By Rachel Gross-Prinz
We navigated the stroller up the stairs clumsily; the contraption was double the size of our 4-month old baby but we’d convinced ourselves it made life significantly easier. The storage area under our baby contained a salad of spinach, radish, apple, and walnut and lemon squares made with lemons from my husband’s family lemon tree in Southern California.
Getting out the door, let alone baking lemon squares and thinly slicing radishes, was a huge feat. The bar for this potluck baby-parent play date was set high – it was the reunion of our Setting the Table class, an opportunity sponsored by Hazon. Seven months earlier, at varying stages of pregnancy, we gathered to explore the relationship between Judaism and food and, more practically, learn how to make delicious meals that would sustain us between feedings, diaper changes and sleepless nights.
The truth is, we realized, there is very little you can do to prepare for the actuality of being responsible for another human life; for the way that little person will enter your soul and challenge you forever. We make registries, ready the nursery, and pre-wash the clothes as some kind of coping mechanism for having no idea what to expect after the umbilical cord is snipped.
But Setting the Table bridged the gap between sacred preparation and material details (stock the freezer so we don’t starve during the first 2 weeks), just as food seems to do in Jewish tradition.
For our family, it was an opportunity to think about how we would bring intention to our families’ eating habits, even just for the two of us until our son takes to dining at the table.
Our cohort reunited a few weeks ago, with our children now ranging in age from 9 weeks to 6 months, to share our musings on the early days of parenting over blintzes, beet salads, fresh bread and the lemon squares. As a fellow mom remarked, ‘our children will be able to say they’ve known each other since before birth.’
If this is our 4 month check-up, I can tell you we’ve eaten more take-out and frozen food than in our non-parent lives. But we’ve also made a point to sit down to eat meals together and make time to cook regularly. ‘Sitting down to eat’ now involves getting up multiple times to comfort the kiddo and ‘cooking’ is more likely to involve what I used to consider cheating (canned beans! tomato soup from a box!). It is sacred all the same because it allows us to care for ourselves and one another, in addition to our ‘bundle of joy.’
As our kids journey towards joining us at the table and peeling their own bananas rather than eating them mashed from the comfort of a high-chair, our relationships with food will become even more loaded and rewarding. Setting the Table opened the door for food to be a fuel for love and relationships, rather than just caloric intake. We certainly have a lot to learn!
How have you tried to be intentional with your family at meal-times?
Join us for Setting the Table this spring!
Whether your skills in the kitchen are a bit rusty, or you just want a fun night out (with adults! and wine!), Hazon’s Setting the Table cooking class series for expectant parents and young families in Brooklyn promises a delightful evening of cooking and conversation. A la carte single sessions and four week series are available. Visit hazon.org/settingthetable for more information and to register.
Rachel Gross-Prinz lives with her husband and son in Brooklyn and works at AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps and Pursue: Action for a Just World. Her favorite childhood memories revolve around adventures in the kitchen.