The Other Side of the Apron
The Short Version
This was a disaster — never again. We starved, and my teenager snuck out to schnorrer food from the neighbors. My favorite fleishig pot is treif, and my husband melted my spatula so everything stinks like burnt rubber. Which, incidentally, is impossible to remove from the glass oven door. I’ll remember this Shabbos forever, and not in a good way.
The Long Version
Every Man with a Pan seems to have a wonderful wife whose freezer is stocked with challah, and serendipitously he doesn’t have to make challah that week. My husband is equally blessed, so check that off, and next up on the menu is dips.
May I point out that not one dip I make requires multiple pots. But apparently for this it’s-the-easiest-recipe-you’ll-ever-make-and-it-was-so-incredible-it-was-sitting-on-my-counter-and-the-photographer/my neighbor/my daughter-who-is-the-pickiest-eater-you’ll-ever-meet-walked-by-and-tasted-one-and-before-you-know-it-there-was-nothing-left recipe, you don’t need one pot, you need three: one to boil the olives “to remove the olive taste” (that’s a direct quote from the recipe), another to heat the tomatoes so you can peel them, and then a third to actually make the whole concoction.
The recipe has three steps (yes, each involves a pot). Once the olives are boiled and the tomatoes are peeled, the rest is pretty simple, I was assured. My husband chopped the tomatoes and carefully deseeded them. Then he gingerly placed the tomato flesh in a pot with the olives, cautiously added the spices and sauces, delicately stirred it all with a rubber spatula, vigilantly set the timer, and then left the spatula resting on the pot. Yes, the fire was on — can you see where this is heading?
According to the recipe, after 20 minutes of savory simmering, the flavors should mesh together and the whole house will smell divine. Well, the house did smell…
P.S. I don’t even like olives.
Here’s how it went down:
We stalled at dips. Because when the one dip you make sets off the smoke detector, and your wife is tasked with waving a towel under it to stop the awful beeping, and then the can of tomato paste, which for some inexplicable reason is on the stovetop, actually explodes, so somehow even the mezuzah case boasts a smattering of red, your wife just wants to disappear to bury her head in her pillow and not emerge until she has to light. (That sounds really nice. Of course, that is not what actually happened. Said wife was still waving a towel under the smoke detector.)
For future reference: It doesn’t help to then tell your wife that there’s a hack involving ketchup cleaning dirty metals, so the silver mezuzah case, once wiped of tomato paste, will be shinier than ever. Not because ketchup and tomato paste aren’t the same. My husband learned this the hard way.
Baah Shabbos, Baah Menuchah
Kiddush and challah are no-brainers. Thank you, eishes chayil, for the challah. And now it’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Heads-up: he’s going to make you taste the dip. Smile lovingly, place a tiny dab on your plate, maybe even feign dipping your challah in — but whatever you do, don’t taste the dip! If I were a wine guy, I’d say it has undertones of soap, followed by hints of Fantastik, with an aftertaste of aloe-vera-scented baby wipes — which sound appealing as an aroma, but are not appetizing as flavors go.
Lest you think this reference to cleaning materials implies the aforementioned pots were cleaned, don’t be fooled. They were, in fact, not.
He was so proud to serve his Charred Herbaceous Argentinian olives, artfully plated, and all I can do — Shabbos notwithstanding — is cry, because I hate going into Shabbos with all those dishes in the sink. And the countertops are a disaster. I know, walk into anyone’s kitchen and even if the countertops are gleaming, the hostess will apologize for the mess. I’m not talking that kind of mess.
Let’s back up. With 15 minutes to Shabbos, he looked up apologetically and said he needs to shave and shower and get dressed and leave to shul, and who am I to get in the way of that? I’ll just do the dishes and wipe the counters and sweep and mop the floor — again — honey. (“Honey” still counts as endearing, even if it’s said through gritted teeth.)
But then the baby toddled through and I caught a whiff. No, it wasn’t the olives, he needed a diaper change, but my baby recognized the gleam in my eyes and made a beeline for the door. Naturally, he slipped in a puddle of olive brine on the floor and went flying, so instead of cleaning, I got to comfort a sobbing, smelly baby. And I never made it back to the kitchen because he needed ice and an ice pop (he’s dramatic that way) and a full change of Shabbos pajamas, and of course I only discovered when I was ready to put a fresh diaper on him that we had no more diapers in the changing table. A lot of yelling later (not from me, obviously, I’m very zen), it was time to light candles.
So here’s what I tried ignoring when we went to wash: a blob of congealing tomato seeds on the counter next to a stack of tomato peels on the cutting board; every spice bottle I own, open (as well as some new ones that are optional, but highly recommended, because they bring a flavor so unique and divine that without them you might as well eat olives straight out of a can), with several on their sides, spilling their contents onto the counter; a bottle of oil with drips down the side that pool next to the cutting board and culminate in a thin line of oil that runs straight to the floor, where it meets the puddle of brine. (Thought: if the oil mixes with the spices, it makes an easy-peasy no-brainer salad dressing. There you have it, the requisite utterly plebian, totally relatable, and makeable by the rest of us recipe we’re supposed to include with this column. If you want the olive recipe — no, I can’t go there. You don’t.)
But enough about me and my petty complaints. He’s so proud of this dish, I can’t rain on his parade. I’m supportive that way.
My friend complained to me that her husband doesn’t know an onion from a garlic clove, he doesn’t understand how to boil water, and he never steps foot in the kitchen. All I could think was, He’s a moron. And wow, what’s that like? Sounds amazing.
Name: Haha. As if I’d admit to it.
Occupation: Editor at Mishpacha, and that’s all I’m disclosing.
Location: Not NY. Or NJ.
Family size: 5 kids, B”H
Recipe: Trust me, don’t come near it with a ten-foot pole.
(Originally featured in Family Table, Issue 732)
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