Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Katya: What Shabbat Means to Me

When I went vegan three years ago, my grandmother was very upset.

Even now, she refuses to even say the word “vegan” and resents that my little brother has since gone vegetarian.

But love and care lie at the core of her resentment: namely, the frustration that she can no longer feed me when I come to her house. The food I eat is now different from the food she eats (let’s be real here- Bubbie don’t mess wit kale), and she hates the feeling of not being able to share the traditional foods she’s been making, in her words, ever “since G-d’s dog was a puppy.”

My wonderful, sassy grandmother with her Eastern-European-Brooklynese accent passed her Jewish Mother Complex on to my mother, who has undoubtedly passed it on to me. I’ll admit this openly: I have a pathological drive to feed people.  It makes all too much sense that I love my job here.

This Jewish Mother Complex led me to host a number of large dinners and pop-ups throughout college and my early twenties. I felt connected to traditional Jewish food and its significance to my culture, so I hosted Passover Seders, Shabbat dinners, and an annual Chanukah popup called "Latkes and Vodkas". I’m so excited to now take these recipes -- recipes passed on from friends, family and my own kitchen developments -- and execute them on a larger scale here at NSB.

Matt has been very gracious and supportive in allowing me to do these dinners, and is kindly serving as my sous-chef as we temporarily switch roles. Just as he has taught me so much about classic American food, I’m now trying to explain things like kashrut and the difference between Ashkenazi, Mizrahi and Sephardic Jewish dishes. The biggest struggle: explaining to a gentile what kugel is (“So, it’s kind of like casserole, but less goyish…and it can be sweet or savory…you can eat it as a side dish or main dish or breakfast or…uh... just google it.”).  But while I continue to struggle with this, the preparation begins.  Tomorrow, I hope the supermarket cashier won't laugh at me for buying a gazillion canisters of Matzo meal.

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