The Lilith Blog 1 of 2

July 9, 2012 by

Fridays with French Fries

It’s a system I have just about down, and R. knows it.

Fridays, particularly when school is in session at the college where she advises the Jewish student group, are frankly epic. By the time she stumbles out of our bedroom at what most people would describe as a normal hour, I have inevitably brewed some coffee, cranked up my Rachel Maddow podcast, rolled up my sleeves and started chopping onions as though we’re going to have to feed an army. And, well, sometimes, close enough.

R. launders the tablecloths and sets the table, unfolding the plastic chairs we’ve borrowed from the college. We estimate the number of student dinner guests in intervals of a half-dozen. I proceed from chopping veggies to rubbing down chicken with herbs, roasting homemade spicy French fries, setting the slow cooker with beans, garlic, onion, root veggies, kosher meat—tonight will be yet another night of explaining what cholent is to wary-looking teens.

Maine is, as you might know, pretty far north. This means that in the summer months, R. and I have a leisurely day of cooking that will still result in us bringing in an early shabbos. In the winter months, which are incidentally the months when we’re most likely to have twenty hungry students over for dinner, and another ten lined up for Shabbat lunch, our prep time shrinks precipitously. The week Shabbat rolled on in before 4pm—well, I won’t admit to frustrated crying. I might admit to a frustrated early cocktail hour.

The point, as I hope you’ve gotten by now, is that Fridays are a marathon, and they don’t necessarily slow down once we’ve lit the candles. The mechanics of keeping food moving around the table, of grabbing an extra fork or spoon as someone needs one—they keep me moving until finally, finally, we all sit down. Brachot are recited, as the non-Jewish kids looked thrilled at this new cultural experience and the Jewish kids mumble sheepishly along. Hands are washed. And the looks on the faces of our younger guests—those that begin when they come in, marveling at the smell, and last usually all the way through however many zmirot, or Shabbat songs, we can strong-arm them through at the end of the meal—it’s honestly a bit of a thrill. They look like they get it. They’re happy to be there—and not just because I really do make a very good cholent, if I may say so myself.

As the unofficial members of the Lesbian Chabad of Mid-Maine (no copyright infringement intended!), R. and I have taken up the duty of demonstrating what a Jewish home looks like—to locals, to students, to anyone who wants to come see. And I think that’s what lights these students up from the inside—it’s that idea of home. A Jewish home, which some are remembering and probably missing, some are experiencing for the first time, and some—just a few, but this is a business of quality rather than quantity—are clearly seeing projected in the future: the home they suddenly know they want to make. It lights them up, but it warms me deep inside. So much so that I’ll even share my recipes with them when the time comes.