Thursday, May 08, 2014

Ask Mrs. DovBear: How do you prepare for Shabbas?

Yesterday's lifestyle item provoked a strong response on the social networks from people who seemed to take it for granted that pre-Shabbos Happy Hour rests on the back of dissatisfied wives who are left to cook and clean while the men party.  Of course this isn't so, and I'm a bit peeved that this was the default assumption. Why leap to "bad husband" before considering other possibilities?

Look: Pre-shabbos Happy Hour* 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. But that's not everyone's situation. There are other models. 

*Happy Hour is a misnomer, which also caused some confusion. Typically, these are small gatherings - never more than five guys, and usually two or three - and they never last an hour. Its a quick drink, a snack and come chat. 45 minutes tops.

To get this done, you need time, a chilled wife and an organized household and not everyone has all three. Over the years, most of the men I know who attended this event either (1) worked from home (2) worked nearby; or (3) were retired or unemployed. For years, our host was a young man who inherited a building from his grandfather and spent most of his life developing the perfect barbecued rib. In another neighborhood, a regular host was self-employed.  And none of our wives, if I recall correctly, were women anyone might call disheveled, disorganized or dramatic. 

Let me use my own situation as an example. In what follows, my wife describes her own Shabbos preparations. 

Sunday: Challahs. The breadmaker does most of the work, and challahs freeze nicely
Monday: I bake some kind of counter cake for deserts/breakfast. This also goes into the freezer.
Tuesday: Nothing.
Wednesday: I set up the soup. This means the ingredients go in a pot of water, and the pot of water goes in the back of the refrigerator.
Thursday morning. Soup goes on the stove. After its cooked, it goes back in the fridge
Thursday evening: If we're having chicken or capons, they get stuffed and put in the fridge. If we're having meat, it gets marinated and refrigerated. Any vegetables, like potatoes, that need marinating are also prepared. The cholent gets set up. Occasionally, I'll make a noodle kugel or some other kind of pudding.
Friday afternoon: Birds or meat, that have already been set up, go in the oven (or on the grill.) Vegetables, that have already been set up, get roasted or grilled. (Root vegetables in the winter; cauliflower, eggplant and the like in the summer. Potatoes year round.) Soup gets heated up. On a summer Friday the only thing happening in the last hour or so before candles is the re-heating of the soup. Everything else is done.
Friday evening: While the men are in shul, the daughters set the table and make a salad.

Shabbos Day: I usually go to shul. We set the table and make a salad when I get home. Lunch is usually cholent, a meat salad of some kind, and maybe some deli. If we're having shnitzle (rare) it goes up on Friday.

As you can see, there's no big pre-Shabbos rush and everything is under control by the time I duck out for a quick visit with friends. 

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