Saturday, March 14, 2015

Cholent, Kugel, the Tish and some pre-Shabbos fun

Tonight, we have a series of  Countdown Posts for you, all having to do with shabbos.  See all previous Contdown Posts here

The first one dates to the primordial days of the blog and describes my first Tish experience. Naturally, I saw it in terms of other religions.

Next come some reflections on kugel and cholent. The kugel post is not about the biblical scholar, but about the clot of noodles and/or potatoes we Jews adore. Its noteworthy only because it received a furios comment, now lost, from Alan Nadler. The cholent post discusses how a ban on everyone's favorite stew is actually a confession of impotence on the part of those issuing the ban.  Cholent lovers might also enjoy this excerpt from Henrich's Hein's The Sabbath Princess in which he glories of cholent are recounted in poetic paragraph after poetic paragraph 

Finally we give you one of the blog's sadly infamous posts: A style guide for the pre-shabbos happy hour  To cleanse your palate check out this powerful rendition of Kedusha performed by a fellow who would likely be denied entry to your local Orthodox shul. It's awesome all the same.

See all the good stuff after the jump

Originally Posted December 22, 2004
A few days ago, I went to my very first Tish. Here's my review:

Music: C 
It was certainly loud, and energetic, but my tastes in Jewish music run here; not here.

Aesthetics: F 
The room was done in a style I could only call "no taste." There were peeling ceilings and worn-our rugs. The lighting was bad, and it was cold. Woman, obviously, aren't ever permitted in that clubhouse.

Drasha: A 
Fast, and incomprehensible. My translator said it was ok, though.

Food: N/A 
I don't eat food that's hand-delivered. Especially when the waiter picks his nose.

Overall: B 
The whole experience was very catholic. When the presiding Rabbi entered, we rose and sung, much in the way a cardinal is welcomed into the cathedral for mass. We sang hymns, and ate an offering of kugel. Though we weren't asked to fall to our knees, and accept the instrument of Godly salvation on our tongues, the food was passed by hand, and the hasidim fought for a morsel as if they thought it offered the blessings of God himself

Perhaps if I'd permitted myself a taste, the whole carnival might have made some sense.

Kvelling about kugel

Originally posted: September 28, 2005

Today the Dining and Wine section of the heiliga New York Times turns its august attention to kugel:
I didn't know until recently, though, that this homey casserole of noodles or potatoes was credited with mystical powers. Allan Nadler, a professor of religious studies at Drew University, studied references to kugel in Hasidic texts and ate it in Brooklyn and in Jerusalem at about a dozen rebbes' tishes, or tables, where male followers of a Hasidic rabbi gather to eat, sing and study the Torah. According to Hasidic interpretations of Kabbalah mysticism, he said, kugel has special powers. "Clearly the spiritual high point of the meal is the offering of the kugel," Professor Nadler said. At that moment the rabbi has the power to bestow health and food, and even to help couples conceive.
And I didn't know until recently that Alan Nadler was a raging lunatic. Mystical powers, including the power to impregnate are wrapped up in one little nasty clot of eggs and noodles? Is he serious? Worse, do entire cults of Jews believe this to be true?

The end of Thursday night cholent

Originally Posted July 5, 2011
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Some of the great holiday weekend news from Israel includes the following.

Thursday night cholent is now banned.

This is a big deal for yeshiva boys, many of whom consider the Thursday night chow down to be the highlight of their week.  

I'm not sorry to see this ritual abolished. The yeshiva boy's glorification of food, terrible food especially, never seemed to me to be especially frum. Also the mad desire for a particular food, at a particular time, seems to speak of some kind of emptiness in the yeshiva boy's soul. Who but an unhappy person sees something holy and fulfilling about a plate of over seasoned beans? A well rounded person doesn't consistently plan his week around a trip to a greasy spoon for a plate of guaranteed indigestion.

Though I won't miss Thursday night cholent, I am sorry to see this latest confession of impotence on the part of the rabbis. Had they any power or charisma at all, wouldn't they simply order or convince yeshiva boys to channel their cholent energy into something more edifying? The fact that they are instead using the threat of canceling kosher certifications to coerce honest, hard working, shopkeepers into closing early suggests a certain weakness and uncertainty on the part of the rabbis. Why blackmail shopkeepers? Can't yeshiva students be instructed? Won't they listen if told by their teachers that Thursday night cholent is gross and unbecoming? All pious talk about how the yeshiva world honors and obeys rabbis, and hangs on every precious rabbinical word, desiring only to learn and improve under loving rabbinical direction, seems badly undermined if the single most obedient cohort --yeshiva boys -- can't be bothered to follow rabbinical directives.

Guys got to eat: Pre- Shabbos Happy Hour

Originally Posted: May 7, 2014
Is DovBear transitioning into lifestyle blog? Not likely. I'm just sharing my thoughts and experiences as per usual

Now that we're in early-shabbos season, many of the men in the audience are escaping to their decks and patios for a pre-shabbos happy hour. In most neighborhoods, you start around 6 p.m. and wrap things up as close to mincha as possible. Usually, no more than five guys attend, and twosomes and threesomes are not uncommon, with most staying for 25 minutes or less. These are quick things.

** Pre-shabbos Happy Hour might not work for everyone. It can be hard to pull off if you have small kids, a disorganized, last-minute personality (or a  wife like that) or an inflexible work schedule. However, I don't think its fair to assume that it only happens if the wife gets screwed. There are other models.

As a veteran of dozens of these small, informal gatherings I can tell you there are generally three ways to pull it off.


The Drink: Want to strike out? Put out a low end beer, like Bud or Coors. There is literally never a good excuse to serve these horrible beverages. And you lose points for using a Red Solo Cup.

The Snack: Chips and salsa. You think you're playing it safe. Really, you're being cheap and boring.


The Drink: You owe it to your guests to pour something decent, plus you don't want to look chintzy. At around $50, Oban fits the bill. Its sweet with a pleasant hint of smoke without being peaty. Larceny is a good up-to-the minute option for your bourbon lovers, and Blue Moon is your can't miss beer.

The Snack: Toss your favorite variety of Jack's Sausages on the grill, and serve them in thirds with a good mustard. No one wants to overeat or get full right before shabbos, so cut them up.  Put out some olives and pickles to go with the chips.


The Drink: You'll still need a whiskey/bourbon option for the unadventurous, but you can show you're trying by offering to start things off with a cocktail.

Don't bother with something complicated, and stay away from anything that requires weird ingredients or fruity garnishes.The Lime Rickey (air conditioning in a glass) is nothing but ice, lime, bourbon and seltzer. Thanks to Mad Men, the Old Fashioned is enjoying a reawakening. You can make one in your sleep: Just splash some bitters* on a sugar cube. Soften it up with some water or seltzer and add a slug or two of Rittenhouse Rye.

The Lime Rickey goes in a Collins glass like this nice looking number from Stolzle, Set of six - $37.99 (three left!).

Use a low ball glass for the Old Fashioned. This Borgovo Gotico- $56 costs way too much ($56!)  but feels great in your hand.

Angostura Aromatic Cocktail Bitters are certified kosher, and can be used to mix up a great OF. $12 bucks from Amazon (and about $8 in your local grocery)

Draper makes an Old Fashioned, but because he's gay he added a cherry and an orange. Don't make this mistake. All you need is a sugar cube, bitters, ice, a splash of water and Rittenhouse Rye

The Snack: While the sausages are on the grill, serve up some dips like matbucha or chumas. Bonus points if you, or better yet your wife, can make them from scratch. [Recipes here] If you are going to use a store-bough chumas, freshen it up with some oil and lemon juice before serving. If you have skills, make some wings, too. Be aware that at a minimum you'll need to section your wings, and render out the fat before applying your sauce.

Make it heimsih: Add kugel of course.

What should you wear? Don't be the dork who shows up in the suit and tie he wore to work. Take a minute to put on a polo (like this black one from Nautica) and a pair of chinos. (I like Bonobos but this flat front pair from Dockers is just fine.)

If you have some better ideas, please share them in the thread.

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