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Takes the Cake 

I’m going to suggest three rules that a good balabusta should never forget

There’s so much “been there, done that” when it comes to kitchen advice.

I mean, how much wisdom does it take to come up with ideas like “cook once, eat twice” and “slice steak fries with your apple slicer?” When I see tips like that I yawn delicately and move on to the next article. Yes, yes, we all know that we can slice cake into neat slices with dental floss. (My addition to that one is: Don’t, under any circumstances, use Plackers Cool Mint Flossers. Stick to unflavored, ladies.)

Still, I do think I have what to contribute in this department. At the risk of dating myself, I’ve been married for over 28 years. When I started my culinary career, poppers weren’t yet a thing, and believe it or not, nor were hasselback anything or acai bowls. So drawing on my extensive experience, I’m going to suggest three rules that a good balabusta should never forget. Write them on an index card, and stick it to your fridge with a heavy-duty magnet. Or just memorize them.

  1. Don’t ever admit that anything is burned. Even if the smoke alarm is blaring, you can claim that you never intended to make roast beef — you were working on making beef jerky without a dehydrator. Hold on to your pride, flimsy though it may be.
  2. Freeze mushy bananas for smoothies and muffins. Yes, I know it looks gross from the outside. Just peel them and toss it into a baggie.
  3. Label leftovers. Yes, you think you’ll remember that the brown stuff in the rectangular Rubbermaid container is leftover pulled beef. But six weeks from now, as you shuffle through the various bags and containers in your freezer, you’ll dolefully pick up the red container and ponder its innards. Hmm, it looks brown and wet. Yapchik? Gravy? Stew? Why on earth didn’t you just take the two minutes to grab a Sharpie and label it? A person who can’t remember her Google password is a person who doesn’t remember what is in her unlabeled containers.

In case I haven’t convinced you of the importance of this third tip, I’ll share a personal tale that happened to someone I know very well.

One Erev Shabbos, this woman, let’s call her Pessy, was in a big rush because that’s what sometimes happens on Fridays. Twenty minutes before lichtbentshen she remembered that she still had to throw a kishke into the cholent pot. Quickly she ran to the garage freezer and grabbed the very last roll from her stash of homemade kishkes. She stuffed the foil-wrapped packet into the Crock Pot, adjusted the setting to low, and went on her merry way.

Shabbos morning, as her son was dishing out the cholent, he called from the kitchen.

“Ma, the kishke smells weird.”

“It’s fine, don’t worry. Maybe you’re congested,” was Pessy’s reply.

“But it’s so dark, like it’s burned. But it doesn’t smell burned, it smells weird.”

Son Two went to join Son One in the kitchen. “Oh, boy, that is one strange-looking kishke. Know what it smells like? Chocolate. And omigosh, it looks like chocolate. I’m going to taste — Ma, this isn’t kishke. It’s chocolate cake! You put cake in the cholent!”

The family broke into guffaws of laughter as I — whoops, Pessy! — hid her face in shame. In her haste she had grabbed what she assumed was a foil-wrapped kishke but was actually a portion-controlled well-wrapped piece of cake. Hardy har har. Her family has never let her live that one down.

So yes, truth is stranger than fiction. And, moral of the story: Label your leftovers! Because, who knows, maybe if you weren’t using so much brain space figuring out what the brown wet stuff in the red container was, you would remember your Google password!


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 882)

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