Monday, September 21, 2009

Swirling Thoughts #41 – getting ready for a new year

A Rosh Hashanah visitor – no shechechiyanu here – a neighborhood lizard hiding in one of many laundry piles. One day I will write a book called Things We Tell Our Children (independent of their truthfulness) – this morning’s contribution: “I opened the window and saw the lizard run out.”

My new favorite pre-holiday riddles:
* Guess the oven temperature (as honey cake burns on the top and oozes over the side.)
* What is the best balance between washing dishes, clothes, and children? Did I mention there are about 3 buckets of hot water in total?
* How many people does it take to clean up one small tea glass which breaks against the shelf, breaks again as it hits the stone countertop and breaks a third time as it crashes onto the stone floor?
* How many non-functional refrigerators and non-functional temporary replacement refrigerators will fit in my basement before the holiday?

Some kitchen mishaps…really gross face splashes – everyone could add something here, I’m sure:
Pomegranate seed juice – everywhere and really not gross, just messy.
Fish juice – this one went on my lips – EWW!
Spinach juice – in my eyes – this one made me laugh.
Tongue gravy – all over my face – there were no words.
Thank Gd for a (cold) shower before the holiday!

Tongue, Fish, I did not realize I am so demanding!
Every time I think I am NOT a spoiled American I end up looking for something that apparently only a spoiled American would want/need. Like deli-style tongue for the siman (sign) of eating something from the rosh (head) on Rosh Hashanah. For years we have been hiding a microscopic morsel of deli tongue inside a huge chunk of challah. When I called the midnight delivery butcher and asked for tongue and they said “No problem, how big?” I had an inkling that maybe I should confirm they were sending the tongue “k’mo salami” (the tongue that is like salami). “At rotzah salami?” (You want salami?). “LO! Ani rotzah lashon k’mo salami!” (No! I want tongue that is like salami). Silence. And then, “Lo. Einlanu.” (No, we don’t have). After that we called another butcher. No luck. Bob offered to go to the deli in Jerusalem and order a tongue sandwich without the bread but then I started to feel like maybe I ought to be more Israeli. If everyone is ordering whole tongue, may be I should order a whole tongue. How hard and how gross could it be? (THAT turns out to be a whole other story). I also ordered fish. I asked for fresh. They had only frozen. I asked for tilapia to fry. They had only sole to fry. I asked for sea bass to bake, they sent nile perch to bake.

People tell you and you try to remember. But really, you just live and you learn.
They say you are supposed to go to the store first and make your menu based on what’s there. I have not yet mastered this skill. I needed celery and bought the most pathetic wimpy stringy excuse for celery (picture plump stalks of parsley). I did this twice. I needed oranges for my sweet potato chicken. I bought a ton of them. They were green. I ignored the nagging voice in my brain telling me oranges are supposed to be orange. I even told my kids, who pointed out the obvious, that this is just how Israeli oranges look in September. During dinner Bob whispered to me that the sweet potatoes were a little not-so-sweet – maybe the chopped up green orange was making them taste bitter?

It’s Kosher – see for yourself!
So it seems the reputation of the butcher as having great hashgocha, plus the delivery man speaking only Hebrew and Yiddish with really long pais, not to mention the hashgocha on the sealed package of frozen fish are all not enough to guarantee that the actual fish inside is really and truly kosher. I found this out on the morning of the second day of yom tov as I opened my defrosted fish and noticed a segment of fins and scales had been left on for my approval. I opened the second package and saw it again. Laughing at how scaling a fish is easier than peeling a tongue I cleaned it off and wondered if I’ll ever see fresh Sea Bass in the aretz.

Rain – beautiful and welcomed rain.
On the first day of Rosh Hashanah there was evidence of rain. Little sprinkles. Countable and few. But they were there. But the buzz was about day two. An approaching rain storm. A friend told Bob if your shoes get a good soaking in the fall, they will not dry out again until the spring. With this in mind, I ran up the steps in pouring rain wearing (fancy) flip flops on the second day of the holiday. I got to the closest minyan – literally 2 minutes from my front door – held in a caravan. Actually there are two caravanim. Side by side. One is Moroccan, one Ashkenazi. If you missed hearing the shofar in one, you could surely hear it from the other. In fact, there were women and children standing across the street from the caravan shuls hedging their bets. Once the shofar started to blow in the Ashkenazi shul there was a rush to the caravan. It was jam packed. I was the only one in flip flops but it just didn’t matter. Enough people were wearing sandals and truly no one cared. The holiday fashion show was not taking place here. Inside was complete silence for the shofar. When the tefilot began again all you heard were the tefilot. From the women and the men. There was no side chatter. Children sitting inside were silent. Children who couldn’t be silent were playing outside. There were tons of them. They ran from caravan to caravan to hear each shofar. They were splashing in puddles wearing oversized hand me down Shabbat clothes. They were happy and free, celebrating the holiday and rejoicing in the rain. A new year in Eretz HaKodesh.

We’re hoping to go camping soon.
The kids are off school the week of Sukkot. I’m not due for another month and a half. We stockpiled camping gear before we left Brooklyn. And we’ve been practicing on some level since we got here. I think I’m ready.

I had sent Bob for watermelon. There was no watermelon. In all of Efrat. This happened once before with eggs. We were sitting in a coffee shop and ordered the Israeli breakfast (2 eggs, salads, cheeses, bread, juice and coffee) except that there were no eggs. Not in the restaurant, not in the makolet. Not even in the other makolet. There’s not much else in the way of Israeli breakfasts once you eliminate the eggs. And so it goes – sometimes we are lacking in eggs, other times, watermelon. And lately, often just before Shabbat, all of Efrat is lacking in electricity. It’s good practice for camping.

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