Well, Shavuot came and went, and I survived – just about. I had invited all the family round for a buffet lunch on Shavuot – twelve people in all, including yours truly. Living in a small flat, I don’t go in for entertaining much, but I really wanted to repay the hospitality of the rest of the clan, as both my sisters and my father and stepmother frequently host big family gatherings. Dad had remarked in the past that I’m not very adventurous in the kitchen, and I was determined to prove him wrong. So I had a complete menu planned – some of it shop-bought, such as the bourekas and mini-pizzas (for my little nieces, who practically don’t eat anything else, at least when they eat “out”), but mostly prepared and cooked by me – a couple of quiches, baked salmon, served chilled with potato salad, coleslaw, garden vegetable salad, avocado salad, pasta salad and, for desert, cheesecake (baked to my mother’s recipe) and (a last-minute brainwave!), apricots in apricot jelly (yes, I admit it, the jelly was from a packet ).
I did most of my shopping at the beginning of the week, so that on Thursday morning, the eve of Shavuot, all I had to do was nip down to the corner grocery to buy a few last minute items. On my return, I had just opened the door of the refrigerator in order to store my purchases, when my ears caught an ominous bubbling sound. I looked up and to my horror, saw my sink filling up with murky black water, welling up from the plughole.
Have you ever tried getting a plumber on the eve of Shabbat or a festival? My usual plumber wasn’t available. Both his regular phone and his mobile phone seemed to be disconnected. I called Arye, my Jack-of-all-trades, who promised to send me someone, an Arab (who, presumably, wouldn’t mind coming out to deal with an emergency on the eve of a festival). Minutes later, one of the neighbours informed me that the chairman of the Residents’ Committee (I live in a condo) had resigned, following a stroke, and dumped everything on his (silent) partner, so that if the problem turned out to be in the main pipe of the building, there would be no-one from whom to claim the money back. Of course, it did turn out to be in the main pipe. The cost – 500 shekels. Fortunately, I owed 360 shekels to the Residents’ Committee, so I offset the one against the other. Now they owe me money and I’m unlikely to see a single shekel of it.
The blocked pipe having been fixed, I did a speedy (and rather haphazard) cleaning job and began cooking, two hours behind schedule. I had already decided that, time being so short, I would make only one quiche. I was just preparing the pastry when, lo and behold, black water again swirled up and filled my nice clean sink. In fact, it was even higher than before. Back came Salah, the plumber and this time, attacked the blockage from the main manhole, down in the garden. He was apparently more successful this time because, so far, the problem has not returned (touch wood).
Meanwhile, I had come to the realisation that the baking dish I had intended to use (which I last used about a year ago, or more) was smaller than I remembered so, as soon as Salah had finished, I dashed down once again to the grocery store to buy a disposable baking dish. Unfortunately, it turned out that this one was rather too large. I didn’t feel like preparing any more ingredients, so the pastry and filling were spread rather thinly. I thought it looked rather more like a pizza than a quiche – had I invented a quizza? Or possibly a piche?
While the quiche/pizza was cooking, it was time to prepare the pasta salad. I had just tipped a packet of fusilli into a saucepan of boiling water and was about to throw away the packet when I noticed that it was past its expiry date – by about six years!!! Okay, a month or two I’m ready to risk, but six years?
Scrap the pasta salad…
By now, I was beginning to feel like the heroine of “Pieces of April “. However, the salmon at least, presented no special problems, except for the fact that I had to use separate baking dishes, as the fish were too large to get two in one dish, but, in the end, this proved to be an advantage, as I was able to prepare each one differently and serve one hot (for my nephews, who don’t like cold fish) and one chilled, as planned.
The cheesecake turned out just perfect – exactly as I like it. Which is to say, “like mother used to make”. Just as well, because the surprise dessert failed to materialise on time. The jelly, which I prepared the next day, just wouldn’t gel, probably because I had added too much liquid. (Actually, by the evening, it had finally “jellified” but that was too late, of course.)
So, how did my rare attempt at large-scale entertaining turn out in the end? Believe it or not, it was a resounding success. I won an (unsolicited) encomium from my nephews (18 and 15) for the salmon, praise from my sisters for the quiche (pizza?) and (as usually happens after such gatherings, because we are all afflicted with the “Jewish Mother Syndrome” and prepare twice as much food as necessary), there was plenty of food left over so I didn’t have to cook for the next three or four days,
So, I have proved I can do it. I can be an adventurous cook, I can cope with large-scale entertaining and – I can survive…
Maybe, after all, I should have given this blog entry a different title: That which does not destroy me, makes me stronger.