Saturday, March 25, 2023

Having Our Cake and Eating it Too

I think at some point my kids are going to figure out that birthday suppers are a scam. Though I don’t think they’ll care.

Most years, our family does birthday suppers, which is when whichever child is having a birthday gets to decide what we’re having for supper. It’s very exciting, because usually my wife and I decide. And also make it.

My kids also get to suggest a cake for the nearest Shabbos, which we don’t mind, because it takes a lot of the deciding from us. We need a cake for Shabbos anyway, and the time difference between making one cake and another is not nearly as long as it takes to flip through cookbooks and wait for one of the pictures to talk to us. And it’s not that important for the adults in the house to love the Shabbos cake every single week anyway.

The most common Shabbos cake my kids pick is Pesach brownies. Yes, this is hands-down the best type of brownies, but it doesn’t count as “a Shabbos cake that I have to make anyway,” because we can’t make a mezonos on it. We still have to make a second cake for kiddush. Which is probably now going to be banana muffins featuring the bananas that have been dying in the middle of the kitchen table.

Though actually, two of our kids’ birthdays are on Sukkos, so the Pesach brownies do have a function. Also, it turns out that Pesach brownies are pretty easy to make when your kitchen is not in a hideously inefficient Pesach setup that is 100% “Which cabinets do we have available?” and 0% “Which cabinets are we instinctively going to try to open?” In fact, the hardest part of making Pesach brownies during the year is carefully digging through the Pesach cabinet in your PPE to see if you have any potato starch. Or subbing in cornstarch and seeing if anyone notices.

The birthday suppers are generally not on Shabbos, though, because my kids don’t want to be locked into specifically picking certain types of foods. Even if Shabbos is their birthday. You have to have a little flexibility. Like if your child’s birthday is Pesach, this can turn into a whole thing:

“Okay… for karpas I want potatoes. I like the thin Satmar matzos. For marror, let’s see… what marror do I like? Can I say that I get Romaine lettuce and everyone else has to do horseradish?”

But this works both ways because if the supper they pick is a hassle to make, they can’t have it on a work night. It has to be a Sunday. And it’s going to be a hassle to make because otherwise why are they picking foods that we always have? Were they born yesterday?

Well, technically, they were born today.

So it’s usually going to be something time-consuming. Like, for example, one of our kids always picks lasagna because we don’t have lasagna that often. We mostly just have it on special occasions because it tastes exactly like 5 other things we can make a lot quicker.

The thing is that technically any Sunday a kid can suggest what we’re going to have for supper, and we’ll usually make it, because the hardest part of preparing supper, as a parent, is figuring out what to make. Most Sundays I’ll walk around the house taking suggestions from literally anybody. If a stranger walked by the house and yelled out a suggestion, I would take it. So if my kids really want a certain thing for supper, they can just ask for it. But most Sundays the kids say, “I don’t know,” and then they complain later.

So really what this whole birthday supper thing (and birthday cake thing) is about is me having a specific kid commit to figuring out what I should make on a night that’s good for me AND guaranteeing that at least that one kid will not complain about it, and also no one else can complain to me;they can only complain to that kid. I will throw him right under the bus about it.

I think the one benefit that they do get is that whatever they pick, I don’t ask them to help me make it. It’s your birthday so you don’t help make it. Though unfortunately, sometimes I also can’t ask my wife to help make it. She’s like, “You think it’s their birthday? Who do you think did all the work?”

I’m telling you—you fall asleep during one all-night labor, and you never hear the end of it.

But even when it comes to who makes the supper, there are exceptions. For example, one of our kids always picks homemade pizza, except that she makes it way better than anyone else, so we have her make it. We’re going to have her eat inferior homemade pizza on her birthday?

One year, she’s going to wise up and realize that we would allow her to make a supper of her choice on basically any night of the year. We’re very nice parents.

Point is that birthday suppers are a scam. And yes, I know that a lot of impressionable children read my articles, but I don’t mind revealing this, because what are they going to do about it? Request that this should be the one night that we DON’T ask them what they want? Just let everyone else choose? Birthday suppers are the way to go, because everyone wins.

At least the parents do. But anyway, we’re the ones who had the kid, so we should be the main ones that benefit here. For the birthday person in general, what does a birthday celebrate? You made it another year? These are kids. Who do you think is primarily responsible for them making it another year? We’re the ones who feed them.

Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia and other magazines. He has also published eight books and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected]

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