A friend from high school texted me a couple weeks ago to say that he’d made the Spinach and Cheese Strata for Christmas morning brunch and it was a big hit. Ever the smartass, I asked him where he’d found a whole room of people willing to eat bread and he said that this was Pittsburgh, where every salad has french fries on it and I said it sounded like a heavenly place and then he pointed me to this to prove his point.
I’ve always been a little wary of commercialism here*; I don’t want to be yet another person telling you how to spend your hard-earned money or indicating in any way that there’s a correlation between buying fancy things and being a great cook. Nope, nope, nope. Because of this, we’ve only had one “gift” guide to date, a very basic one, a budget-minded kitchen starter kit populated with the stuff I find it hard to cook without; that was six years ago.
Among the great Ashkenazi soul food traditions — bagels, lox, chicken noodle soup, challah, brisket and its cousins, pastrami and corned beef — few are more deeply rooted in the communal psyche than kugels, or starch-based puddings that hail from southern Germany. The word kugel, meaning sphere, globe or ball, originally referred to dumplings dropped over a soup pot, the version baked casserole pans became my people’s favorite, always made in vast quantities, served on Shabbat or holidays in squares and usually shoved in the hands of unsuspecting relatives and guests in disposable foil tins on their way home. The smart ones know resistance is futile.
This was my first summer having a garden and it coincided with the summer I hatched a new human and the themes of both keep blurring together: The goofy pride in growing things from seed. The occasionally overwhelming feeling that there are so many things and they’re all very hungry and counting on you to fix this. The twinge of sadness as they look less sprout-y and more robust. The urgency to not squander any of this.
Thanksgiving may be my favorite holiday, I may look forward to stuffing, green bean casserole and all the pie the way normal people might anticipate Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day, but there is definitely a point — let’s call it right now — when I’m about at capacity with fresh fun ideas for soft orange vegetables and clever new ways to swim foods in puddles of rich sauces. Also, I still need to eat.
My son was served an eviction notice at the 38.5 week mark, which means that as I now approach my 40th week of manufacturing a new human (that, ironically, we will likely spend the next few years threatening to eat) I have unquestionably never been this pregnant before. I’m beginning to feel a bit like a circus sideshow; I think that most women in my condition simply stay home, what else could explain what a spectacle I must be when I go anywhere? Yesterday, I had to go up to the hospital to fill out some paperwork, which led to possibly a new world record of awkward conversations in an hour timespan:
Somewhere it is written, or it is now, that if your mom is a gazillion (cough, 35 weeks and 4 days, not that anyone is counting) weeks pregnant and she is the one that under ideal circumstances provides you with dinner, sooner or later that dinner is going to be breakfast pancakes with a side of bacon. You probably won’t mind.