by Chaya Miriam Fried
Jews clearly have a something attached to their Jew Gene that makes them lose their minds whenever they see a table of food. I don’t think there’s any real mystery to how this began, and it has been carried on largely with assistance of FFBs. The stories of starvation that come from parents and grandparents from the alter heim will likely impact even another generation to come. By this time, though, the eating habits of the FFBs have forced the BTs to take up the same practice in order to preserve their own lives against the FFBs. The results are ugly. I was in attendance at a seuda recently that ended up being alarmingly different than all such events in the past, something that took my breath away: I got to the food first.
I’ve been admittedly slow on the uptake when it comes to filling my plate. In the early years of becoming religious, I always tried to help out at the shul. You know, let them know I was serious about becoming frum, which seemed to include being expected to feed lots of people. From what I understand now, that’s a raging suck-up BT thing to do. My shulmates, blinded by their feeding frenzy, would leave me with scraps. Wasn’t I supposed to be adopting and growing into a feeling of constant persecution though? Becoming Jewish was progressing nicely.
Then I moved to a community where I picked up on the idea that food isn’t that important if you’re a young lady. The girls lag a bit behind the menfolk, talking about some skirts they found on sale or 150 pairs of pantyhose for $3 they found on some shady website. The married women are even less interested in the food being that they spent all day cooking and tasting. I didn’t go to enough wedding buffets to hone my skills, and I never expected I’d have to know how to do it.
We might make our home out of town, and you wouldn’t think this is the place where I’d finally learn my lesson, but nothing could have prepared me for the things I’ve seen in the past year. They haven’t even said Kiddush yet and already a few people have a full plate, shot glasses of bad wine poised at the lips, ready to let loose. I can picture a few of them with a small wastebasket held between their feed and a water bottle in the opposite hand, ready to wash if there’s hamotzi involved. The guacamole is gone before the rabbi gets to ‘kiddishanu’, and my stomach starts growling, again too slow.
I’ve been watching on YouTube various ‘rebbe’s tisch’ videos. I’ve been watching the pushing, the diving, the eye-poking, and the application of people’s full body weight against a crowd of the fervent. I’ve learned to scan the length and width of the table, and have finally identified the fact that there often is the option of starting at both ends (why didn’t anyone tell me this?), that there is the same food from either direction, meeting at the center with most likely the crowning glory of the seuda.
This time I was pretty close to one end, and those around me looked to be the slower of the pack. It would be hard to pull my chair out, I knew, so I did so ahead of time. Any impeding jewelry had been removed, and my tichel was firmly tied. I sprang out of my seat like I’d been caught unaware when hearing the first strains of kaddish and I cleared the floor in a millisecond. It was all a blur, but I moved, plate and fork in hand, getting to the serving spoons first, not insisting ‘after you’ to the elderly, scoring the biggest piece of fish and the first scoop of the salads with all the good stuff still on top. Dropping the fish plate at my table, I drove into the paint with another plate in hand, bobbing and weaving this time on the coattails of my husband, who was just wrapping up at the meat table. Drumsticks, drumsticks, Oriental chicken noodle salad. Finally, I’m fitting in.
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