Categorized | Columnists, In My Mind's I

Confession: I always hated cooking, even on holidays

Posted on 01 March 2018 by admin

Just as I’ve enjoyed hamantaschen made by others, but not by me, I’m looking forward to enjoying the coming holiday at tables not my own. I will bring the wine.
The message is: I no longer cook. I mean it. When I tell this to other women of my age and stage, they respond, “I know. I don’t cook much now, either.” But I have to correct them: I don’t mean I don’t cook much; I mean I don’t cook at all any more.
How can this be? Don’t all Jewish women cook? Especially for holidays? Well — I did, when I had a family to cook for. But I hated every minute of it. And now that I’m alone, I don’t have to do it any longer. When folks ask me what I eat, I tell them to take a look at what’s available frozen, in cans, in packages or takeout. I am never hungry.
When I was about 9 and we were having family company for dinner, I told my mother I’d like to make an apple pie. She agreed, and vacated the kitchen (where everything she planned to serve was already either on the stove, in the refrigerator or ready and waiting on the counter). So I made a pie from scratch — the one and only thing I’ve ever made from scratch. It took me ages, and I’m sure it was delicious, because when it came to the table, it disappeared in less than 10 minutes. And I said to myself then, “I don’t ever want to spend so much time again on anything that’s gone so fast.”
But I had to, for many years. After all, that’s what Jewish wives and mothers are supposed to do, right? I made hamantaschen then, in quantity, and they were delicious; I clipped the easiest of recipes from the Jewish weekly that started my journalism career. The results: many small, cookie-like treats that I doled out carefully, so they wouldn’t disappear as fast as that apple pie. But I don’t bake any more now, either. If you want this recipe for next Purim, I’ll gladly share it.
And for Pesach? I made wonderful chicken soup by following the simplest recipe ever from the best Jewish cookbook ever: Love and Knishes by Sara Kasdan (published in 1969, 191 pages, $4.95). Wonderful when graced with “my” matzo balls (made from a box mix, of course). But even that is now a thing of the past, like the once-a-year veal breast I’d fix with my mother’s simple matzo meal stuffing (recipe also on request).
Full disclosure: Come Chanukah, I always made terrific latkes. Everyone loved them. But you don’t need any recipe, because mine was to buy lots of Manischewitz or Streit’s potato pancake mix, follow the instructions, and set out platters of delicious crispy results (but always being careful to dispose of the boxes before anyone saw them). My motto, as always: “Get into the kitchen and get out as fast as possible with good results,” and nobody ever complained…except me.
But now, I’m not afraid to admit that I always hated cooking, probably because at the start of marriage I feared it since I knew nothing. Once I tried to make soup from a package without realizing that the little packet inside was essential, and served up peas, beans and barley in boiled water. And for a long time, potatoes were dessert; I couldn’t get them to come out at the same time as any entree was ready to eat. And so it went…
I think this is a generational thing. My daughter is an excellent, creative cook and baker who makes everything from scratch; she uses nothing that comes in cans or boxes. So I’ve done for her what a non-cooking mother does best: I bought her a VitaMix. For Pesach, I will bring the wine.

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