almost a foodie

Some names have been changed to protect the innocent…

Some names have been changed to protect the innocent…

THE SCENE

It started off as an average Friday night in the middle of winter. I was helping a client plan a party—we mapped out exactly what she needed and had some samples made. We were very happy. Unfortunately, not everything in life comes out as planned…or as yummy.

About an hour before Shabbat, I got a frantic call. Something went terribly wrong with my client’s party that was beyond my control. By nature, I love to solve problems but occasionally, there’s a situation that I can’t fix. Needless to say, I was going into Shabbat very upset. My clients are my friends and my friends are family. They mean everything to me.

THE CAST

My daughter: She decided to have three wonderful boys and five great girlfriends over for Shabbat.

The boys: They’re all campers from HASC, an amazing school for children with special needs and physical disabilities. One boy is wheelchair bound, one tends to wander, and one loves to sing along with his friends and counselors.

The girls: These five extraordinary young ladies are counselors at HASC and take care of the boys and other children with special needs.

Me: I was in a frenzy—and dieting! I always kept a bottle handy with my drink of choice, Crystal Light (gallon size), to take the edge off.

THE STORY

My daughter said that the boys would bring their own food but what should I cook for the girls? I started to panic. Why? I have no clue. My menu was from the ’90s! Gefilte fish, chicken soup, broccoli kugel, potato kugel, cholent. Honestly, this food made no sense to me whatsoever—yet I still decided to make it.

Remember the upsetting call I mentioned earlier? It had my mind spinning like an out-of-control hamster wheel. How can I fix this with an hour to Shabbat? In the end, it all worked out—but my brain was a million miles away and definitely not in the kitchen. The chicken soup was boiling over and the cholent needed water fast! I quickly grabbed a bottle of water and poured it in. Yup…you guessed it. I accidentally poured in the Crystal Light!!

When I realized what I had done, I ran upstairs and cried. Not only did I cook the wrong food—now the wrong food tasted terrible! I added about a ½ container of soup mix without MSG to both dishes and hoped for the best. Shabbat arrived and, of course, no one touched the soup or cholent.

I hope you don’t think the story ends there! The night was just beginning.

I left the table early—exhausted and embarrassed. Everyone else was wonderful. We cleaned up together and all was good. Around 10 pm, my daughter came upstairs and told me that the boiler was leaking in the basement. My husband, along with our amazing neighbor, immediately went down to fix the problem. BUT…nothing is ever that simple. A couple hours later, my daughter ran upstairs holding a fire detector that was blaring, in a cold mechanical voice, “GET OUT. CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTED. GET OUT. CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTED.”

What should we do?! My first thought was about our young guests in the basement. Remember, this happened in the dead of winter. We asked the girls to wrap the boys up in blankets and we marched single file to our neighbor’s place. Once again, I’m so lucky to have these great neighbors. I was in such a rush, I put on my snow boots without socks. Once we arrived at our neighbor’s place, my boots wouldn’t come off! Everyone took turns pulling on them and I started to lose it. I yelled, “Grab scissors! Cut them off!!” My daughter came over and really put her back into it. My feet were finally freed from the unrelenting death grip. I couldn’t wear boots for weeks afterwards.

Thirty minutes later, we were back at home. False alarm.

The next day, the madness continued. Let’s fast-forward to the part where one of the kids locked my office door and we couldn’t find the key. We had to call a locksmith on a Saturday night because our computers were in there. Final cost: $200 for a five-minute job.

Now, I know my Crystal Light/carbon monoxide/boiler/boot hostage/locksmith misadventure might seem like a long tale but I actually left out a bunch of crazy details and side-stories.

THE MORAL

I know nothing about food but I still have guests over and I still love entertaining. It’s not about the food—it’s about the company!

MY CHICKEN SOUP RECIPE
Ingredients:
1 large whole chicken,
water
carrots, peeled
celery stalks, peeled
medium parsnip, peeled
large onion, left whole but peeled
large turnip
1 plum tomato
dill and parsley in a bag

Clean the chicken and put it in the pot. Let simmer for about 4 hours or until you like the taste.

Yes, it’s that easy—just make sure you don’t have Crystal Light in your water bottle!

 

Toby
“What does a graphic designer know about food? Nothing!”

Drop me a line: almostafoodie@tobyschwartz.com