The Shabbat Primer
By Thursday night, and certainly by lunch time on Friday, you are probably up to
your neck in Shabbat preparations. When all your thoughts and energies are focussed
on finishing a glorious carrot kugel, three side-dishes, and a new Morrocan cholent
recipe, the last thing you need is to devote hours to pre-Shabbat meals.
is literally "Let 'em eat cake." There's a well established and very practical custom
in traditional Jewish homes to "taste of the Shabbat" before it actually comes.
"Those who savor it (the Shabbat) will merit eternal life,"
Thus, in observant homes there is often a delicious dish from the Shabbat dinner
to come, a bit of the kugel, for example, sitting in the kitchen on Friday for kids
and adults alike to "nosh" on. Offering just a preview of the upcoming feast, it
nevertheless satisfies afternoon hunger pangs and keeps whining children off a busy
There are other tactics for reducing demands on you at this hectic time. Eating
dinner out on Thursday night is, of course, the most convenient of all, if you can
manage it. Families who go out to eat one night a week can choose to make it Thursday.
The only disadvantage is that, with the mother's thoughts on all her work at home,
dinner may be rushed and not very enjoyable. In many cases, then, the most practical
solution is for the father to take all the kids out to a kosher fast-food restaurant,
bring the mother's meal home, and let her get on with her work. In our neighborhood
in Jerusalem that's just what many families do. The local pizza parlor is jammed
on Thursday night with unescorted fathers and their broods. A slightly less convenient
solution is to buy several carry-out dishes from a kosher restaurant and have a
quick, easy dinner at your own table, perhaps using paper plates.
If, on the other hand, you are cooking Thursday night dinner yourself, make it
simple. After all, you're not neglecting anybody. You'll demonstrate your love for
your family with the next night's meal, and you're also heightening their anticipation
of it. Chana, for example, serves yogurts, cottage cheese and noodles, canned fruit
salad, cheese sandwiches - anything that involves just opening a container. Shaina
serves "kosher pizza, pareve (vegetarian) hot dogs - whatever is store-bought and
ready." A quick cold "breakfast at night" is fun sometimes. Sarah makes a giant
pot of vegetable soup on Wednesday which she serves Wednesday, Thursday, and sometimes
Friday lunch as well. And finally, of course, there are countless "heat and serve"
kosher packaged dinners which don't dirty even a single pot.
At Friday lunch time the pace quickens still more, and it's even less advisable
to fuss. As we mentioned before, many women give their family something from the
Shabbat night meal they have already cooked. Leftovers, chicken from the soup, and
sandwiches are good choices, too. If you are at the bakery anyway buying challah
or cake, you might pick up something for lunch, such as bourekas or filled pastries.
Our resource women with small children almost unanimously recommend an easy,
but filling lunch, such as kugel, spaghetti, chicken from the soup, or hefty sandwiches.
This accomplishes two things. First, as we said earlier, it assures that their lunch
will hold them until dinner time without additional attention on your part. Second,
it soothes any guilt pangs you may have about whether they've been adequately nourished
that day. Then, if a child just nibbles at the challah or soup at Shabbat dinner,
as often happens, and refuses anything else, at least you know that he was well
fed at lunch.
Rachel adds a word of sage advice: "Don't make extra dirty dishes at this time.
If you don't have a dishwasher, use paper plates."
Since adults are not permitted to eat between candle-lighting and kiddush at dinner,
you might also want to have a light snack on hand in the late afternoon, especially
for guests who have traveled some distance and arrived before Shabbat begins. On
those summer days when kiddush doesn't begin until seven o'clock or later, your
family will appreciate a late afternoon snack, too.
If sensible steps like these
are taken, you will save energy, and your family and guests will arrive at the Shabbat
dinner table, not famished, but eagerly awaiting the feast.