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I Don't Cook

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I don't cook. My mother didn't cook. My daughter doesn't cook.

When I met my husband, I refused to invite him home for Passover because I was embarrassed my mother might serve all the catered dishes in the wrong order. First, the dessert, then the bitter herbs, then the matzo ball soup -- you get the idea. Ken thought I was inviting another boyfriend to the Seder.

That was twenty years ago.

My family of origin used to have a Seder out of Alice in Wonderland. All we needed was a dormouse, falling into the teapot.

Now that my darling father is five years dead and my 96-year-old mother doesn't remember what a Seder is, I miss it.

It was utter chaos. My father would begin with good intentions, reading a Hagaddah which came with Barton's Chocolates or Manishewitz Wines -- but a riot soon ensued. The food came out in the wrong order; nobody remembered that everything had to be kosher and the party broke up when the Red Queen, my mother, shouted "Off with his head!" at my father -- and he went off to play Rodgers and Hart songs on his beloved Steinway.

Thanksgiving was different. We always went to the Tavern on the Green. There, my father and mother had to pretend to be civilized, my maternal grandparents (from Russia) had to pretend not to tell my parents what to do, my older sister had to dress up in her best and not tear my hair out, nor pop the buttons on my dressy blouse for spite, and my younger sister had to refrain from getting a migraine or scream "Tighter! Tighter!" as we tied the sash of her dress.

My late aunt Kitty was invited as long as she was with her husband, Dayton. When she plighted her troth to a woman partner, she was no longer invited.

"Poor Kittinka," my grandmother would say, "Why didn't you invite her?"

Because she was in Fire Island having a much better time with her friends. But we never said that to Mama and Papa. Our parents were Eda and Seymour. They were older, crazier siblings. I thought everybody lived like that.

Ah Thanksgiving. We never said grace, never gave to the needy and charged the whole thing to the family business. You could do that in the fifties. Personal expenses and business expenses were not separate -- as they are today. My father would take out a roll of cash and a stack of credit cards held together with a fat rubber band. No Goyard or Gucci wallets for him. He was from Brownsville. He never felt secure without at least $5000. In cash.

The family business took good care of us. Fancy restaurants, trips to Europe and Asia -- all legal then. We were allowed to charge books at Doubleday's but not dresses at Saks. No expense was spared for education -- though that was chaotic too.

I went to Music & Art (now LaGuardia) which was free, Barnard on a New York State scholarship -- the minimum amount because of my father's income. And my sisters went to Walden, New Lincoln, Barnard and NYU. When business was bad, they'd be pulled out of private school and when it was good, they'd be put back in. The family business was as chaotic as my family.

The family business gaveth and tooketh away. Some years it was steak, some years it was my grandmother's home cooked meals. I never learned her amazing recipes because I had to not cook to be free.

So I have always loved men who can cook -- which is fine with me.

Happy Thanksgiving.

I am grateful for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden et al, for my sisters still being alive to taunt me, for my mother being alive -- though without her memory, for my darling husband who cooks -- like his brother and sister, for my four adorable grandchildren, for my darling daughter, who doesn't cook.

Goddess Bless America.

I can cook in my next life.

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