You could define my family by what we don’t do: We don’t designate chores, we haven’t documented anything since the decline of VHS tapes and, most of all, we don’t cook. None of us. My dad works, my mom scurries around the house all day and both collapse with exhaustion promptly at eight o’clock. I would start hyperventilating if I saw my brother lift himself from the couch and graze the handle of a frying pan. And me? I’m here, writing this article, and the kitchen is so far away…
Having grown up in this environment, it’s taken me some time to understand how weird my family’s dietary habits actually are. When I started high school, I ogled Café M, where foods glimmered like multicolored gems. For years my sack lunches consisted of a slice of sourdough bread, Jell-O or Trix yogurt, a mealy apple and a treat so sugary and unhealthy it’s been dubbed “the diabetes cookie.” Whenever kids would barter their foods like vendors, I would sit on the sidelines, lower lip pursed, gazing sadly at my crumbling cookie.
There’s a myth about the Jewish American Princess (or JAP) that her only form of cooking is calling for takeout, and that stereotype certainly holds true in my household. I love my mother, but cooking is not her forte in the least. She made a steak once, and I thought I was eating beef jerky. So our options are usually limited to Chinese food, pizza or some sort of deli dish. At this point, I’m ready to banish schnitzel from my life.
I can’t fathom a home-cooked meal besides the ones on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur. And, to be honest, I wouldn’t be happy if my family suddenly got the hankering to be all homey; I like our haphazard household, our squabbles over eternally empty fridges, our hunger-bred irritation. It’s endearing. At the same time, if you eat home-cooked food on a regular basis, do not hesitate to invite me over!