Eggplant Soup, or the Soup of Friendship

Think you’re doing fine? Your friends know better. You might decide that you’ll spend a quiet Friday night home alone. Sure, you could acknowledge to yourself that dinner will be a mite lonely, but the reading you’ll accomplish will compensate for the loss of company. While other people are still working on their main course you’ll be ensconced on your couch, with the dishes washed and table set for tomorrow’s meal.

So, away you go to shul, leaving the soup and other food to heat up in time for your return. Shul is where your friend will find you. Upon discovering your plan to be alone, on a night of communal togetherness, she’ll set you straight. “No,” she’ll say emphatically, “you’ll come to my house. I was going to invite you anyway.” You could protest that while you appreciate the offer you neither want to interfere with her plans nor thrust your company upon her. But those protests will defeated: there is plenty of food, your company is desired, and no one wants you to be home alone and lonely. You will have no option but to accept this declaration of friendship graciously.

Yet there is one thing which remains to be dealt with: the food left on the hot plate. Your friend, and her husband, will not only be gracious enough to take you in – they’ll help you save your food as well. They might even eat it and compliment your culinary efforts. This is what friends are for.

Eggplant Soup

2 eggplants

1 onion, diced

1 zucchini, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

dollop of oil

1 quart soup stock

salt, to taste

pepper, to taste

Cut eggplant in half, roast at 375 for 40 to 50 minutes. Allow to cool; scoop out pulp and chop. In a pot, saute onion and garlic until translucent, add zucchini. Add broth and eggplant, boil for 15 minutes. Run the soup through the food processor, return to pot and reheat. Add spices and allow to boil for five minutes.

this soup recipe is dedicated to Special Coorespondant Na’ama

You Learn Something in Everything You Read

My grandparents moved out of their house over a decade ago. They had put their home of nearly thirty years up for sale without knowing where they would move. During the decades they had lived in the neighborhood, plenty of people had moved out and into their new dream home while the old one languished unsold. Their intention was to go apartment-shopping during the months the ‘For Sale’ sign would stand in their yard, inviting someone – anyone – to  inquire about the house. Then, within a few weeks of hanging up the sign they had a buyer, a signed contract, and a quickly decided-on apartment. The only thing left to do was empty the house.

The process was a rush job with all family members pitching in. For my part, I inspected the new apartment with my sister, rode the U-Haul with my uncle, and neither damaged anything nor sustained injury. The essential items from their old house were moved into the apartment – furniture, dishes, books, selected artwork – but many things from their four-story house were disposed of during the move. Various relatives gave old possessions a new home while the best the house had to offer – a sandbox and two tricycles – were given to my sister and me. Everyone, and everything, settled into their new place, and that was the end of that.

Years later, when I was in high school, my Bubby began to give me books to read. First it was Exodus by Leon Uris, then O Jerusalem by Collins and LaPierre. I finished the first at home, and was given the second before I could return it. When I finished that story of the Israeli War of Independence – still the best account I’ve read of it – I returned both books to my grandparent’s apartment. Bubby refused to take them, and told me to keep them. I thanked her, but suggested that as they were her books she might want to read them again. “No,” she told me definitively, “I saved them for you when we moved. They’re yours, unless you don’t want them.”
Those books – along with Inside, Outside by Herman Wouk, Spring Moon by Better Bao Lord, and the others Bubby gave me over time – bore no resemble to each other, other than being well-written. There was no one category which encompassed all of the books, at least that I could figure. After pondering, I asked Bubby why she’d saved those particular books for so long. “I thought you might like to read them,” she shrugged.
I did like all the books, but even if I hadn’t Bubby would have been content. In her opinion, every book could – and for her it did – teach you something new. When she wasn’t able to get to the library herself I’d bring her books I liked and others I thought she’d want to read. Sometimes she was thrilled with my selection, other times she’d already read them, and occasionally Bubby thought they were bad. Every time I found I’d brought her a book she didn’t like, I’d apologize. She’d wave me off and tell me that it was fine – you learn something in everything you read.

A Veiled Discussion

People hate their own failings – in others. Teachers who invariably arrive late lambaste students who show up during rollcall. For themselves, there is always a reason for lateness: their son was sick, the dog ran away, there wasn’t enough milk for coffee, an essential component of the lesson was misplaced – or failing that, there was traffic. Tardiness in others has no excuse.

I had an incurably-late teacher who was guaranteed to arrive five to fifteen minutes late to every class. Most of the students would saunter in five minutes after the scheduled start time, well ahead of the teacher. Some students came in even later, but if the teacher had already arrived she would ream them out. As the late-comer crept into the room, the teacher would look over at her and inquire into her health. If the student was indeed healthy, she’d wonder aloud why they weren’t competent enough to get up and have breakfast before class began. Occasionally, she’d refer to them during the remainder of the class, remarking on their health and wellbeing with a pointed stare.

One day that teacher was particularly late, and even those who’d expected to be harassed for their lateness had wandered in and out of the classroom a few times. We sat around munching our snacks and talking – about weddings. We toyed with the topic of place and dress, before settling into a debate on wedding head-gear. Amid the discussion of veils – birdcage, opaque, and non-opaque – dropped the suggest of a tiara. The idea fell in our midst like a nuclear warhead – a moment of total silence followed by a barrage of words from all sides. Into this conversation I suggested that the tiara is a nice look, uncluttered and sparkly, and easier to wear than a hefty veil. A classmate glanced my way, and stated that it was obvious I’d be in favor of a tiara. Surprised, I asked why she assumed that. “Of course you’d want a tiara,”  she said glibly, “you want a scepter too.” You and me both, sister.

Worst Greeting Ever

“Is anything wrong?” is my usual phone greeting between the hours of 9AM – 5PM. Since few people call me, and none at that time, I always anticipate an emergency when the phone does ring; if it is the emergency I expect, I want the person on the other end to know that I’m ready to help as needed. After a few callers responded “No. Wait – is everything ok with you?” as their voices transitioned from conversational to panic-ready, I resolved to change my tone. Now I answer with a simple “Hello,” or if startled a peremptory “Yes?”

Beginning a phone conversation by assuming imminent disaster is odd, beginning a wedding that way is ludicrous. That is why, no matter their opinion, the greeter at a wedding hall will never say, “Hello, this marriage is bound to be a failure.” If someone were to say that to arriving guests, they would be fired. Unless, of course, that person was the mother-in-law. When the mother-in-law does greet guests at the door with, “Hello, welcomes to my daughter-in-law’s first wedding,” one can only hope that the phone will ring with an emergency.