Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend

The problem with not writing the blog every day is that there is now so much to write about I don't know where to start. After a few years of dismal Memorial Day weekends, we have been blessed with absolutely beautiful weather. Thursday, while Saul wrapped up his summer session class for this week, I spent several hours getting the house clean and in order, working on the computer, and cooking. We had a late lunch together and then went shopping at Costco for a few more things for Shabbat dinner. We needed to get a color cartridge for one of our printers, but when we arrived at that department, the first thing we bought was a new camera for me, an Olympus Stylus 850SW--a belated Mother's Day present. When we were all in Hawaii last summer, we had borrowed the underwater camera that Beth had bought for Ed that she called "Ed-proof" meaning that it was almost indestructible. It was as billed. We took unbelievable underwater photos of the tropical fish as well as underwater movies. Back at the condo, we would drop the camera into a bucket of water to wash off the salt. It was small and really easy to use and so when I would take early morning walks I could shove it in my pocket and take rainbow photos as they appeared almost every day. This is the fourth upgrade of that camera. Hopefully, when I have time to play with it, there will be more photos on my blog.

We bought the rest of our supplies at Costco which no longer had the large bags of pita they used to sell and I also discovered that the frozen felafel I was planning to buy to supplement my so-so homemade ones had no hechsher. Then we went to Assi Market for parsley and coconut milk. I also found beautiful black radishes there, but forgot to prepare them for the party. I found whole grain mini pita with a hechsher from Thomas' (of all brands!) at Redner's Market in the same shopping center. I also found large bulghur at Redner's for which I had substituted wheat germ in the felafel recipe and which probably caused the texture problem. We spent the afternoon cooking. Then, we went out to dinner with Beth who is still without a kitchen.

I was very pleased with the results substituting coconut milk and margarine for the sour cream and butter in the carob cake from my cookbook, Bubbie's Kitchen. Friday was Lag B'Omer, a holiday for enjoying outdoor activities and barbecue-type food. I wanted a carob dessert because tradition has it that Rabbi Ben Yohai, the writer of the Zohar (the Book of Splendor that is the basis of Kabbalah), was sustained by a carob tree growing outside the cave in the Galilee where he hid with his son for thirteen years so that he could continue to study and teach Torah, a practice forbidden by the Roman rulers who had recently destroyed the Temple. Tradition also has it that Rabbi Ben Yohai's students visited him each year on Lag B'Omer. Since we were barbecueing chicken satay, Moroccan sausages, and carnatzlach, I needed a pareve dessert. It was yummy!

Unfortunately, Thursday afternoon, I began getting Saul's head cold. It started with a scratchy throat and then a runny nose. I have found that ginger in all forms is really great for curing the scratchy throat. I started drinking lots and lots of decaf tea with slices of fresh ginger and homemade ginger syrup. In between, I suck on really strong ginger hard candies called "Gin-Gins." I am already feeling almost normal this evening.

So, here is the complete menu for Friday night dinner. I debated as to whether to serve the smoked turkey pea soup I had made from the turkey carcass, but Mom loved it so much and I had so much other food, and there were going to be so many dishes from 14 people that I kept it.

For appetizers before dinner while Saul finished up the barbecued stuff: Homemade baba ganooj, hummus, tabouleh, homemade stuffed grape leaves, Mediterranean salad, olives and pickles from Beit Hashita (the kibbutz where Ari and Jessica each spent a year of high school and worked in the factory occasionally), pita, and multi-grain chips. The dinner: Israeli salad, the above-mentioned entrees, kugel Yerushalayim, potato salad, gezer chai (living carrots), and homemade challah. We had a bottle of Hagefen Merlot from our wine club, and a white wine that the Burrows brought chilled, along with both red and white grape juice, iced Constant Comment tea and fresh lemon-limeade that Beth squeezed while Saul grilled and I freshened up and changed before the guests arrived. Dessert was the mandelbrot pictured previously, the carob cake, jumbo oatmeal peanut-butter raisin cookies, fresh chunks of sweet, crisp watermelon, and chocolate-covered halvah.

The 14 people were: The three of us, Beth, Larry (who both came early to help out), Faith Rubin, Rabbi Addison and his son Elie, (Bobbie was away), Jerry and Betty Weiss, Stan and Millie Brooks, and Ariana and Ben Burrows. We were so organized that we actually took a break from 3 to 4:30 p.m. The evening which began when all arrived by 6:30 p.m. was warm and friendly. After dinner, everyone told stories about their encounters in Israel. It turned out that everyone of us has been there at least once. As each story was told, it reminded someone of something that had happened to them. It turned into a very late evening for Shabbat. The last of the guests left at 11 p.m. Larry left a little bit early because he had a flight this morning to Chicago to visit his sister and was leaving at 5:30 a.m. Beth had packed up all the food and loaded the dishwaher.

We left the remaining mess this morning and I dragged my stuffy-nosed self out of bed to attend services. The parashah this week includes one of the nastiest parts of the Torah--Moses' reproach to the people. It is a list of all the horrible things that will befall them if they do not obey God's laws. During Rabbi's sermon, I began to see it in a different light. He likened the Torah to an ancient vassal contract. He explained that there were two different types at the time--one that awarded benefits without obligation on the vassal for having supported the emperor or ruler, and one that awarded benefits dependent on the vassal complying with stated obligations, such as collecting taxes, or providing alliances in battle, etc. He discussed all the parts of a contract comparing each element with the "brit" or covenant with God. The reproach is the penalty part of a contract. If you honor the terms and conditions laid out and sign on you agree to receive certain benefits in exchange for compliance. If you do not comply, most contracts have a list of penalties that will ensue. I had never heard of a vassal contract before.

Since there were no b'nai mitzvah this week, we had lunch and a study session following services that touched on Pirke Avot (Sayings of our Fathers). I love the part about the wise person learning from everyone. When I was younger, I used to think there were incredibly sophisticated, creative and intelligent people out there that I was frustrated that I wasn't meeting. I learned along the way that everyone you meet, if you are able to get to it, has some kernel of wisdom to offer, even if it is by bad example. Saul finished most of the cleaning up when we returned, while I napped. Beth came over and we had a dinner of scrumptious leftovers about 5:30 p.m. I climbed back into bed after dinner and finished the Sunday New York Times Crossword puzzle pretty quickly. The theme was pinball. Before I started writing this, I was perusing a blog that Saul ran across while he was looking for an authentic felafel-making tool on the web. The flow of information truly is amazing! I told my friend, Roxy, that I try not to read too much because I view it as consuming other people's creativity instead of creating myself. Tonight was a perfect example to me of how I could spend hours wandering around in other people's lives on the net and not produce anything creative on my own. It was very tempting to follow all those links, view all those photos, and read all those comments on subjects that are of great interest to me. Viewing the creative efforts of others does spur my creativity. Ari sent me a blog from a woman who makes a very nice living blogging--$40,000 a month. Perhaps if I could do that, I could spend more time wandering around looking at what everyone else is doing as well as have time to have adventures of my own.

1 comment:

Ari said...

I still think it's "Kugel Yerushalmi" as opposed to "Kugel Yerushalayim."