April 18, 2024
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April 18, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

That’s always the question when you go away for Shabbos: “What should I bring?” There’s no easy answer. The hosts are providing the food. So what do you bring? And usually you’re like, “Oh, I should bring food!”

Of course, you can ask them, “What should I bring?” But then you get, “Oh, just bring yourself.” Which sounds super passive-aggressive.

One of these times I’m going to show up without a suit.

“What?! You said to just bring myself!”

And anyway, asking, “What should we bring you?” takes away the surprise.

“Here’s that thing we told you we’d make.”

“Okay, the fridge is over there.”

It’s all a very exciting exchange.

Flowers

A lot of people buy flowers, which are nice because they get to sit right in the middle of the table so that nobody can see each other.

But then the host has to keep them alive. At least as long as you’re there. Also, you have to keep them alive. There’s nothing else that you have to keep alive all the way to where you’re going, sometimes in a suitcase on a bus. You’re not bringing them a pet…

Okay, what if this is the type of family in which the husband buys the wife flowers? Then they have to find a second place for your flowers.

And forget surfaces to put the flowers on—who says they have enough vases? Maybe get them a vase.

Make Something for The Seudah

Like you can bring a kugel or a salad or something. And the nice thing about bringing a salad is that you can assemble it when you get there. You can’t do that with a kugel.

“I hope your oven isn’t fleishig!”

Though if you’re making part of the seudah, you do have to ask. You can’t just show up with something. Because the seudah can’t just have, for example, two soups.

Also, asking, “What dish can we bring?” is a lot of times putting the host on the spot. They say, “I guess you can make this…”

If they say, “I guess,” you might as well not make it. They are not counting on your thing. I went to my sister the other week, and she said, “We don’t really do dessert, so I guess you can bring a cake if you want.” I got to their house, and they had three kinds of cake. I’d brought the fourth.

Candy Platter

If the host has kids, you might want to bring a candy dish. With mechitzaAs, so the candy doesn’t touch. That way you can be annoyed later when you just want to relax after the seudah and schmooze with the adults, but the kids are still making a racket because of all the candy.

Adults can like candy too, let’s be honest. But if adults like a certain candy, they buy that candy. They don’t buy a dish of six types of candy of which they like maybe three.

Okay, but you’re saying, “Well, I know him, and he likes that kind of candy.”

And once the hosts finish the four candies they like, the dish has to sit in their closet forever, in this big container with four empty slots. Or they can dump all the remnants of the various platters into one platter later and give that away. Which is the other nice thing about candy dishes—you can make your own candy dish. Most stores don’t tell you this.

Every candy dish must have:

  1. Something chewy.
  2. Something sour.
  3. Something chocolate-covered. Is it pretzels? Is it cookies? Is it nuts? I hope no one’s allergic.
  4. Lentils, in case they’re in mourning.
  5. Some kind of candy that is one color on the outside and another color on the inside.
  6. Something you’ve had in your closet forever that you sure were not eating, but maybe they will.

Wine

I don’t know much about wine, so I always feel weird buying wines for people because I’m going to people who actually know their liquors and I’m showing up with something that I thought looked pretty good, and they’re like, “I think your wine is a joke.” And I’m like, “Well, I hosted you last time, and I thought your candy platter was a joke.”

You don’t go to somebody who knows more than you about a category and bring them something in that category. “I know you spent your whole life developing opinions about this, but here’s what I decided on in the five minutes I had in the store. That the guy helped me find. And he saw me coming a mile away. Add it to your collection!”

“Here’s my $10 wine; where should I put it down? Should I put it between your $75 wines, or what?”

To me, the difference between two wines—any two wines—is not really more than the difference between Coke and Pepsi, where it’s like I know there’s a difference, but not enough that if Coke was $50 more than Pepsi, I would choose the Coke.

The host is thinking, “We wanted to show him what a good wine was, but now we have to drink his stuff.”

I do know that it doesn’t have to be wine; you can bring whiskey or bourbon or schnapps or—I’m actually not sure if schnapps is a separate thing. And they’re like, “Oohh, is that single malt?” And I don’t know the science. I don’t know how they make the booze.

“Well, single malt is better.”

In what way? I would think that the more malt the better. If you don’t like malt, don’t drink malt. Is malt an ingredient? I don’t…

Also, if you can only tell how many malts there are because you read the label, you don’t really like it better.

So overall, I say that maybe as a guest you should bring something you know that you will eat or drink. That way it will get eaten, and you won’t be upset that the host had nothing you could eat. Of course, if that’s how it is, it can get insulting.

“I brought my own cholent. I know I don’t like yours…”

“Not insulted. The cholent goes by the guests.”


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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