Saturday, June 13, 2009

Basar V'dagim and WHICH Matamim?

Over the course of numerous shabbosim I have spent away from home, in the company of many different people, I have come to the realization that there is only one common thing between all shabbos observant households; they all have a very specific way of doing things, and can't imagine doing it any other way.

The differences start before shabbos even begins, or perhaps I would say, when shabbos begins. Some folks absolutely MUST take shabbos in early. ("I can't get to bed so late. I'm just too tired.") And some never heard of it. ("What? You take shabbos in early? Do you end early too?" Yes, that is a real quote, and sadly, no, they weren't joking.)
Then, the men come home, whether early or late, and the next, pretty major difference comes up. Everyone has their own, very distinct way of setting the table. For some it's easy. ("We just put out grapejuice, a kiddush cup, and the challah. We'll bring out the rest soon.") For others, it's a complicated proposition. ("Here, put this crystal wine decanter in between the silver napkin holder and the mehogany challah tray. And let me show you how to fold the napkins correctly...")
Once the seudah begins, there is singing, which naturally comes along with the requisite differences. ("Barchuni leshalom..." or "Barchuni lechaim toivim u'leshalom")
Then we make kiddush, wash and the next difference is very clear. ("My challah has nothing but sesame seeds on it.") Some buy their challah, ("I tell you, there is only one place in town to buy really good challah!") and some would ONLY make theirs. ("This is a recipe that my family has been making for generations. We put these delicious crumbs on top of the challah, I tell you, it's the best way to make challah!") Some are healthy, ("Whole wheat challah is just as good as regular. Even my sons like it!") and some less so. ("I always use a little bit of margarine in my challah, it gives great texture!")
Then, there is the fish. And if you think we can do this all the same way...think again. Some are really typical ("Real Jews only eat gefilte fish on shabbos!") and some less so. ("Sushi is our weekly shabbos treat!")
Then there are condiments served with the fish, otherwise known as dips. Some don't really do the dips thing. ("My husband likes me to serve him a but of chrein with his fish.") And some like to have a really wide variety. ("I have tomato dip and red pepper dip and chummos and techina and olive dip and dill dip and chrein and matbucha and...")
Then we move onto the soup. At one point in my life, I thought there was only one type of soup which the Halacha allowed on shabbos. Now I realize that this is further proof of our single minded mentalities. I went to somebody's house for shabbos. They were bringing out the soup, and I was excited to have a good bowl of chicken soup. That's why I was shocked to see something that was obviously not chicken soup gracing our bowls. ("Hon, you gotta try it! It's delicious! It's Chinese mixed vegetable and beef soup with Chinese noodles.") Suprisingly enough, it WAS delicious. But even among the chicken soup eaters, there is such a variety. Everyone has a very distinct way of making chicken soup, and everyone is absolutely sure that there is absolutely NO other way. Some like it very clear. ("You boil your chicken soup for more than two hours and you RUIN it.") Some like it just the opposite. ("Chicken soup isn't good unless it's been boiled all night.") People also have very clear ideas about what goes in their chicken soup. (Just carrot, onion, celery and dill. Anything else kills the soup.") Some are sure that THEY have the right combination of ingredients. ("I put in loads of vegetables. As many as I can fit into the pot. And all different kinds.") Some only call it chicken soup, while in actuality it's something else entirely. ("My secret ingredient is beef bones.") Some people like a very CLEAN soup. ("I pour my soup through a cloth three times to make sure there is no peices left in it.") Others feel differently. The more 'stuff' the better. ("I don't touch the soup. Just boil it up and serve it like that.")Then of course there are the folks who have found a happy medium. ("I strain the soup to get rid of the big pieces.") People are also very set on specific orders of operation that are imperative when cooking the soup. ("First, I boil the water for an hour. Then I add the vegetables and cook it some more. Then, an hour or two later I add the chicken.")
Once the finished product is at the table, there is yet more to discuss. See, some people have nothing but kneidlach in their soup. ("I wouldn't miss a shabbos of making kneidlach.") Some people have lukshen ("It makes the soup taste better.") Some people have the best of both worlds. ("So what do you want, kneidle, lukshen, or both?") Some people add some more stuff to their soup. ("Chicken soup with out chick peas and Lima beans inside is just not the same.") It's oddities like that which shock the more ordinary folks. ("CHICK PEAS? in your SOUP? WHAT?")
Then we move on. Some people never differ one bit in their main course offerings. ("Baked chicken bottoms, farfel, and potato kugel.") Some absolutely won't have the same thing twice. (Lemon chicken skewars, Thai beef, and wild mushroom rice.") Some people are sickeningly healthy. ("What's that green stuff, dear?" "It's brocolli soufle!") Some people simply think that they're being healthy. ("Do you want some of my sweet tzimmes?")
Then of course there are the zemiros. Different songs, different tunes, different havaros. ("Havurois.") Some sing Shir Hamalos, and some sing the whole bentching. Some lead the bentching in one way. ("Rabosai nevarech!") Some do it other ways ("raboisai Mir vellen bentchen!") Some bentch over a kos, some bentch without. ("I'm simply too full to drink another cup of grape juice now.")

But there is one thing which stands out in it's respective state of uniquness, beyond any other tradition of shabbos. This is probably the most enigmatic of the gastronomical delights native to orthodox Jews. Simply put, this food is the title song of Country Yossi's famous song: Cholent.
Cholent is truly a mystery in so many ways. Perhaps a topic for another blog post, I will say succinctly that cholent baffles my mind in every way. And yet, there is one aspect of cholent that I want to discuss here, which is complete proof of the way everyone has completely different minhagim, and can't fathom how anyone would ever do it any other way.
Some folks are very picky about their cholent consumption. ("I'm sorry. I only eat my mother's cholent.") Some don't care, as long as it's cholent. ("No, I don't want eggs or liver, I want to save my room for cholent.") Some think it tastes best with an ice cold accompaniment. ("Can I get you some beer with that?") Some people have unwavering commitment to their particular mix of ingredients. ("White beans and flanken only. Nothing else.") Some are against a particular ingredient, ("Potatoes kill a cholent.") while others beg to differ. ("No potatoes? Are you even Jewish?") Some people like it sweet, ("I always put sweet potatoes and honey in my cholent.") and some find the very thought scandalizing. ("No way! Do you also put pinaple and chocolate chips in your cholent?") Some people take shortcuts ("I put bar-b-que sauce and ketchup in my cholent.") and there are those that do the long route. ("I sautee the onions for a long time, that's what gives it such good flavor.") Some are very choosy with their flavorings in their cholent. ("Just salt and black pepper. Other spices take away from the flavor of the meat.") And some are a lot less discriminating. ("I put in a little of whatever I find in the kitchen.") Some people cook it one way ("A crockpot is the only way to get of right") and others feel differently. ("You need to put it in a pot on the blech. Make sure there is plenty of liquid.") Some people add lots of things to the cholent pot ("potato kugel, lukshen kugel and kishke, which can I offer you?") Some people just put one thing in, ("chulent ayer anyone?") some people don't allow anything to mess with their holy concoction.
But, no matter how they eat, or what they eat, there is one thing almost everyone can agree on ("I'm going for my shabbos shluf now!")

What is your philosophy on cholent making? Chicken soup? What are some interesting minhagim that you follow/have seen?


harry-er than them all said...

my philosophy on chicken soup is the longer the better. I have a post here on it

chulent making is a whole different ball-game. My theory in general is that there are two basic types of chulent. The friday night yeshiva guy type, and the shabbos day family type.

the friday night type is usually the one which causes heartburn just by smelling it. you could see the fat boiling on the top, and the garlic, ouch. it attacks you, but is delicious in every which way, and yes, best enjoyed with a cold beer.

whereas the shabbos day type, is usually lighter sweeter and something that the women could handle. lol.

inkstainedhands said...

You neglected to mention vegetarian cholent.

G6 said...

Here's another unusual difference:
There are even some who have the minhag to wash BEFORE kiddush.

You also didn't address the great floater/sinker matzoh ball debate.

As for chulent... shout out to the hot sauce.....

whoever said...

For the past few years, i've been spending shabbos by different families, and like you said, it is funny to see how everyone has their own ways of doing things...
You have those that give a nice gezunt piece of challah by hamotzi, and those that give such thin slices, you wonder if you made a mistake in coming for shabbos.
You have those that bring platters of food to the table, and you can help yourself, and those that serve individual plates in the kitchen - and there you are with a huge piece of chickent, two types of kugel and who knows what else, when all you wanted was a bite of chicken... or it could be the opposite: they give you just a little bit, while you're starving...
How many courses can you serve in one meal? well, let's see... i think the most i've seen was 5: dips, fish, eggs, chulent and desert.
Now i would never skip desert. i think that is the most important part of my meal, but some people just don't serve it, or just the men get, which is totally not fair.
And then they wonder why i never come back to them for shabbos :-)

Anonymous said...

clear chicken soup - cooked on a low flame overnight so it's nice and strong and NOT cloudy (don't let it boil)
A vegetarian cholent so everyone can eat it - even the unexpeted vegi guests we often bring home.
and desert mmm... delicious fruit fri night, and something special in the day time.
And don't forget peppermint tea after both meals.

Originally From Brooklyn said...

Wow, what a post!!!

I'm getting hungry for Shabbos just thinking about it.

My philosophy is, Let my mother do the cooking and I'll do the complaining when it doesn't come out just right ;-) what ever that happens to be at the time.

Bas~Melech said...

This whole post is baloney. There is only one right way to make Shabbos and you will have to come over here to see it!

Scraps said...

1) You left out that some people always cover their table with plastic and some consider it sacrilege to do so.

2) G6 already beat me to mentioning the minhag of washing before kiddush. Clearly, you do not know any German Jews.

3) Some people don't serve fish at all because they don't like it.

4) The soup doesn't even have to be fleishig. [gasp] Nor need there be lukshen *or* kneidlach.

5) "Havarot" :-P

6) Inkstains beat me to the mention of vegetarian cholent. Also, there are people who put beer *in* their cholent as well as having it on the side.

7) The one assumption that just tops all the rest is: EVERYONE EATS FLEISHIGS! Don't you know any vegetarians? :-P

Something Different said...

HTTA- Yeah, I have seen that post. Personally I disagree with you, but hey! That's what this post is all about!
Youre right about the cholent. There are more male types and more femaile types.

ISH- Yeah, we call it parve cholent, but yeah some people in my family actually like it better! :-)

G6- Yeah I was gonna write that, but I have never actually seen it.
What is the floater sinker debate? Is it similar to the difference between a matzah ball and a kneidel? (Matzah ball is light and fluffy and kneidel is rock hard.)

WE- I was gonna address the serving method issue. It's a tough call cuz on the other hand, when they serve family style some people are hesitant to take enough....

Anon- how do you make it clear not cloudy?

CIB- Thanks. :-) I don't let mom do the cooking though. I don't trust her. :-p

B~M- Pun intended? ;-) And sure I will come! Just invite me! (I think I have a free shabbos sometime in August.)

1) took years to convince my father to let us do that!

2) Clearly, you are right.

3) Yeah that is me. Don't tell the shadchanim, but I have no intentions of making my husband fish. If he wants fish he will cook it and serve it himself.

4) Personally, I only had non-chicken soup on shabbos that one time, but I almost never have lukshen or kneidel in my soup. What are some interesting kinds of soup you've had?

5) ye got me. I work with chassidim... ;-)

6) Ugh. Beer in the cholent? I doubt even my teenage brother would like that!

7) My friend is a vegitarian, but you wont catch me going to her house for shabbos! :-p

G6 said...

SD -
Yes, that was my intent.
Floater = Light and Fluffy (a.k.a. a well made matzoh ball)
Sinker = Rock Hard (a.k.a. somebody in your family somewhere didn't know how to cook and the recipe got passed down through the generations and now you think you like it....)

Staying Afloat said...

I also echo the washing-before-kiddush thing. It makes for an interesting seder, which is probably a whole other post.

For years I served a roast chicken every Friday night, until my husband told me it was muttar to serve something else.

Also, I've learned to divide the frum world into those who've heard of deli roll and those who haven't.

My aunt serves everyone a bowl of chicken soup broth. Then she takes all the soup vegetables and lukshen, etc., and puts them in bowls in the middle of the table so people can take what they want.

G6 said...

Staying Afloat -
I do hope you are joking!
My family has the minhag to wash before kiddush, but NOT AT SEDER, lol...
That would be sort of impossible.

inkstainedhands said...

I'm a vegetarian, so this whole post pretty much does not apply to me.

Scraps said...

Well, SD, you are hereby never EVER invited to come home with me to my parents' house for Shabbos, because they are vegetarian and there's not a fleishig dish or pot in the house. Also, they have fish every week for Shabbos and never serve cholent. And soup is only for yom tov, not regular Shabbasos.

I've had lots of kinds of soup. My mother makes a really good garlic broth as the base for her matzah ball soup (and yes, she makes matzah balls, not kneidlach - we don't eat rocks in our family). I've had potato soup, potato-carrot, carrot-ginger, butternut squash, vegetable, and many other kinds of soup. My main thing is that I like to have stuff in my soup; I'm not a fan of the clear chicken broth.

Another thing you forgot: Some people serve on paper and plastic on Shabbos (like my mother!).

Inspired said...

Interesting, you've been to some diverse places.

Ever waited 3 hrs. for kiddush Friday night and till at least 1:00 shabbos morning?

Something Different said...

G6- LOL we use the mix. ;-) Though my mom manages to make amazingly light matzah balls, even on pesach-when she has to use shmurah matzahs.

SA- I think my family should adopt that minhag, only to keep certain siblings of mine quiet for as long as possible...
My family is like that too. We had the exact same thing for years...and years, till we managed to convince my father that it doesnt say anywhere in the shulchan aruch that you arent allowed to change your food on shabbos. The funniest part is that my father now makes fun of people who never differ.... ;-)
And that is so smart of your aunt. I hate serving the chicken soup cuz everyone has their custom orders...

ISH- So what do you eat on shabbos?

Scraps- oh gee thanks for the warning. I wouldnt come to your house if you PAID me. Though my offer still stands, if you can handle the fleish, you are welcome any week...that I am

Insp- Sure I have! I spent shabbos in New Square! :-) They don't have that issue...they finish REALLY late.

Staying Afloat said...

To clarify- at seder, I believe it was Urchatz, Kaddesh, Karpas for them, though the alternative is definitely funnier.

Something Different said...

SA- interesting.....

harry-er than them all said...

well not sure if that is just a confusion the washing before kadesh.

the reason that some wash before kiddush is that is the ikkur din, but since the wine used to require preparation, they switched to washing after kiddush.
the washing by the seder, is because we aren't supposed to touch wet veggies/fruit, because our hands are tomei.
we aren't washing for the 'betzias hapas- breaking the bread', like friday night. even though i am a yekke, my family washes after kiddush because that part of germany did.

getting back to vegetarian chulent- when i was driving once through South Carolina, i saw a great bumper sticker
"VEGETARIAN, old Indian word for bad hunter"
you will have to take a poll of the other resident yekkes, but as far as i know from a halachic standpoint, it doesnt make sense.