Archive for November, 2009

Dress For A Funeral (It’s A Frum Wedding)

Posted in Frum, Girls, Heimish, Me, Politics, Weddings on November 22, 2009 by frumpunk

While my brother and his fiancée (is it frum to say ‘fiancee’?) plan their wedding, I get to sit back and watch so I can learn to plan for my own someday. Sadly for my own laziness, I’ve had to be involved in a small way, coordinating my various relatives expectations of what they can expect and be expected to do at a frum wedding.

My father’s family are not frum at all. Never were, probably never will be. My brother and his betrothed are both recently-flipped-out-in-Israel frum. (Last week he bought a Borsalino. True story.) The only religious functions my dads family has ever had to attend were our bar mitzvas. which compared to a wedding are pretty low scale events. All they had to do was show up in the right section at shul and not wear anything cut too low on top or too high below.

So I was on the phone with my cousin, trying to explain to her what to wear to the wedding, as their idea of traditional wedding outfits wouldn’t quite cut it amongst my brothers new crowd. Until I hit the simplest solution and directed them to with the instructions to “just wear what those girls are wearing”. Thousands of frum girls at hundreds of weddings must give them some idea of the expected outfits, right?

They called me back in less than five minutes wanting to know why everyone seems to be wearing black. Cue a montage of the girls outfits at every wedding I’ve ever been to in my mind and I realized the obvious. “Just dress for a funeral”.

Because it’s true, black is not the new black for frum Jews, it’s all there ever was. And not just for the girls, black suits, black shoes, black hat… if not for the white shirts we’d be invisible at night. The most color I ever see on most frum girls is maybe a pink sash or bow, but only over her all black outfit. Maybe that’s why jean girls are the casual standard, because if formal wear limits you to one color, who wants to have to wear it during regular days too? Although that doesn’t explain why the GAP hoodies are always navy or black as well.

I don’t have a closing. I just have a request for the girls. Why the all black and who enforces it? Because someone must be directing this mono-fashion show.

What It Takes To Disappear

Posted in Vanish on November 21, 2009 by frumpunk

Evan Ratliff has written for Wired one of the best articles I’ve read in a long time. “Vanish – Finding Evan Ratliff” details his attempts to completely disappear for a month while Wired held a $5000 bounty to anyone who could find him before the month was up. It’s facinating reading.

Read it here:

I Can’t Eat This

Posted in Food, Frum, Funny?, Heimish, Israel, Me, Yeshiva on November 15, 2009 by frumpunk

I’ve done time. Hard time. Yeshiva time. I went to yeshiva, post high school for multiple years. When it comes to food, I’m a tough battle-hardened son of a gun. I’ve had the month old cholent. And yes, I cooked that cholent in my dorm rooms George Forman. I’ve choked down my fair share of grease based meat substances.  I’ve got stories of rummaging through left over simcha food that could make your intestines curl up and beg for mercy. I once had milk that was four years old. It was a little crunchy, but still good.

Or so I thought.

One of the standout meals I had this past year was a shabbos lunch spent with a chassidic family in Jerusalem. When I say chassidish I mean Chassidish, capital C. The women ate in the kitchen. Everyone but me owned a streimel. Yiddish was flying haphazardly in all directions. The peyos  were swinging and the gartels were tight. For the appetizer, my host was brought a massive tray with about thirty hard boiled eggs and several whole onions. While we watched, he proceeded to shell the eggs and chop the onion, enrapturing us with what was presumably a chassidic tale from his rebbe about how generations before us had prepared their own egg and onion dishes at the shabbos table while the guests waited slavishly wondering if for the main course, he would be brought a live chicken and all the ingredients of a cholent, to prepare it in front of us and tell us more tales in yiddish, leading us to take mental bets on whether or not we would finally be eating by tuesday.

It’s not that I’m spoilt. I can appreciate different customs and foods. It’s that I’m squeamish. Very American, chicken-soup-and-brisket type. I can try new things, I just don’t like to eat them when they’ve been passed hand to hand to reach me. I was polite, I ate my eggs and fish and it wasn’t bad, but seeing it passed under all those beards made me choke it down. Something that was almost reversed when the next course was passed down – boiled cows hoof. They told me it was boiled for a full day until it was just a blob of wobbly gelatin. I can try new things, but not the part of the cow that spends it’s life wading through feces. And it looked… wrong. It doesn’t look like food, and watching people slap it on bread and eat it with a gusto made me reconsider my previous plans to digest my food rather than regurgitate it across the table. (I found out afterwards that it’s more common than I thought. My grandmother knows what it is, but I still don’t understand why you would eat that part of the cow unless forced to by poverty or some sadistic poretz.)

But nothing could have prepared me for the main course. Initially I breathed a sigh of relief when the cholent was served. Finally, something familiar. Meat, beans and potatoes. Nothing can go wrong with this, right? That was until the boy next to me shows me the special delicacy his mother puts in the cholent. A whole chickens foot. Bones, skin and all. The whole thing, sitting right there on his spoon, practically squawking at me a warning to consider what other delights might my cholent contain. I’ve never lost my appetite faster, especially as he described how she cooks it until the bones are soft so it doesn’t crunch that much in your mouth. I’ve nothing against chicken feet per say, but they don’t look like an appetizing part of this complete breakfast. I spent the rest of the meal picking the potatoes in my bowl, too grossed out to eat the meat, but trying not to appear rude.

I’ve never thought before that there were things I simply couldn’t stomach to try and eat. Years of yeshiva food is supposed to steel you for anything. By all rights I should be able to eat anything anywhere. But I learned there’s a difference between spoiled litvish food and properly cooked chassidish delicacies. And I’ll risk the infection of a piece of schnitzel from three months ago thats been sitting under my dorm mates bed, before I’ll attempt to eat a fresh chicken foot, cows hoof or even a fresh piece of salmon passed hand to hand to hand.

Mazel Tov Part II

Posted in Me, Shidduchim, Weddings on November 3, 2009 by frumpunk

I was never “in the parsha”. I never had a dating stage. I somehow managed to go from “I’m not dating right now” to my current status of “semi-engaged”. But before that period, I got the usual amount of people telling me I should totally go out with this or that girl. Because they’re just so heimish and lovely and if I procrastinate I’ll miss out. (Proved you wrong.)

My brother went back to Israel two years ago when he got laid off from his job. After a few months he realized he wanted to stay in Israel for the long haul and started getting in touch with shadchans, shadchonim, hockers, sem teachers, yentas, ballabustas and anyone else who might know the perfect girl and felt like playing matchmaker. About a month ago he told me he was finally dating someone he really liked. Two weeks ago he told me he thought this just might work out. And then a few days ago he confided in me he was going to propose to her. After hanging up with him something was nagging at me about this whole thing. The girl sounded familiar, but I was sure I didn’t know her. Suddenly I recalled a conversation I had with someone over a year ago:

Friend: Hey, I have the perfect girl for you! She went to sem with me and she’s really sweet, nice and funny and (insert adjectives here). Sarah * from *. You should think about dating her.

Me: I’m not exactly dating right now, but I’ll consider it…

And that’s who he was dating. And now they’re engaged. At the l’chaim I asked her if she remembered my friend from sem. I then passed on her mazel tov and sent an email to my friend asking her if she remembered suggesting her to me. Her response: “Well at least I had the right family! I’m getting better.”