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.

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