No Name Calling EVER, Stupid!

Mine is a family notorious for bringing every argument to its – hopefully favorable – outcome, no matter what it takes. Sometimes the argument is conducted in installments, court-style. Thank you, we are not considering reality TV. One guest, so dear that he’s considered as family, recently told us what a privilege it had been for him to have a whole bunch of Kirschenbaums to himself during an oddly guest-less Passover meal, and see how they do it, with a lot of noise and doggedness, and lots of love and hugs and kisses.

Golden rule number one: Never mind the obvious one, abuse of any kind, let’s not even go there. No, the golden rule, has always been, is and always will be, no name calling no matter what no matter who no matter how furious you get. That rule was instituted by me eons ago, and today after living up to it many good years, I breached it. Let me first tell you something: I felt wretched about it, and still do.

I have had the same assistant at my house for years. We will call her R. She was one of the reasons I took up Spanish, in a great and unrequited desire to communicate in order to form a better team. Over all I would say we really are a good team, but sometimes some incredible things happen in the kitchen backstage which leave me, to put it resignedly and philosophically, bewildered.  More to the point, here’s what happened today:  I transferred the cooking liquids of a gorgeous roast to a small saucepan to reduce, and when I turned around, the saucepan was empty and cleaned, liquids gone down the drain. In my rage I cried and screamed and my husband, who usually gives very rare signs of knowing his way to the kitchen, came running, concerned, and asked, what happened, what happened? And my answer was just this, “I think I have to get used to the idea that sometimes some people do the most stupid things”. My assistant, who all these years had NEVER given any sign of understanding one blessed word in English, recognizing the dreaded S word and its direct relation to her as I meant it in this context, burst into tears, protested she couldn’t allow anyone calling her stupid, forced an angry fist into a recalcitrant sweater sleeve, and flew out the door, swearing this just DID IT.

Need I say I was not proud of myself? I ran after her, and found her on the stairs by my door, looking inconsolable. My first impulse was to match her inconsolable mood, and I told her that her negligence had caused a terrible problem for me. But of course there was no way my inconsolable mood could possibly hold a candle to hers, and I backed out as soon as I saw the obvious meaning implied in her scornful look, which begged the question, “You call this a problem?”. All I could say was sorry sorry sorry sorry, and was pleased to see this was another word she did understand after all. I was glad to see her go back in, get out of her sweater, drop her purse on the couch, tie the apron strings behind her: Back to being a team! Chop chop!

If anyone tells you they had a great roast Thursday at my table, it will be a great testament to my creativity and my talent at saving the day with a dish. Trying to save the day in some other areas, I presented her after the day’s work with a beautiful present.Thank G-d for small favors!

The pain inflicted by hurtful words dies hard, so I hope this is an adequate pre-Rosh Hashanah confession, in a good tradition of introspection and atonement. Here’s my war cry: Fight all you want, but don’t call anyone names: It never helps, and it always hurts! And it is… G-d help me, I almost said stupid again!

6 replies
  1. Brianna Lovenbury
    Brianna Lovenbury says:

    Thank you so much, this was very interesting. I was actually born in Madrid ( not telling when though!) but moved around various parts of europe and lastly settled in England when I was 7. I dont remember an awful lot of the few years I was in spain, but the delicious smell of spanish food always seems to get me going or something. Funny, how I dont remember anything except the smells,isn’t it! I actually found a website dedicated to spanish recipes, which gave me great delight and thought I ought to share. Anyway, thank you again. I’ll get my son to add your website to my rss app…

    • Lévana
      Lévana says:

      Ha! Only smells, from longer ago than we care to remember. Of course this cook is not surprised. We never forget the smell of the foods we love!

  2. Linda Essner
    Linda Essner says:

    It is always difficult when you have someone helping you in the kitchen Not only is there a language and cultural divide, the person CANNOT read your mind.
    But we must always be mindful that we could not be able to do all that we do in the kitchen for Yom Tov without the help of these ladies. So all of us must first and foremost be grateful that we have the help and we must be able to “suck up” their mistakes, because their help is greater than their errors.
    Enjoy the rest of the Yom Tov.

    • Lévana
      Lévana says:

      I absolutely agree with you: I couldn’t make a move without help with the larger meals: I keep the smae helpers years, and we have the best dealings, so putting up with the mistakes is unavoidable, and as you saw in my story, they can say the exact same for us, their employers: We’re no angels either!

  3. Lynda
    Lynda says:

    Dear Levana,

    Wow! Your fabulous recipes and kitchen skills are exceeded by your insightful and open sharing in the story you relate in “behind the kitchen scenes”.

    Thank you so much for all that you teach.

    I thought of you often during Rosh Hashanah – I am grateful to you for helping me learn how to master the holidays and feed my family and friends. I have not told you enough, and I want you to know that I do not see how I could be Jewish without your help.

    Thank you, Levana.


    Lower East Side Lynda

    PS – We had leftover open faced Levana sweet and sour brisket sandwiches for dinner last night – with lots of greaseless gravy, of course! Sorry you lost your gravy! I replace the 1 cup ketchup with 1/3 cup wine, 1/3 cup agave and 1/3 cup Coke – works great! I will probably make it again for Sukkot.

    • Lévana
      Lévana says:

      Hi Lynda, of course you can be Jewish without my help, but it just wouldn’t be as fun or as delicious!
      Lost my gravy, and my temper, big time, but I’m making it (the dish!) again next week, sans fiasco! PS: isn’t it just too bad you live so far away from us? I would be so delighted if you could join us at some shabbos or yomtov meals: any chance? Love, Bonne et heureuse annee! Levana

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