeno sauce, which didn’t happen, but fortunately, we had a bottle of pre-made green stuff in the fridge for the swirl on top.

We also had baked tofu in “Island Soyaki” sauce, and baked potatoes with cheese and salsa.  And we were SO FULL.  This was a seriously hardy meal, so much so that we almost didn’t have room for the strawberry buttermilk ice cream teasing us from the freezer, but somehow we managed to share a bowl of it, and as long as we were eating it, we decided, we might as well top it with whipped cream, m+m’s, and sprinkles.  Aliza slept completely through dinner, and we both got to eat hands-free.

Saturday morning, I embarked on the never-ending task of catching up on sleep, and stumbled downstairs in time to have Adrienne come over for lunch.  We ate the soups cold, put the tofu on spinach salad, and I also whipped up a little babaganoush.  It was all still real good the second time around, though Marc and I both agree that the tomato soup is a little better hot.

Corn Soup

Cut the kernels off 6 ears of corn.  Saute an onion in some butter or olive oil.  Add a peeled, chopped potato, and some water or broth.  Bring to a boil and simmer until the potato is soft.  Add the corn and simmer until hot.  Puree with an immersion blender and season with salt and pepper to taste.  It doesn’t take long, but it sure tastes good.

Though we didn’t have any Shabbat plans, exactly, it seriously makes me so happy that Alex and Jonathan stopped by to say hi, then a couple hours later, Beverly, Naomi, and Rebecca stopped by.  The whole dropping by ethos really seals the deal on the communal Shabbat vibe that’s been brewing in our neighborhood.

In honor of the Philly Fringe Festival that’s happening right now (GO SEE SHOWS!!!  And if you’ve never heard the story about how the Fringe Festival brought Marc and me together, remind me to tell you sometime) and the way they write their blurbs, in short: Sleep-deprived parents, delicious food, and the cutest baby in the world celebrate Shabbat.

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