Tsores mit yoykh iz gringer vi tsores on yoykh.
Imagine the Fast Money round in a hypothetical episode of the latest incarnation of the TV game show, Family Feud (currently in the hosting hands of Mr. Steve Harvey and subsequently saturated in sexual innuendo), where Trudy, a sassy grandmother of seven, is playing for—shout it awkwardly with me—“$20,000!!!” Despite the pressure of making up for her nephew, Ricky’s, embarrassing showing in the first half, Trudy manages to come up with every number-one answer and win the game for her family. Here’s the transcript of her moment in the spotlight:
Steve: “It’s time to play Fast Money! Trudy, I’m going to ask you five questions; if you can’t think of an answer, say ‘pass’ and we’ll come back to it if there’s time. Let’s put 20 seconds on the clock. Ready? Here we go! We surveyed 100 adults and asked them to name the first thing they would associate with each of the following words: Sweden.”
Steve: “Mobiüs Strip.”
Trudy: “Donald Trump’s hair!”
Steve: “Bill O’Reilly.”
Steve: “The Jewish People.”
Yes, it’s true. While Jewish contributions to society are endless, all the Singer sewing machines, Freudian slips, and Levi jeans in the world—even Albert Einstein himself—just can’t compete with the Mighty Matzah Ball!
Think about it: a Jew may have created the first vaccine to cure polio, but Jewish Penicillin cures all! Our magical mixture of chicken, carrots, dill, and, at least in my recipe book, a disproportionate number of scrumptiously starchy spheroids can catapult even the sorriest patient from their sickbed and have them dancing the Hora within moments of their first shaky slurp.
But wait, there’s more! Our powerful potion’s potential goes well beyond curing the common cold or fighting full-on flu. Jewish Penicillin is the go-to for any dilemma: from paper-cuts to pink slips, painful puppy love to pillaging by pirates, our curative concoction has got you covered!
Are we frustrated by the fact that of all things Jewish, our soup is what landed atop the stockpile of Semitic synonymies? Not as much as you’d think! It is food after all, and at the end of the day what drives us Jews most is our desire (some might say compulsion) to feed people. Speaking of which, when was the last time you ate? I know I can’t see you, but something tells me you look pale.
Miriam always left the task of arranging the place cards on the Seder table to the very end. No matter how long she agonized over the seating arrangement, no conceivable configuration of her contentious kin could prevent tempers from flaring. It was as much a tradition as the search for the Afikomen ending in tearful tantrums—although the children usually displayed more self-control during the latter case than the adults in the former.
There! she thought. Every last detail was in place; except of course for her mother-in-law’s famous Matzah Ball Soup. No one knew how Pauline made it, and she wasn’t about to tell. (Didn’t other cultures have a long-standing tradition of mothers-in-law welcoming their sons’ new brides into their kitchens and sharing with them all the family’s culinary secrets? Miriam would never experience a similar rite-of-passage because Pauline would take her magic to the grave.) Not only did her soup steal the show, but Pauline made sure that her dish (not to mention she herself) made an entrance befitting its grandeur. Every year, she’d park a block away and watch patiently as all the other guests arrived. Then she’d wait another five minutes before making the last leg of the journey on foot. After all the greetings were exchanged and coats piled on Eva’s (Miriam’s youngest) princess bed, but just before the first awkward silence fell over the room, the rotund Pauline and her dish’s intoxicating aroma would fill Miriam’s entryway. Miriam had to hand it to her mother-in-law: the woman had impeccable timing. It was a performance she put on every year and everyone else patiently played their part in pretending to be oblivious to Pauline’s wiles. (An especially impressive feat considering the fact that, enroute, each guest invariably passed Pauline’s mauve Cadillac idling in plain sight. Inconspicuous she was not.) This year was no exception because, sure enough, 45 minutes after the first guest arrived, the doorbell rang one final time, and Pauline, her face a grimace from schlepping the industrial-size pot, refused all offers of help. As she always did, she insisted on carrying her precious potion to the kitchen and placing it on the stove herself. Once back in the living room, in a blur of vibrant scarves and clattering bangles, Pauline moved graciously about the room, feigning modesty at an endless string of comments about how much everyone was looking forward to her delicious dish. Her performance ended abruptly, however, when she realized there was something or, rather, someone missing; her eldest granddaughter, Adina.
Pauline: “Where’s my Adina and that shayna punim of her’s?!”
Eva: “Bubbe, Adina is very sad and we mustn’t bug her. Her heart has a boo-boo but Mommy says we can’t put a Band-Aid on it ‘cause it’s on the inside of her, but if we’re nice to her and don’t ask her to play teacher for one whole week (or maybe more) her heart will heal by itself.”
Pauline: [with a sharply guttural and dramatic inhale] “What’s happened to my Bubbeleh?!”
Miriam: “Oh, Mom. That boy she was seeing broke up with her today at school and she’s absolutely crushed. I think she just needs time to—”
Pauline: “That behaymeh! That paskudnyak! He doesn’t deserve to breathe the same air as my Adina!”
Miriam: “I know, Mom. She just needs time. I told her she can skip out on dinner tonight. Besides, she doesn’t have much of an appetite.”
Pauline: “Nechtiker tog! Someone get me a bowl!”
Obediently, several members of the family scurried off to the kitchen to fulfill the demand, Pauline following close behind. Once armed with a sizable bowl and spoon, she prepared a steaming serving of her savory speciality. With steady hands, while the rest of the family watched in awe, Pauline headed upstairs to face the hormonal fire.
For almost half an hour, the family huddled at the bottom of the stairs, placing bets and passing around a box of matzah to stave off the hunger pangs. When their strained ears failed them, they sent Eva to eavesdrop at Adina’s door. Eva returned only to report that Pauline had (somehow) been granted entrance to the teenager’s lair (a feat in and of itself), but, despite her best efforts, Eva had been unable to decipher their muffled duologue. Finally, Pauline appeared at the top of the stairs, followed, unbelievably, by Adina herself. ...
Pauline: “What are you all staring at?! Adina’s joining us for Passover Seder ... and seconds of her Bubbe’s world-famous soup!”
In an effort not to spook Adina, everyone made their way to the table as if they hadn’t just witnessed a miracle. Except Miriam, who caught Pauline and pulled her aside. …
Miriam: “How’d you do it, Mom?”
Pauline: “My mother always said, Troubles with soup is easier than troubles without soup.” [with a slight tilt of her head, Pauline’s nose rose imperceptibly higher in the air] “And her soup had nothing on mine!” [inhales sharply] “Listen to me! Pooh, pooh, pooh! Lashon hora! Pooh, pooh, pooh!”
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