Shabbat Dinner In December, 2011

The night that the Young Jewish Professionals Social Group1 of [Municipality] had their inaugural oneg (which in this context meant a Shabbat dinner “after-party” with snacks and alcohol), Then-Boyfriend and I had Shabbat dinner with an elderly neighbor. It was my idea. It was a mitzvah, but really, it was that I wanted to think of myself as better than fellow 20-somethings who only wanted to hang out with fellow 20-somethings. So the week before, I emailed Elderly Neighbor (he was hard of hearing) and told him we would bring over Shabbat dinner and eat together. Elderly Neighbor liked the idea.

I’ll make the soup.

Elderly Neighbor, in an email

As promised, I made tons of food for Shabbat dinner: chicken, sides, and dessert, and Then-Boyfriend and I brought it all over to Elderly Neighbor’s house. We talked, Elderly Neighbor sharing stories about fighting in WWII and stories about his late wife. Elderly Neighbor served the chicken soup he’d made.

It was, by far, the absolute best chicken soup I’d ever had in my entire life. Golden, perfectly-flavored broth just loaded with chicken, vegetables, noodles, and tons of herbs. No other soup could hold a candle to this one. Don’t tell her this, but my mother’s recipe didn’t even come close. The three of us ate bowl after bowl of this soup and didn’t touch any of the other food I’d made2. Afterwards, Then-Boyfriend and I went to the Young Jewish Professionals Social Group Event.

The photo really doesn’t do justice. Photo by JÉSHOOTS:

Time passed. I didn’t think to have another Shabbat dinner with Elderly Neighbor again. (I was too busy socializing with cool new friends from the Young Jewish Professionals Social Group.)

Elderly Neighbor died. I never got the recipe.

This chicken soup was
the best soup I’d ever had –
Chef gone forever


1I anonymized the name of the group. There is no relationship between this blog and this group.

2Before you ask, no, the reason we didn’t eat the food was not because I cooked it. Surprisingly, I actually didn’t screw up Shabbat dinner that time. Elderly Neighbor’s soup was just that good such that we filled up on soup and didn’t bother with anything else.




    • I feel the mixture sadness and hope as well. And yet I’d focus on the positive and the goodness of what you’ve done, the time you spent with Elderly Neighbor, and the stories you’ve heard, rather than the missed opportunities. How many of the other neighbors dined with Elderly Neighbor like you have?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank you. Other people IRL have made that point as well. The thing I struggle with is yes, we made Shabbat dinner for him one time and visited him on Shabbat one afternoon, but there were so many weeks that we didn’t and just let him spend Shabbat alone. But people acted like I was a wonderful person because one time I did one nice thing.


    • That is a good way of putting it. My motives were part altruistic and part “look at how I am so much better than those other people”

      Thank you for your words. I’m not published elsewhere and in fact, I was taking a break from writing and blogging. Your comment gives me renewed motivation.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Please do keep writing. I think that, beyond what you did or did not do out of pure altruism for the man, the piece might be said to speak to larger social trends…The neighbor comes from a generation that did a lot more home cooking, for example…More recent generations do a lot less family togetherness…On a side note, have you read Outwitting History, the Amazing Story of the Man Who Rescued a Million Yiddish books? The role of food in your story made me think of that one. It’s a fun read and quite unique in my experience! Looking forward to reading your next posts!

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I”m putting this post of yours on my “synchronicity list.” We’ve been watching a British TV show called “The Cafe,” a very low-key but compelling show about a woman and her friends and family as she runs a cafe at a seaside resort. My S.O. and I were just talking last night about why we like it so much, because basically not much happens–except it does, only it’s small, everyday, human things–the disappointments, the little victories, the mistakes, and the relationships. I realized as a kind of epiphany that this is essentially all a good story is. And then I read your post, which was great. I mean, story tellers are allowed to occasionally blow up a bridge, or murder a character, but without the above, they got nothing. And that the story is true, and you are the protagonist, very well done.
    BTW, I recommend The Cafe. 1/2 hour episodes, 2 seasons so far, on Amazon Prime. You may need closed captions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Honored to have made the Synchronicity List, and to receive such praise! I think you hit the nail on the head about storytelling. I was working on a novel and fellow workshop attendees were definitely responding to the everyday human relationship elements, like holiday dinner conversation and the protagonist’s relationship with her mother. Unfortunately, ~6000 words in, I realized I have unresolvable plot problems, so I set the project aside for now. But you may have a point that maybe story doesn’t necessarily require blowing up bridges or murder. Hmm…

      In any case, I can’t take full credit for story telling skill here because as you remarked, this is a 100% true story. I didn’t have to do any plot imagination – it really played out like that.

      Thank you for the TV Show recommendation! I’ll have to check it out!

      Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a good point. Even if I’d asked for it, Elderly Neighbor could have left out a secret ingredient to ensure I’d never get the recipe quite right. Some recipe-owners can be quite possessive and devious like that. I’ll never know if Elderly Neighbor was that sort, but anything is possible. Especially with signature recipes like that.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Like a laser beam, I noticed that you spell “oneg” with a lower case o (correctly, in my opinion) because you’re merely referring to it. My eldest sister believes it should always be capitalized regardless. I promise not to tell your mother!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Normal stock pot. Enough for 3 people to have ~3 servings and it was a sufficiently filling soup such that no one was really interested in the rest of the meal. I was mildly insulted about that. We are the leftovers later. Oh and the Young Professionals Social Group are the dessert (it was so-so, but no one was going to complain about more dessert, even if it kinda sucked). I don’t know what Elderly Neighbor’s recipe was, but it was amazing


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