Friday, September 16, 2011

Shabbos Dinner

As the sunset times get earlier and before long Eastern Standard Time arrives, there becomes less of a window for my wife to prepare a Friday night dinner worthy of Shabbos.  That brings the task to me, generally done from 5:30-6:30 on Friday mornings but some preparation earlier in the week.  Meat, usually chicken but sometimes beef or even fish if I plan to go to Beth Emeth reform oneg shabbat where the good stuff is milchig, has to be defrosted on Wednesday or purchased from Shop-Rite Thursday night.  Mini-challot get defrosted on Thursday or purchased during the day on Friday.  Depending on the main course I will marinate the meat the night before.

For the most part the preparation is simple.  Usually chicken breasts or a dismembered chicken gets browned in a big pan, then seasoned and put in the oven while I prepare boxed couscous or rice.  Occasionally beef is on sale, so I will put stew meat into the crock-pot along with vegetables, rice or beans, spices and plug it in.  Once in a while flanken or short ribs goes on sale so that is prepared like the chicken.  Occasionally I will feel more energetic and obtain a pot roast, whole chicken or turkey breast which I prepare Thursday night.  A frozen vegetables get nuked in the microwave and Luigi's Pareve Water Ice makes for a suitable dessert.

Usually the dinner is simple, an end to an often arduous work week, a demarcation point, something worth a little extra preparation to do.  We avoid appointments that night other than maybe watching or recording Washington Week and in a prior era seeing what JR was scheming on Dallas.  Since I completed Kaddish, even attendance at Beth Emeth where I really like to hear what their Rabbi has to impart, is decided by what time I arrive home and what time they start that week.  No appointment to finish at a certain time.

I've also not been to AKSE's monthly shabbos dinner in a very long time.  While I admire the effort and intent of the people who assemble this, going there really amounts to keeping one more appointment, a place that I need to be at a fixed time.  My work week keeps me in contact with people who come to the exam room at a specified time.  I cannot escape from patients in the hospital, residents and colleagues tapping into my knowledge, irritation about some process gone wrong.  Shabbos is really an escape from that.  While my Rabbi's have tried to instill into my mindset the need to assemble with community that day, my fondest shabbat experiences really took place during my final two medical school years when I no longer had exams on Saturday morning and I could escape by myself for a peaceful evening.  I would plan dinner alone or occasionally splurge oh so very gently to walk to a vegetarian restaurant not far from my apartment for a special supper that I would be unable to prepare on my own.  Shabbos became an Island of Time with myself and later with my household, as it still is.  While divine intent was for it to go from sundown to sundown, I came to appreciate and anticipate a somewhat shorter break from the usual, as shabbos morning services bring another set of appointments and a return to a a public sphere, though with different players to separate it from the work week.  It is really about Me Time, Family Time, maybe a bottle of craft beer with a dinner that does not require scrambling for the final assembly and enjoyment.  And then maybe some Rabbi and God Time the next day.

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