Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Extreme Measures

it is 6:30 p.m. in the holy city of zefat.  the kids just got back from their aunt's house.  my son picked them up from gan at 2:00 p.m. today.  I was at work.  I'm substituting for a cook in a yeshiva for the next few days.  it was supposed to be a 2week gig.  it actually is only a ten day work schedule at 'his and hers' yeshivas in the old city.  I already lost 2 days' pay as the girls went home for Shabbat..

I walked over to the girls' yeshiva on Sunday after I cooked lunch for the boys.  I thought about making a pot of soup for them for their dinner.  it was hailing and storming outside.  I made it to the yeshiva before it poured but I was locked out of the yeshiva.  I only had one key and they had locked both doors.  I was pretty aggravated. I schlepped back to the boy's yeshiva to see if anyone had the extra key.

of course no one in charge got back to me. I went home and got caught in another downpour and hail storm.  it was the third time that day.  I seem to work in extreme weather.  I cooked all summer in an all time record heat wave and now I'm running to town in hail storms.  I have always wanted to write a book about my adventures in the kitchen in the yeshiva world and I think 'extreme measures' is a fitting title.

the cook gave me a wad of keys that were not labelled or color coded.  it took me a half an hour before I managed to unlock the fridge and pantry closets.  he had promised to do a produce order before he left.   I came in to find a few random veggies lying around.  I don't remember what type of soup I managed to put together.  I struggled with a really poor peeler and knife.  I also made an Israeli poached egg dish in tomatoes called shakshuka. 

the kitchen was trashed.   both sinks were filled with dirty dishes and pots.  it took another 30 minutes to make a clean work space.  the stove was small and the pots and skillets didn't quite fit.  I was pretty discouraged.  I was in the alcove putting the dishes on the stove when the electricians/handymen came in.   hey were there to adjust the light fixtures and put in new fluorescent lights.  they quickly moved the benches right up against the counter tops and blocked my access to the sinks.  I was actually trapped in the alcove as I cut veggies on the window sill.  that lasted for about 40 minutes.

it took me 3 hours that day to complete the lunch meal.  I was beside myself.  the next day I went outside on the balcony to search for something in the deep freeze.  the cook gave me a mock meal plan.  I found two packages of chicken wings and I decided to make a soup the next day.  when I came in the next morning the wings were gone and so was my menu plan.  I had to figure something out.   I made some sort of soup and a pasta dish as well a about 40 tuna patties.  the only can opener took a lot of hand strength to use.  I tried to enlist the help of the male yeshiva students.   I could barely make a dent in the lid of the industrial sized can.

three hours later I made my way over to the girl's yeshiva.  I think I thought that I would do the same menu for the girls.  well, the girls had already had soup for lunch and they had already had a dairy meal and had already been fed eggplant for lunch.   there was a definite scarcity of produce  to work with.    I gabbed some sweet potatoes and a bag of pasta.  I made a dish out of it without using dairy.  I also made another shakshuka and a green salad. I think they liked the food.

today it snowed.  they predicted a terrible storm.  I figured that we would be snowed in for days.  after a half an hour it stopped snowing.  the gans opened at 10:00 a.m.  I decided to go to work.  I caught the 8:30 a.m.bus.  I got to the yeshiva before 9:00 a.m.  I had defrosted 2 chickens and 3 small packs of ground turkey.  I thought about making a pot of chicken soup.  they had bought lovely produce.  I lit the eclectic stove and we lost power.  I had the house mom explain how to use the stove.

there was no can opener so I couldn't make meatballs in a tomato sauce.  the girls had tomato soup for lunch, anyway.  I decided to stew the chicken with sweet potatoes and carrots.  a one pot dish is quick and easy.  I then found a bottle of opened wine in the fridge.  I decided to make a sweet and sour like sauce for the meatballs.  I threw in a bunch of ketchup to the wine and added ginger and herbs and other spices.  I made a red lentil and cracked wheat pilaf.  it didn't really require cooking but I didn't have an electric kettle to boil the water to soak them.  I also had a very limited amount of pots.  I had three to be exact.   and each one was more awful than the next.  I made two dinners in case I got snowed in.

I made a stew of green eggplant, eggplants and yellow peppers.  I added very thin sliced potatoes to add some starch to the dish.  I found a small carton of tomato puree.  I ran off to the boy's yeshiva to heat up their lunch.  I had made a meatless chili and pot of rice the day before just in case I got snowed in.  it took about an hour to heat up the food.  I made another pasta dish for tomorrow and a mock tuna nicoise salad in case I got snowed in.  once again, the boys left their dirty dishes and eggshells on the dining room table.  they come in every morning and make eggs and burnt toast, smoking up the kitchen as I try to work.

no one cares about the cook.  no one dares to tell these boys to scram and go to class.  I'm a piece of the wood work, magically preparing lunch in total chaos.  the first time the boys came in and made their eggs and smoked up the kitchen I went nuts.  I actually sliced my ginger pretty badly because I was so distracted by the boys' antics in the kitchens.  I think I'm used to it now.

yesterday I made the girls a scalloped potato dish with cheese sauce and a string bean dish.  there were no veggies or eggs left in the pantry.  it has truly been a balagon from day one but i'll keep on cooking until I do get snowed in.  unfortunately, all i'll make for this stint is chump change.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Watching Little Kids

it is 9:30 a.m. in the holy city of zefat.  I am trying to get to town.  it's freezing outside.  I need a hot shower.  I usually watch reruns of "Alias' at this hour.  I can't indulge this morning.  I actually caught the episode at 2:00 a.m.  I was hoping to see the 'golden globes' last night but no such luck.  I have a list of a million things to do in town.  I probably won't get to accomplish them all.  I have to pick up the kids at 4:00 p.m.

I need to buy a large rat trap.  the humongous rat living in the boiler room needs the Rolls Royce of traps.  I also need to buy peanut butter to put in the trap.  I need to pay our water bill and get a letter from the national insurance office, which is in another office, to get my discount for the city tax.  I need to buy a cordless phone because I can no longer cope with the only one and only phone in the costume/ blog room.  every time it rings I need to do a fifty mile dash to retrieve the call.  the room consists of only outside walls so it is freezing in there.  I can't hear the phone ring from downstairs.

I am very nervous this morning.  the big kids are going out of town this evening until Tuesday.  I have to pick up the kids and feed them and bathe them and put them to sleep like I do about 3-4  times a week.  the only difference is that I need to sleep downstairs with them tonight.  they will be out by 8:30 p.m.  I don't go to sleep until around 2:00 a.m.  I have 3 dogs when left alone upstairs  create havoc.  I  have to get the kids dressed in the morning and take them to gan.  that makes me a bit queasy.  I am actually dreading this afternoon.  some grandma, right?

I have a very dear friend who is awaiting her father's passing.  he is in a hospice hanging on.  what a high soul!  I have the pleasure of my grandkids for a couple of days, and I am complaining.  I am turning into an old lady before my eyes.  I feel like I am getting a relapse of my bronchial infection.  I never took any medication.  the kids are all runny noises and feverish.  my throat is scratchy once again and I can't get enough sleep.  I haven't gotten my strength back since I had the flu.  I do the minimum.  I can food shop, cook and clean the house.  that's about all I manage.  I hardly ever go out.  I feel winded when I walk.  i'm also headachy.

I did start to read recently.  I started with stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer.  they were published in the 70's and deal with post war European characters living in the states.  they are haunting and very soulful.  I have two books that I am simultaneously reading.   I used to love romance novels and spy stories.  I find that I have no patience for them now.  I like stories about the human condition and primarily about Jewish people.  I nearly forgot how to read.  it's been a while.  I basically read on Shabbat.  I'm too busy watching television and surfing the net to read during the week.

I have been watching a lot of documentaries and old interviews this week.  I watched tons on Liz Taylor, Eddie Fisher, Freddy Mercury, the true hero of the book "Unbroken" and Rock Hudson.  I watched dozens of 'in memorial' tapes for 2015.   I think I was on a dead trip.  I watched the 1964 movie,' Umbrellas of Cherburg,' twice.  that was the first foreign film I ever saw.  I must have been 13 years old at the time.  I can still remember how I felt and how I discussed every detail of the film with my mom.  my older sister, who is the voice of reason now, took me to see it.

this last sugar and carbs binge has set me back many pounds.  it's amazing how quickly one gains wait when one is inactive.   it took three months to lose most of my belly fat and now I'm back to square one.  I have no desire to go back on a diet.  I will try to stay away from sugar once again and watch what I eat.  I made myself sick with all the junk I crammed down my throat last week.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Baby It's Cold Outside

it's 10:00 p.m. in the holy city oaf zefat.   thank the Lord, the kids went back to gan this morning.  the snow storm never happened.  it started to snow several times but it never stuck.  it is simply freezing and stormy.  tons of rain are falling in the holy land.  we didn't lose power so with the aid of 3 heaters we didn't freeze.  it was actually comfortable around the dining table and toasty in the t.v. game area where the kids play.

Friday was tough.  from the early morning on the kids were hyper active.  by the early afternoon they were insane.  I lost my cool.  I screamed until I nearly lost my voice.  I could have easily hurt them.  I had done a major part of the cooking on Thursday but I still had plenty to do on Friday.  I was called to break up their wildness countless number of times.  they kept on dragging in a large down comforter from the back bedroom.  I kept on putting it back in the bedroom.   it, nevertheless, kept on being tossed on the rug.  said comforter ended up catching on fire on Friday night.

we were amazingly lucky that my son put out the small flame before it caused any harm to the kids or house.  I was so mad.  it was a down comforter given to me by a friend.   you can't buy these here.  they only have the polyester ones.  I was more mad that the kids had dragged in the comforter after I had spent the entire day retrieving it from them.  it only hit me later on that they could have been seriously harmed by the small fire.  I didn't sleep much that night.

I went to bed at around 8:30 p.m. that night.  I had tasted a bit of good French cognac.  I jumped up at 3:00 a.m.  I ran to the door to see if we had been snowed under.  I saw my oldest and smallest dog, Cookie.  she had somehow been locked out all night long.  she no longer barks or hears for that, matter.  I felt criminal.   she seemed okay.  I didn't see our young dog Tiny.  I left the door open for a  while and drank a cup of tea.  it was freezing.  the heaters were off until around 7:00 a.m.  I set them on timers.

 I thought that Tiny had finally run away.  we've had him for almost a year.  I found him just before Purim and he was really tiny.  he slept in a shoe box.  he's a large dog now with plenty of energy.  I never intended on keeping him.  he has never been on a leash and chases cars and people.  he loves to play with the kids but he can get pretty aggressive.  he jumps into bed with me and tries to lay across my chest like a small puppy.  I went to the bathroom and found tiny lying on a pile of laundry.  apparently he got locked inside at some point that night.

I went back to bed but I couldn't sleep.  the fire and the locked out dogs kept me up.  I held on to my grandson and cradled him.  he still sleeps with me on Friday night.  I have to admit that he generates more body heat than any old comforter.  I think that I stared at him for hours.  I may have fallen back to sleeep around  6:30 a.m.  both kids woke me up at around 7:30 a.m.  I jumped out of bed to make everyone hot drinks.  I put out cake and butter cookies and everyone got a chocolate.  I was so happy that they hadn't gotten injured the night before.

they were so excited every time it started to snow.  they actually went outside in their pajamas.  kids are eskimos, anyway.  they never feel the cold.  they were running around all day in just socks.  they took all of the toys from the t.v. room and built themselves a mock toy store in the living room.  they were quite content.  the living room wasn't heated but it didn't stop them.  I didn't make 'cholent' for lunch.  that's a beef or chicken stew with potatoes and beans that's sits on the electric platter all night.  it is a perfect dish for winter.  and it is a one pot wonder.

 I made a stewed chicken with tomato sauce and threw in sweet potatoes and a couple of white ones.   it wasn't dry like cholent.   I also made a rice and lentil dish.  it was good to have sturdy hot food. my daughter-in-law really doesn't go for cholent.  I always try to please her.  my son came back from shul expecting to get cholent.  I think that if they are here next week I will make a small pot of cholent for my son.  my grandson also likes beef.  I will have stewed chicken for the daughter-in-law or fried cutlets.

I had two electric thermoses filled with hot water yesterday and a third kettle on the gas in case the power went out.  I hated to see my gas supply depleted but I didn't want to take a chance that we would be without hot food and drink.  as it turned out, we were okay. I woke up last night at 3:00 a.m again.  I kept the t.v on and listened with my eyes closed to hours of 'Grim.'  I had a cup of tea and two chocolates.  the house is absolutely freezing.  my hands are frozen as I type.  I think i'll end now and heat up some rice and lentils.  I may have promised the kids a lasagna today.  the daughter-in-law is working the morning shift so she will pick up the kids by car.  I will cuddle under the covers with the 3 dogs for body heat.