The first thing that I noticed was the noise, it sounded like a restaurant on Sunday night with a million different conversations going on at once. I then noticed the cause of the noise was a room full of drunk middle aged men shouting at one another while wielding large plastic cups of pee colored beverages, presumably Scotch judging by the size of the houses kitchen and dining room. I then noticed that I was despite the fact that I had just eaten an incredible meal and was stuffed to my limits, my hands were filling up a small Styrofoam bowl with steaming hot cholent, I could not help myself, its as if my stomach and mind were disconnected and all of the sudden I was seated behind a crowd of slobbering drunken men in white shirts, talking about football, and Johnny Walker Green Label. I ate slowly and every few seconds washed down the glorious concoction of beans and barley with a swig of orange soda.
Like expected there were no women in sight, in fact I was the youngest adult in the room, if one would call me that. Several kids were scattered about, but mostly it was me and a bunch of drunken 35-40 year old men who had chosen to ignore the cookie and candy laden table for the “put some hair on your chest fluids” that were being drunk faster then a Ford pickup truck drinks gas.
It was the quintessential shalom zachor, which for all intents and purposes is a the equivalent of an all men’s Friday night frat party, for frummies. Even the traditional 16oz red plastic cups were scattered around the table, some already spilled over onto the table cloth threatening piles of pacifier cookies with slowly creeping alcoholic overflows. It was as God planned it, the woman suffered through labor and usually spent a few days in the hospital while the man told his friends placenta horror stories over a cup of bourbon and bowl of cholent on Friday night, punctuated by a few divrei torah and some women bringing over those white frosted baby cookies that always go untouched. There weren’t too many differences between the parties for college folks talking about girls on Friday nights over cups of Keystone Ice.
The table was set up beautifully might I add and it was a damned shame that I don’t drink, or shall I say don’t enjoy fancy alcoholic beverages, that come in wide shaped bottles from Scotland and tell unique stories about how their Distillery was the best. In fact the only thing I like about whiskey are the little stories on the backs of bottles talking about the springs that feed their stills and how their cask methods bring out the flavors of the beverage. I don’t even pretend to drink and enjoy, rather I scout out the food offerings and help myself to large amounts of orange soda or some rare cases Mountain Dew- and rare I saw because Mountain Dew is one of those sodas that orthodox Jews really don’t drink much of, or seem to have at shalom zachors.
The theme of this party seemed to be expensive gift baskets filled with chocolate dipped pretzels with all sorts of toppings on them. Chocolate covered pretzels with nuts, sprinkles and peanut butter sat proudly in unopened baskets clustered behind the wide array of liquor. Homemade cakes with frosting as virgin as freshly fallen snow, waiting for someone like me to come along and break the silence and kill the cakes tranquility as I cut deep into its nut encrusted outside to reveal layers of cake and fruit that could not be seen before.
Then towards the rear of the massive table which I would not be surprised if it were in fact a real table and not merely 4 folding tables put together, there lay the masterpiece I was trying to find. Blah to the gift baskets of cleverly wrapped tasteless cakes and candies poking out of tissue paper and trying to break through the shrink wrap. Blah to the cakes that look better then they taste and blah to the fruit platters that I could make myself. But to homemade cookies, white preferably, with clever designs to tell the world that “It’s a Boy”, I say I am ready and willing to expand my stomach compartment t as if it were like the Beis Hamikdash that could fit as many people as would come for the shalosh regulim. I reached for the cookie and already knew it would taste heavenly, I knew for I have a chazaka on these cookies that can be found at shalom zachors and brisim worldwide, they always taste good, maybe because they are baked with love, or maybe because they tend to be the only homemade things left amongst a world of overpriced gift baskets that tend to look 100% better then they taste, I do not know, but white baby cookies always taste amazing.
The initial crunch brought an explosive yet light tasting medley of frosting, cinnamon, vanilla and hints of cardamom to my palate. I was reminded of a soft summer breeze gently swaying my hair as I paddled amongst high cattails on my kayak in Lake Champlain. I was brought back to gentle walks through tall grass and crunchy leaves, and then I was brought back to reality as I started to pound cookie after cookie.
I just had to tell someone, even though I knew most everyone was drunk and could not care less about a simple baby cookie. I turned to my friends dad and introduced him and Knob Creek to the glorious baby cookie that I had just discovered. He said “ok I’m trusting you because I was wondering what to try?” Suddenly as if by command my glorious pile of baby cookies was reduced to nothing as he started to rant and rave about the glorious white cookies that had started to dwindle even as he and I ate gingerly with crumbs being scattered about like korech time at the seder.
Then it was over, the cookies were gone and I was left to choosing between chocolate covered pretzels, cantaloupe on a stick and slowly cooling cholent.