Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Problem With Group Shabbat Meals

The community here on the upper east side is pretty small. Yet there are about five or six different shuls and some young people may never meet the rest of the crowd because we are all spread so thin. Therefore, we are always trying to have the different graduate students, people from shul, friends who happen to be in the neighborhood etc. over for shabbat meals. It makes everyone feel like the community is getting stronger and friendlier. It helps bring in new people and lets the existing people know who is around.

There's just one problem: they take FOREVER. I like socializing as much as the next person but most of us are hardworking people and we need our shabbat nap. We might all stay up late chatting but then we have to drag ourselves out of bed the next day to make it to shul on time.

The real issue is the lack of a defined end point for the meal. No one wants to end it. The hosts don't want to feel like they are pushing their guests out so they hesitate on handing out the benchers, or serve dessert after benching. The guests don't want to 'eat and run' yet don't want to impose on their hosts either. Besides, maybe some of the single people are liking each other or maybe some of the married people are thinking of shidduchim for these single people. You don't want to ruin someone's shidduch because you need a nap.

Why not just leave? Because once somebody makes a move everyone will follow. No one wants to be responsible for that.

Of course it could be worse. I hear in Washington Heights they end up going straight from the meal back to shul. That's practically a six hour meal. Plus you'll never be dairy after shabbat.

May I am just getting old. Perhaps four to five hour meals are normal. But I still think if you can't eat it in two hours, maybe that's too much for you to be eating anyway.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Getting the most out of your kitchen space

As many of my readers know, I live in a one bedroom NYC apartment. This means my kitchen space is severely limited. I also did not have the luxury of designing the space/picking the oven, sink and fridge, etc. However I have discovered that there are some definite ways to maximize on space in any kitchen you have.

If it doesn't come with it, make it - I am a person who needs shelves. I tend to buy in bulk and need a place to put all this stuff. I am also very similar to most people in that I would like as much counter space as possible. Appliances like blenders, toasters and choppers are huge time savers but they take up a lot of counter space. My kitchen had two small counters. This was not going to cut it for me. So what did we do? Well, the apartment came with two four foot tall bookshelves. We had all ready decided to replace them with larger shelves so that we could fit all our books. We moved those shelves into the kitchen, covered the back with a decorative fabric (you might like to try cork-board for a functional bulletin board) and voila! I had an extra counter top AND extra shelves to keep things on. In my case it worked because the shelves were able to face in towards my small cooking area while the back faced out into the room.

Get the most out of one appliance - When selecting items for my registry I kept space in mind. Items like the Cuisinart Power Blend Duet or the Cuisinart Smart Stick are great because you get two appliances for the space of one. I leave the most frequently used attachment on the counter and the other ones are within easy reach on my shelves.

Use every inch - A Corner Shelf is a great way to get the most use out of this neglected spot. I installed several and use them to hold my spices.

Be Decorative - If there is a gap between your cabinets and the ceiling consider lacing some nice pots with foliage or other pretty item up there. Jut remember: in moderation it can really brighten the room. In excess it makes one feel cluttered and hectic.

You don't have to be a carpenter to build a pantry - If you've got a spare coat closet near the kitchen that isn't being used you might consider converting it into a pantry. There are many great shevling untis easily found at home depot that are a cynch to install. If you hesitant to do anything involving tools, or your building forbids you to put nails in the walls you can still use snap together shelf cubes.

Is it frustrating when your kitchen does not match your cooking ambition? Absolutely. But these tips can help. Remember, there's always a way to make it work.