Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

5 Iyar 5760 - May 10, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Home and Family
Tuna Patties Revisited
by Leah Subar

"So," said my future husband with a grin, "do you like to cook?"

I knew nothing about cooking and told him so frankly. "However," I added with the self assurance found only among the young, "I'm sure that someday I'll be gourmet."

He believed me, and a few months later we were married. Fortunately, sheva brochos eliminated all obligations to prove my culinary flair. The first day after sheva brochos wasn't difficult either. Breakfast was bagels and cream cheese, orange juice and a fruit salad. Lunch turned out to be a breeze. Mrs. Gordon, who had made sheva brochos the night before, sent us home with some of the extra good stuff she served. We were still full at dinnertime, and breakfast the next day was the same as the day before. So it wasn't until lunchtime that I mustered courage and faith to prepare my new husband a meal.

He would be coming home from yeshiva in one half hour. I opened my new cookbook and began perusing. After looking through the few recipes, I learned my first lesson: start early. I frantically flipped pages until I chose the easiest, quickest, least elaborate recipe I could find, and one of my favorites: tuna patties. The recipe called for two eggs, finely chopped onion, a bit of matza meal, pepper, and of course, tuna. Into the frying pan it all went, sizzle, sizzle, flip, more sizzling and onto the plate with the suggested tomato and celery garnish. I had successfully made my first meal. My husband was so proud. I could see it written all over his face; the tuna patties were delicious.

By the end of our first year, I was well on my way to making more elaborate, sophisticated meals. Still, the memory of that precious first meal never faded and one night, just for fun, I thought I'd surprise my husband with a second round. Just for the applause. He came into the kitchen while I was heating the oil.

"Hmmm, what are you making?"

"Tuna Patties," I announced with twinkling eyes. "Remember Tuna Patties? It was our first cooked meal, you know. Remember? Wasn't it fun?"

"Oh, right. Tuna patties. Errr, yes, fun. Well, how about going out tonight, instead?"

"Going out? What do you mean? You loved my tuna patties. Don't you remember?"

"Er, ahem, yes. I do remember."

"You mean you don't like my tuna patties? But you said you liked them. You didn't? Why didn't you say so? Tell me the truth. Did you like my tuna patties?" (I left out the "or not", just to be safe.)

"Did I? Well, the tomato and celery added a very nice touch." Pretty safe.

Off went the apron, on went my shoes and coat. We headed out the door for dinner. After all, a good garnish is gornisht.

Nearly a decade passed since that fateful night. In time, I learned to cook and bake with the best of them. Still, the revelation of my husband's disfavor left a scar. For example, whenever I'd burn dinner or add too much salt, I'd hear a voice: "And tuna patties, too!"

The voice didn't limit its jurisdiction to my kitchen, either; failure in any area would create this knee- jerk response in my brain. The publishers rejected my picture book story. "And tuna patties, too!" The dentist says I have a cavity. "And tuna patties, too!" That woman cut right in front of me as if I didn't even exist. "And tuna patties, too!" It became a catch-all parable for disappointment, pain, frustration and failure.

Needless to say, I never made tuna patties again for my husband. And, in fact, I don't know what got into me the day I thought I'd try slipping them onto my kids' plates. I just didn't want to make hot dogs. I just didn't want to make toasted cheese. I just didn't want to make anything. In six minutes the kids would be walking in the door. As if on automatic pilot, I opened the cans. "Why am I doing this to myself?" I asked. "Because it's lunchtime and my children are counting on a reliable, consistent mother to be there with good food when they come home. So where's the good food? Just keep moving. The results are not in your hands."

When they'd tell me they don't like it, I'd respond that they don't have to eat it and that I'd be happy to make something else but, of course, they'd have to be patient until I prepare whatever they decide. That would buy me time and preserve my reputation of being reliable and consistent. So I continued - two eggs, finely chopped onion, a bit of matza meal, pepper and, of course, tuna. Into the frying pan it all went, sizzle sizzle, flip, more sizzling and onto the plates with the suggested tomato and celery garnish.

In walked the kids. Everyone sat at the kitchen table.

"I don't like it," said the three-year-old. She popped off her chair and headed for the living room to play with some toys. That was my cue. I reassured her that since today's lunch was a little experiment, I'd be happy to prepare something else, but, of course, she would have to be patient.

Meanwhile, there was a big stir at the table. "Wow! Yummy!" the others exclaimed. I couldn't believe my ears. "What are these, Mommy? They're delicious!"

With the calm and cool found only among the mature, I responded casually. "Tuna patties." I couldn't keep up the act, however. I threw my arms around them and told them the entire story. They couldn't believe how anyone wouldn't like my tuna patties. They were so well formed and browned just right. Not too much onion, just enough pepper - they were simply perfect!

I serve tuna patties nearly every week now for lunch. (The three-year-old eats a sandwich.) And now, when the publisher [not YN - we haven't rejected anything of L.S. yet] rejects my picture book or whenever I am misunderstood or otherwise taken for granted, I just say, "And tuna patties, too!" But with hind- and foresight. Now I know that to everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven, including Tuna Patties.


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