Thursday, October 11, 2012

Everything Is Shrinking

This year, I swore things would be different.

The week before Rosh Hashana, I made my way to the kosher butcher and stocked up. Though I feared the sticker shock, what I really dreaded was having to wait on those crazy long lines while making idle chit chat. How wonderful it would be, I imagined, to simply shop in my garage freezer when it came time to cook over the course of this festival-filled month.

With carefully constructed menus in hand, I tackled the rest of the legwork in advance, too. Barrels of onions and potatoes and apples stood at the ready in my kitchen. I refilled the flour and sugar bins, and hoarded the few remaining bags of Trader Joe's pareve chocolate chips in my pantry.

Like a marathon runner in the weeks leading up to a big race, I polished my plan until I felt prepared, pumped for the culinary extravaganza that lay ahead.

When the time arrived to begin cooking for the New Year, I donned my favorite lounge wear and an apron, turned up the music, and got to it. First into the oven went the big ticket items, like the turkey breasts and briskets. As they cooked, I tended the stovetop fare, including vats of chicken soup and sweet and sour meatballs.

I monitored settings on appliances throughout the kitchen like a general in a military command center. Bells rang, lights flashed, and timers buzzed. Dishes cooled on every available surface.

Slowly, our menu came to life. It was magical surveying the traditional holiday foods that connected me with both generations of my family and Members of the Tribe around the globe. Their aromas reminded me, in a very tangible way, that I am forging for my boys an edible connection with their heritage.

The oven timer beeped suddenly, snapping me out of my reverie. I set the brisket atop the stove and peeled back the foil in horror. The 6.3 lb. roast that had cost me a mortgage payment had practically disappeared. Only hours earlier it had filled the pan. Now it was nothing more than a cocktail hors d'oeuvre, but no tinsel-wrapped toothpick was going to save me.

This scene repeated itself several times before I finally turned off the oven, sending me into a state of panic. There were so many guests to feed. My boys alone could be counted upon to make a significant dent in each dish. I had no choice but to defrost a twin of every item I'd already cooked.

Before I could say kreplach, my freezer stash of meat was gone. I had depleted in two days what I'd hoped would last the entire month.

Glancing around the kitchen, I noticed that everything else appeared to be shrinking, too, though not by my own hand. The stack of egg cartons was noticeably shorter. The heap of potatoes had also dwindled, all victims of the brothers with voracious appetites. Only the Trader Joe's pareve chocolate chips, concealed in a black plastic bag, remained undepleted.

The boys were metabolizing our food supply faster than a speeding train.

So much for all of my advanced planning. I ran back to the produce market and the supermarket and even to the butcher. I baked and roasted more than I could ever imagine us eating. And yet, as we cleared up after Rosh Hashana, the bounteous meals had shrunk to only a few small containers of leftovers.

Thinking while I washed the dishes, I resolved to take a different approach to the remaining holidays. I decided to tackle them one at a time instead of compulsively over-planning, even if it meant making idle chit-chat on some very long lines. It seemed that there would be no other way to keep up, especially with the eating habits of three insatiable boys.

That night as I scrubbed, my husband measured our middle son, marking his height on the wall in the kitchen adjacent to my cookbook shelf. All of that disappearing food had, thank G-d, been a nourishing blessing. But lo and behold, it had also worked wonders, enabling my boy to grow significantly in just a short while.

Excited to be within an inch of his not very towering mother, he exclaimed, "Mommy, you've shrunk!"

He and his brothers will, G-d willing, continue their climb north. Meanwhile, I will keep cooking -- faster, more often, and in greater quantity than ever before. Though I will appear to be shrinking, I will simply be looking up in wonder at the faces I once gazed down upon longingly.

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