BY MICAELA BLITZ
RECAP: Debbie would be the first to admit that she is not the world’s best cook, which is why she is freaking out a little at the prospect of cooking her first Shabbat dinner for her family. Thanks to a last-minute work commitment, she has a lot to get done, and not much time.
I meet Adam at the station, and we head to the butcher and supermarket, filling our trolley to the brim. We grab a quick shawarma before we head home, and then set about on the task at hand. After spending a small fortune on meat, vegetables, and all sorts of other ingredients for my Shabbat dinner, I am now standing in my kitchen at 9pm working out where to even begin. Now that I have only tonight to really get things done, I have informed Adam that we may well need to pull an all-nighter to get this done. He is 100% behind me but has also said that he needs to be in bed by midnight as he has an early meeting out of town tomorrow, so I guess we’d better work quickly!
“You need to write a list,” Adam suggests helpfully. “If we work out what needs to be done, then we can divide the jobs between us and get it done. It’s how I always work.”
That’s what I love about Adam. He is always good in a crisis. Sensible, organised, not easily flustered. The complete polar opposite me on every level, which is probably why we get on so well. Opposites attract and all that!
Under the words TO DO in big letters at the top of the paper, I start to write down a list of all the things I need to do. Each one has its own bullet point; from washing vegetables to laying the table, everything is on the list. I begin to feel better as I see the words from my thoughts on paper in front of me, but I am a little freaked out by the length of the list.
“Ok, so you start peeling the vegetables, and I will chop the onions, ok? Don’t want you crying all over the place do we?” Adam says.
We each get on with our allocated jobs, and things start getting done. Vegetables, tick. Onions, tick.
We are cooking on gas, well technically electric, but you know what I mean! As the time goes on, the ticks on the list begin to appear, until the only thing that is left to be done this evening is the chicken soup. Adam has turned in for the night, but I am sure I can manage this alone. I am going to use my slow cooker, which means that I can turn it on before I go to bed, and it will be all lovely and ready when I wake up tomorrow morning. Perfect.
I put all the ingredients in and then add in some water. I turn on the slow cooker, turn off the kitchen light, and make my way up the stairs. And so to bed, to hopefully not dream of being chased down the road by giant matzah balls, and instead to just sleep…
When my alarm goes off the next morning, it feels like I have only just shut my eyes. I quickly dress and get myself ready, making sure I pack some stupidly high and ridiculously painful shoes to wear tonight – the things we do for our jobs – and then come downstairs to check the chicken soup. I had hoped to come down to the wafts of beautiful chicken soup filling the room and making me smile, but as I lift the lid to the pot, I see that something has gone horribly wrong.
“What is that horrible smell?” Adam asks as he walks into the kitchen and sees me almost in tears as I stand there with a slow cooker full of fossilised chicken and burnt vegetables. “What happened?”
“I don’t know, I followed the recipe. Let me look at it again.” I look at the printout. Chicken, done, vegetables, done. Salt and pepper in, and water. “Oh no.” I then realise what I have done. “I didn’t put in enough water, which is why it is all stuck to the pan. It has boiled itself dry. What an idiot. What will I do now??”
“Don’t worry,” Adam says, “I have a plan….” He runs to the freezer and proceeds to rustle around in the back of it. He pulls out a large Tupperware box. I look at him, and he smiles back at me.
It’s Friday. The door opens and the smell of chicken soup hits the noses of our guests as they arrive. They each give us big hugs and gifts as Adam takes their coats. It is so nice to be able to invite people into our home rather than always be the guest at someone else’s table.
As we light the candles and say Kiddush, I am so happy to be sharing this with my family. All the stress of the last couple of days with work, with food, with everything, just floats away as we bring in Shabbat together.
As our guests sit down to dinner, I walk in from the kitchen with the soup. I watch everyone happily slurping away on their steaming bowls of chicken soup and take a sneaky look over at my mother-in-law.
“This is delicious soup, Debbie,” she says to me, and I almost choke on a carrot. Adam smiles at me from across the table.
Does she know? If she does, she doesn’t say anything. She seems to be happily eating it, which is good. Surely she must recognise the familiar taste. The bowls may be different, and I may have added some lockshen and a few more carrots than usual, but it is still the same soup… her soup!
“Thank you,” I say smiling sweetly. I am not sure if my cheeks are hot from the soup or my own blushes, but I try to compose myself.
Adam and I will no doubt recall this story in later years with great laughter and fondness to friends and family, maybe even one day to my mother-in-law, but for now, I want to keep it as our little secret for a bit longer!!!