Depending on how you look at it, I am either very smart or very lazy. Facing the wedding of my fifth child and the concomitant entertaining that comes with such an occasion (read Shabbos Sheva Brachos for 35); I was faced with a choice. Do I start cooking weeks before (thank God for the freezer), prepare everything from soup to nuts to impress the new in-laws, or do I cater the whole event, and come to the table relaxed and feeling almost like a guest.
For the first few weddings I took the first path. Being organized by nature (I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have a list at the ready), I shopped, cooked, froze, prepared and served. I enjoy entertaining and let’s face it; it is pretty ego boosting to have everyone talk about how competent you are to not only make a wedding but make sheva brachos for a crowd as well.
This time was different. First of all, I am older. I am not sure if it makes me wiser, but it certainly makes me more tired. With another daughter giving birth and moving in just a few weeks before the wedding, and a hectic work schedule, the thought of making all the food just made me feel exhausted before I even finished writing the shopping list. So I took the cheater’s way out – I talked with the local take-out place and asked them to give me a price for a whole meal – soup, fish, chicken, Kugel and vegetables. Meanwhile, my daughters, having been raised by a certified type A mother, were already busy baking challahs, cookies and cakes, and offering their services for other foods as well.
Sheepishly I told them I was not really cooking anything. They looked at me aghast. You bought soup?!!! You couldn’t even make fish?!!! The guilt began to ooze. Was I simply lazy? How hard is it to put some fish loaves in the oven? How much trouble is it to make a few pots of chicken soup? Friends called to offer salads. I thanked them but said it was not necessary, everything was under control. I could not admit that everything was being bought. They just assumed that my penchant for being overly organized meant that there was nothing left to make.
Smart or lazy? As the day of the wedding approached, I found my lists getting shorter, and my exhaustion growing exponentially. The grandchildren arrived, and on the day of the wedding, I drove my son’s Yeshiva carpool. One of the boys threw up in the car, and cleaning it up, I mused that this seemed an odd activity on the day of one’s daughter’s wedding. Off to the wedding hall and the flurry of activity leading to the main event flew by. Pictures, chuppah, dancing and more dancing and before we knew it the new couple was starting off on their married lives together.
I woke up the day after the wedding with no energy. I had danced and danced and could not remember a wedding that I enjoyed as much as this one. I also could not remember ever feeling so physically drained. As we put up the tables and chairs for the Friday night sheva brachos, and as I set the tables and put out the placecards, all I could think was how smart I was to have ordered all the food. I could not imagine starting to cook (or even finishing what might have already been done and frozen) while still hosting all my out of town children, going to sheva brachos and juggling all the other details of the out of town guests who remained for the weekend. But the guilt still remained. Why wasn’t I busy making something?
Friday night arrived. My daughter’s challahs were outstanding and I made sure everyone knew that all the baked goods were homemade. The soup was delicious. My mother in law asked me how many pots I had to make for such a big crowd. I was mortified – I had been caught. I told her I did not make the soup – I bought it. She was shocked. I was chagrined. After 35 years of being the consummate balabusta, the daughter in law who always made her proud, I had bought the soup! I quickly excused myself to serve the rest of the bought food. One of the guests (a newly married sister in law to my daughter) came in to the kitchen to help. She said, “I can’t believe you made sheva brachos in your own house right after your daughter got married.” I couldn’t hold back any longer. I turned to her and said, “But I didn’t make the food!” Instead of recoiling in disapproval she smiled and said, “So what – you still put it all together, set up the house, put it all out – my mother could never have done that!” I thanked her and thought to myself, “smart or lazy?”
I could have made the soup and fish, and even the Kugel, and just bought the main course. For that matter, I could have done it all if I really put my mind to it. But this time around, I enjoyed the whole experience so much more, that I can only assume not cooking had something to do with it. I disappointed my mother in law, and my daughters, but for once I listened to my inner self, and overcame the guilt. On balance, I think I was pretty smart!
Susan Schwartz is a wife, mother and grandmother. She is the president of Davka Corporation.
The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.