Awkward Food Situations, Confronted

by Marnie Macauley June 29, 2017


marnie-julyToday we’re talking about the single most important thing to Jews – aside from G-d. Food! While other people make schedules for work, chores, getting an oil change, we Jews schedule food. If we’re not saying it, we’re thinking it, cooking it, ordering it, serving it. We Jews also have a different mathematical system for “portions.” One Jewish portion of brisket = 5 pounds per person times three helpings, and extra for leftovers.


DEAR MARNIE: I admit we’re “lite” Jews throwing a large wedding (Reform) for our daughter in the fall. We’re figuring 250 people, and have chosen an excellent catering place that’s well-known in our community. Most of the guests will not be Jews or if they are, they’re not religious. However, some of my relatives on the invite list are Orthodox. They’ve agreed to attend, but will only eat Kosher food, which we’re not serving. Nor is the kitchen in the catering establishment kosher. We’re paying a fortune for this wedding! Bringing in around 40 entirely kosher meals is unbelievably expensive. My husband feels, “Too bad. This is our affair” and thinks keeping kosher is out-dated. But I don’t want to offend my family.  What would you do?

– Kosher Quandary

MARNIE SAYS: Melt the ice swans! Or, whatever glowing glitz is costing major gelt. Despite hubby’s perspective, kosher food isn’t a cultural “quirk.” It’s an absolute to any Orthodox (and yes, even some Conservative Jews.) Dietary laws, part of the 613 commandments, can seem puzzling or arbitrary to the outsider, but observance is both an opportunity for obedience to G-d and for preserving Jewish unity. When persecuted, many Jews have chosen death over pork. “Out-dated” is neither trivial nor true.

You’re “lite” Jews. The world, the spirit, the rules of the Orthodox is light-years from your planet. And while I believe you have every right to your choice, this isn’t about religion. No. It’s about priorities and respect. You see, the real issue here is character.

In years down the road, when you look at those wedding videos, ask yourself what will you miss most? The 40 centerpieces or the 40 relatives who were not there and no longer could be?


DEAR MARNIE: My mother is a tremendous Jewish cook. She’s also tremendous. I’m 35, divorced with a 12-year-old son. She’s 79. I pride myself on a healthy diet, low in fat and high in protein, vegetables, and grains. I also exercise. “Gram” comes about twice a month and brings enough food for a Bar Mitzvah. My mother knows how I feel, but still brings the food and actually stands over my son kvelling with pleasure while he eats! I’ve talked to her about it and every  time she just shrugs. Any suggestions?

Fed Up by Overfeeding

MARNIE SAYS: Absolutely! Send the dear lady to me – with freezer wrap and baggies. Oh pshaw, little Grape Nuts. So the lady gets her kicks frying, fricasseeing and seeing grand-sonny dig into a pan of matzah brei now and then.

In matters of bubbes, my first rule is “Never get between a bubbe and her grandbabe’s belly.” It’s a ritual, hon.

Assuming your son’s weight and cholesterol are lower than the number of calories in a tablespoon of schmaltz, Ess! Ess! The damage potential of twice a month? Minimal. In between, you can ply your little guy with enough seaweed to fill the La Jolla shoreline.

Finally, learn from the master, who, I should mention, has managed to make it to 79 and is still frying high.


DEAR MARNIE: What’s your take on leftover courtesy when hosting a potluck dinner? My husband and I are hosting a pot luck dinner for 10 couples in our condo. We recently moved in and this is the first party we’ve thrown here. How do you think we should handle the question of leftovers?

Sweating the Small Stuff

MARNIE SAYS: Poopsie, if I baked a brisket (OK, ordered from a deli), I’d be watching over it as though I’d hatched the silly thing. Nevertheless, normal humans must use common sense.

Ask the guest you’re closest to if your condo already has a potluck policy, and follow. No policy or everyone takes back their leftovers and you’re making voodoo dolls out of cling wrap? You’ve no doubt guessed my choice. (I want my brisket back, plus the centerpiece – and potato salad). Nevertheless,  a potluck dish isn’t a “gift” like a box of Ghirardelli’s. It’s a contribution for immediate use, not to be stored like nuts for the hosts’ winter.

If you’re really concerned, announce your potluck policy before the festivities, so there’s no awkward casserole moments or tinfoil shortage at the end. Each potlucker may, of course, bring home their own leftovers.

If they protest, “Don’t be silly! We wouldn’t think of it! After all, you’re supplying the napkins!” Good. Fine. Keep it. (Just send me my cut.)

When in doubt in matters of etiquette, the wisest course is always “Guests first.” If you don’t offer, there’s bound to be one sow who’ll tell the whole condo you’re a selfish cow. If you do say, “Darling, I’ve got foil,” you’ll not only be the soul of sensitivity, you’ll probably wind up with the spoils. As your stuffed guests probably won’t be thrilled to dribble pickle, most will say: “No darling, you keep it.” Then enjoy, mamala! 


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