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 Over the recent holiday of Sukkot two of my grandsons spent the joyous holiday with me in my home. They are very talented young men and among their many gifts, they fancy themselves to be very good cooks, if not even in the category of chefs. They made me solemnly promise that I would not order any food for the holidays from my usual suppliers and that they would purchase all the necessary raw materials and cook and bake all of the holiday meals. The only thing that I had to do was provide them with my credit card, which I cheerfully did. After all, is that not the main purpose of the grandfather?

They prepared menus, shopped for all the meat, chicken, vegetables, spices, condiments, fruit and drinks that they felt would be necessary, in order to properly prepare and present the holiday meals. Since I cannot even boil an egg and over my many decades of life, I have never used the kitchen as a working room, I just stood back and with slight amusement, observed the scene that was unfolding before my very eyes. I was struck by the fact that these two young scholars – very adept in Torah studies and talented in so many other ways, seemed to be enjoying the experience of preparing the holiday meals. To them, it was not a necessary chore, but it was an exciting venture and challenge. They had the necessary dose of enthusiasm, a great deal of laughter and the supreme self-confidence that the Lord grants only to the young.
The meals turned out to be delicious and even their most exotic creations were tasty and succulent. The take-out food that I usually eat is always of high quality and more than suffices for my needs and taste buds. However, I must admit that home-cooked food always tastes better because of the extra ingredients of love, care and family which are part of the recipe and cannot be purchased at any store or food establishment.
I come from a generation and a time when there was only one kosher restaurant in Chicago, and it catered exclusively to tourists passing through the city. The generation of my parents never went out to eat except for winning an evening out with dinner or the like. And that generation prepared their meals from scratch every day. My mother did not own a freezer until she became a grandmother and even then, she looked askance at the frozen food section in the supermarket.
During my early years as a rabbi I remember that there was one fine woman in our congregation who purchased her Shabbat meals every week from the single take-out food establishment in our community. And I remember that all the other women in the congregation thought that there must be something wrong with her, for how could she have Shabbat meals that were not home cooked. Well since then, the world has certainly changed and the irony of the story is that that women's granddaughter, who is a wonderful person just as her grandmother was, never uses take-out food for her Shabbat meals. I never gathered up enough courage to ask her why.
The Jewish kitchen has undergone great changes over the past half-century. I remember in my mother's home that she had water buckets and a salting platform with proper drainage in order to “kasher” the roasts that she had purchased from the local butcher. Her granddaughters are complete strangers to such tools and to such a process. The questions Rabbis are asked today about food have to do with which kosher certification on the package is the most acceptable. No one asks anymore about soaking and salting meat or about tumors located in the entrails of chickens. But at least home cooking has still survived, to a great extent, and to me that is a most encouraging development.
The women who marry my grandsons certainly will count themselves lucky that they have husbands who deem themselves to be chefs. However, if they will be wise and I am sure they will be, they should forbid their husbands from entering the kitchen. It should not be their domain. But I am grateful that I had home-cooked meals for the entire holiday of Sukkot, and I am doubly grateful that the meals were so tasty and plentiful.
Shabbat shalom
Berel Wein

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