This week’s Friday food day got pushed off to Sunday because of last Friday night’s food envy. Last week I had the delightful joy of experiencing a Shabbat meal that was far beyond matzo balls and roasted chicken. We gathered around a stunning table at my dear friend’s house that was adorned with Ahi tuna cured in citrus delicately skewered on toothpicks with avocado, lemon, and hot sauce. There was pickled salmon, sweet and sour salmon, chicken encrusted in terra chips, salads with intricate dressings that had hidden surprises of candied walnuts and bursts of mango, several casseroled dishes that had hints of butternut squash and cinnamon, and a complicated dessert that was reminiscent of a recipe you would see on iron chef.
Upon approaching the table and seeing what we were in for, my teenage son turned to me and said “Wow, mom you don’t ever cook like this, you gotta get your game on.” Really? Was I slacking off? Steamed asparagus, roasted chicken, and boxed rice wasn’t doing it for him anymore?
Truth is, he was right. I had gotten lazy over the past few months, and he knew it. So after that Friday night I realized my days of simple had to go. I spent the entire week thinking about my next Friday night meal. We had friends coming in from Australia whom we hadn’t seen for five years. They had spent the last fifteen months touring the world. They had experienced exotic cuisine in several countries. I couldn’t just slab on a dry piece of brisket and a rubbery potato fry. I spent all week feeling totally inferior to the task. Where would I even find kosher Ahi? Would that mean an extra two hours on the 405 for a slice of fish that no one in my house would eat anyway? Should I go to Barnes and Noble and sift through hours of cookbooks? I couldn’t call my friend from the week before, that would prove my wretched deficiency in the kitchen just by announcing the fact that her recipes were far more superior then mine had ever aspired to be. Maybe she gives classes.
I was consumed, haunted and plagued by the mere idea that watching hours of the cooking channel could possibly be my only saving grace. I had no time for that! Epicurious.com was not going to cut it anymore. I needed to prove I was just as savvy and just as original and creative. Not for my sake of course, but for the sake of my eldest son who was clearly feeling underprivileged. And so began my quest of mixing things up, gettin’ my groove back, and engaging in edible warfare.
Friday morning I approached my objective with a two-hour work out. I needed stamina if I was going to change my old ways. The regular supermarket was followed by an overpriced vegan all natural boutique store that sold things like spinach for six dollars and coconut oil for eight. I unwrapped my packages and explored my new exotic ingredients of fresh ginger, almond paste with flaxseed, fresh basil and arugula, cilantro, and organic chicken breasts. I macerated, marinated, and desiccated. I seared, soaked, and stir-fried. This meal was a masterpiece. It was a burst of flavors. It was overpriced, over inspired, and overworked. And after cooking all day and just beating the clock by two minutes and thirty-one seconds before sundown, it was impossible for me to get this essay written before the Shabbat hour. Hence- Friday Food Day is on Sunday this week.
After slaving all day, I was quite impressed and proud of my effort. My table was stunning. Food groups that no one had even heard of hid in my fridge ready to impress the Australian guests. Roasted homemade humus with sundried tomatoes and fire-roasted red pepper with pine nuts was just the beginning. We had basil lemon chicken with a white wine reduction, and a bulgar grain dish with fresh parsley and smoked tempeh.
This was going to be the meals of all meals. I was proud. I was over the moon and on cloud nine with my accomplishments. I lit the candles this week with a feeling of victory and triumph to which my youngest son mentioned casually, “Mommy, I am so happy we are home for Shabbat, I didn’t like last week’s fancy food at all. Your plain food is the best!”
We had a lot of leftovers.