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By Vicki Sternfeld-Rossi
The Times 

Routines, rituals and Shabbat dinner


January 14, 2021

I am confident that Daniel and I, like most people (and dogs), have daily routines. Ours usually start with Daniel making his tea while I let Mugsy out the back door to bark at the squirrels he perceives to be in our neighbor’s tree. Then I feed Mugsy and make my coffee. With those rituals out of the way, Daniel usually starts our morning conversation with, “what are we eating tonight?” My response is typically an eye-roll, followed by “can I have my coffee first?” He then heads off to his music studio, and I have my reading and coffee time.

Currently, we have about six iterations of pork in our refrigerator, so last Friday, it seemed like a rhetorical question, knowing a pork dinner was likely. Then I remembered I had bought and butchered a chicken the day before to experiment with my new sous vide machine. Since I had extra bones and wingtips, carrots, a “use it or dump it” stage onion, and a few celery leaves still in our garden, I was able to make a small batch of chicken stock. I made the executive decision, chicken for dinner.

I’m not sure why, but I wanted a typical Shabbat dinner, including some of the traditions and rituals. In the Jewish religion, the Sabbath (Shabbat) starts Friday night at sundown and ends Saturday night at sundown. I set the table with our better dishes and wine glasses, my Shabbat candles, and the embroidered bread cover I bought in Israel; some rituals are not only calming and familiar, but they look pretty.

The traditional plan for a Shabbat dinner starts Friday morning by baking the Challah, a rich egg bread. You need to start early because this bread takes time (which I have) and patience (which I don’t). The bread has to rise three times, be braided, rise again, then baked for 45 minutes. Although it looked great, I thought it was too dense, Daniel’s diagnosis: no patience, it needed to proof longer, but it was a valiant effort.

A typical Shabbat dinner usually begins with chicken soup and either roast chicken or brisket. The stock I made the previous day was not enough for soup, so I added some cans of stock with various herbs and vegetables to make it more palatable. Since I skew to the less traditional, I decided to morph it into the Greek Avgolemono soup (chicken soup, rice, lots of lemon, egg, and parsley). It won’t win any gold medals, but it helped disguise the canned broth taste.

I roasted the chicken with potatoes, onions, added roasted brussels sprouts opened a good bottle of wine, voila, dinner. There was calm, probably attributable to the wine we drank while we cooked and then had with dinner. My need for the ritual Shabbat dinner was filled!

Today, being damp and grey, I figured some leftover soup would make a soothing lunch. Wow! Not calming! The lemon took over; my cheeks are still parched. The Challah made good toast the next day. Right now, it’s in the oven, becoming what I hope will be a tasty bread pudding. As expected, there is no leftover wine.

I am now on a quest to perfect my Challah baking skills. I have numerous recipes to read through, and hopefully, I will find one that doesn’t require patience as the main ingredient. Meanwhile, I am happy to revert to the tradition of Daniel cooking dinner, and I assume it’ll be pork tonight.


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