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Thursday, December 08, 2022
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The meal had been going wonderfully. The meat roll (pastrami and smoked turkey) and salmon gefilte fish had been delicious. The chu­lent was just so, not too runny, not too dry. The portabella mushroom chicken was perfection itself. Even the potato kugel tasted better than usual. But then Elisheva was an excellent cook, so none of this came as a big surprise. The guests seemed appropriately pleased.

Dessert was a different story. The apple pie looked beautiful. The crust was flaky. The ap­ples appeared fresh and juicy. Still, looks can be deceiving. After the pieces of pie had been distributed around the table, with a dollop of pareve vanilla ice cream, the reaction was, to put it politely, mixed.

Rochelle Blumenthal stopped mid-chew, her eyes widening in disbelief. Her husband Stuart politely chewed his first bite and swal­lowed it, but he didn’t look so happy. Their son Mordechai said something like “blech” be­fore spitting his first nibble into his napkin, and their daughter Nechama had smelled her slice and refused to allow any part of it to approach her lips.

Elisheva hadn’t noticed at first. She had been absentmindedly cutting the pie slices, dishing the ice cream, and passing the plates down the table while conversing with Ruthie Lerman about her daughter’s upcoming bat mitzvah. But when she looked up, she could tell something was amiss. Something was definite­ly wrong with the pie.

No one made eye contact with Elishe­va. How bad could it be? She cut herself a piece and gave it a sniff. Her nose wrin­kled. It didn’t smell like any pie she had ever baked. She put a small piece in her mouth. An array of tastes and spices flood­ed her mouth, none of which resembled apple pie. It was an epically bad pie, worthy of mention in the Dessert Hall of Shame, if there were such a thing.

Elisheva looked over at her husband Gabe. “Gabriel, what did you do?”

“Nothing.”

“Really? Because my pie recipe is really pretty straightforward. There’s no easy way to mess it up.”

“Yes, it’s a good recipe, almost fool­proof,” Gabe said.

“Almost foolproof?”

“I may have tweaked it a little bit.”

“O.K., let’s have it.”

“I mixed the apples and the lemon juice with the margarine and the flour just like the recipe says. I even used two different kinds of apples, McIntosh and Granny Smith.”

“So far, so good.”

“I threw in the brown sugar and a pinch of salt.”

“You’re batting a thousand.”

“Next I added some raisins for taste and a teaspoon of cinnamon.”

“Nice touch.”

“Then I started thinking it might be nice to add a little zip to the pie.”

“Here it comes,” Elisheva groaned.

“I put in a tablespoon of rum and a light sprinkling of nutmeg.”

“That doesn’t sound so bad,” Rochelle said.

“Wait for it,” Elisheva said.”

“Then I thought maybe some extra spic­es might make this pie more interesting. A touch of the exotic.”

“Almost there,” Elisheva said.

“I added a teaspoon of cumin.”

“There it is,” Elisheva said. “The payoff.”

“Oy,” Rochelle said.

“Then I went with a dash of allspice.”

“Ouch,” Ruthie said.

“And I topped it off with a smidgin of coriander and curry.”

“Fantastic,” Elisheva said. “Is that it?”

“Yeah, that’s all of it.”

“That really is fantastic,” Stuart said. “It fits in with this week’s parsha perfectly.”

“How so?” Gabriel asked, hopeful for a last minute reprieve.

“In Va’etchanan, Moshe tells the Jewish people Lo tosifu al hadavar asher anochi mitzaveh etchem velo tigre’u mimenu lish­mor et mitzvot Hashem Elokeichem asher anochi mitzaveh etchem. You shall not add to the word I command you, nor shall you subtract from it, to observe the command­ments of Hashem, your God, that I com­mand you. From this pasuk we learn you should not try to add to God’s command­ments, because they’re perfect the way they are and can’t be improved in any way.

“You’re pie teaches the same lesson, Gabe. By adding to the recipe, you detract­ed from it—in a big way, I might add. So just like with the Torah, sometimes less is more.”

“So you see honey, my pie taught an im­portant Torah lesson,” Gabe said sheepish­ly.

“Uh huh.”

“Did this experience teach you any­thing?”

“Yes,” said Elisheva. “The next time we have guests, you’re in charge of the drinks.”

“Great. Can I mix up my famous iced tea?”

“No, water will be fine.”

By Larry Stiefel

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