On Sunday we gathered at my sister’s house for the traditional Jewish post-Christmas brunch, to go over the number of tourists who got in our way and the number of merry people who infected the usual ennui and bad humor that are so quintessentially New York. Because we are open-hearted, if narrow-minded, my sister’s Catholic husband was welcomed to join. We sat down to a traditional meal — high in salt smoked fish oils and low nutrition and low in any nutritive value. Not a vitamin in sight.
But something different happened this Sunday, and I have yet to process the event fully. I saw — or else I would not believe this — my sister cook something. Our cousin can no longer eat the usual fare that is our cultural comfort foods. My sister, who had never before used her stove, made our cousin freshly scrambled eggs.
Last year, she got married to a wonderful man who is kind and always in a good mood.
This year she is cooking nourishing food. I can see a trend, but I can’t yet see the trajectory.
For background, my mother and I had suggested to my sister, when she bought her apartment in 1999, that she just convert the kitchen to a den. All she needed were a phone, a stack of take-out menus and a mini-bar fridge for diet coke. But she insisted that an apartment needed a kitchen. So we suggested that she get the fiberglass demo version of a stove to save some money. A few years after she moved in, my partner finally took out the plastic envelope with the care instructions and warranties and turned on a burner. (I was horrified that she diminished the resale value for no apparent reason.)
I was nervous seeing my sister at the stove, thinking she might hurt herself. Our cousin was so touched at my sister’s domestic effort once he realized that she never cooked anything for anyone, even her husband. Also, our cousin is a life-long bachelor (save for a short-lived marriage a long time ago) living in a tiny studio with a mini-bar fridge, and therefore unaccustomed to home-cooking. He could not stop complimenting my sister on the eggs.
We forgot to kvetch about the tourists or the merriment that interfered with our hardened and mean personalities. Instead, at this brunch, we just all talked and were glad to be together.
Next year, we may be singing folk songs and a bonus round of kumbaya or maybe my sister will have knitted each of us something in seasonal colors. I think I’ll read up on Ebenezer Scrooge, so I know my part and can be the standard bearer against the march of time and humility. I hope Scrooge doesn’t get nice. I don’t “do” nice.
You see why I am worried.