I’m not really sure what I’m doing here. See…(furtive glance side-to-side)…I don’t like to cook.
As a rabbi’s wife and mother of seven, though, I cook a-plenty. But for me it’s kind of like brushing my teeth. I do what I need to do to maintain my reputation as a functional adult, and if it smells good, so much the better.
But I have tricks!
1. My kids help me cook.
No, not in a preschool way. I have teens and I put them to work. They shop, peel, choose recipes, grate, slice, freeze and label.
2. I don’t sweat the menu planning.
I’ve learned that fastidious plans go awry, quick. I have a pretty loose, laissez-faire approach to planning which basically involves getting a lot of yummy food into the freezer (more on this soon), listing as I make it so I can see what’s missing, and deciding the night before what to pull out of the freezer.
3. Two ways that we decide what to make:
- I have my kids pick out their faves or stuff they want me to try. It’s their job to list the ingredients that need to be shopped for.
- I walk up and down the aisles of the grocery store for ideas (onions – hey, let’s make onion soup! Tortillas – let’s make wraps!). Note: for me, this kind of creative shopping is best done without children.
4. I start only a couple of days in advance.
It doesn’t really take that long – a couple of hours with my helpers and I’m done. So why freak out for longer than necessary? You just have to ignore Facebook for awhile till everyone’s brags are over.
And here are some general tips:
Freeze: I freeze pretty much everything except dips and salads, and it works great for me. If it’s just going to be for a day or a few, one covering will do; if it will be frozen for a week or more, double up on your wrappings (saran plus foil, etc) to prevent freezer burn.
Amounts: How much to make? There are really two approaches.
- One is the Jewish mother approach. This approach presupposes a war, famine, or natural disaster. The corollary is that you must complain when your guests do not finish your vast amounts of food, and that you must complain about the leftovers to no one in particular.
- The second approach (mine) is that, really, with challah and a good main, is anyone going to go hungry? Also, kids count for half an adult, and sometimes a third.
Variety: Variety of a few different types of dishes is more important than quantity of any particular dish.
Buffets: In a crowd, serve buffet style in the kitchen. You save the steps of serving and clearing, and you can serve smaller amounts of food. My guests love this.
Delegate: When your guests ask you “What can I bring?” joyfully delegate the thing you like to make least! (For me, salads and desserts. And side dishes. And -- well, yeah.)
Stuff I'm totally going to try for Shavuos:
(Dessert first, of course.)
(Not sure where the fancy schmancy cheese will come from out here in the midwest, but I'll probably just sub some other cheese. Yeah, that's how I roll.)
Have a wonderful Shavuos!