It was Thursday, and I had had a very busy day; my feet were
hurting terribly. I was expecting guests for Shabbos and in
my little kitchen, it seemed harder than ever to cook, and
clean up the mess afterwards. In my eyes, any small dish made
the place look more cluttered. I reached a point where I had
to take a break.
In the airy living room, the newspaper awaited me. I settled
down in a comfortable chair and laid the paper in my lap. "DO
YOU BELONG TO THIS GENERATION?" an ad exclaimed. "UPDATE YOUR
HOME! START WITH YOUR KITCHEN!" Along with these words were
pictures of beautiful, brightly lit kitchens -- spacious and
convenient. A feast for the eye and an ache for my poor
pocket. This was not doing me any good at all.
I got up and went back into my kitchen, looked the place over
and what I saw was a tinier kitchen, all crowded, walls tiled
with old fashioned white, so completely outdated. Still
holding the ad in my hand, I kept comparing the ad and the
room I was standing in. The kitchen in the ad was so
inviting! How I longed to have a roomy, modern kitchen just
like that one! How awful and depressing my kitchen made me
I was angry at my inability to produce an instant change. Not
even in the forseeable future could I dream of achieving any
improvement. In frustrated frenzy, I attacked the walls of my
white kitchen with a cleaning solution and some
shmattes, and mind you, it was nowhere near Erev
Pesach! In addition to the walls, I scrubbed the outside of
the refrigerator, the oven, the counters and cupboards -- all
of them a painted white! Not even formica! In the back of my
mind, I couldn't help being satisfied that I only had a small
size kitchen to clean...
That night I went to bed aching and angry. "Why," I couldn't
help asking, "couldn't someone create a kitchen which cleans
itself?" At last I closed my eyes and was transported back in
My grandmother, Bobbe Beila, had come to visit. What a
surprise! In her honor, I ran to the kitchen to prepare a cup
of coffee. Bobbe Beila was right behind me. I stopped short.
What would she say to my tiny kitchen? I didn't have to wait
long. With round eyes, she took it all in. "What a beautiful
kitchen! How white and clean! You must work very hard to keep
it this way!" She nodded knowingly. "Where did you learn all
this? Not in school..."
In a flash, I recalled Bobbe Beila's own kitchen. No tiles.
No refrigerator. No gas oven -- not even sinks and faucets.
Only one huge barrel of water with a tap at its bottom. What
a wonderful invention! This was hoisted on a wooden table.
On this table stood the noisy primus kerosene burner which
was used for fast cooking. In the far corner stood two round
ovens lit by wicks and also fueled with kerosene. The space
in between served as a work area.
By the table on a chair stood a metal basin which was used as
a sink. Next to it was a bowl filled with sand, used as
scrubbing detergent. Pots and pans hung on nails on the
walls. Scrubbing these pots was truly hard work. Plates were
piled along a bare wooden shelf. Bread and vegetables were
kept in a crude boxlike chest, protected from crawling
insects and flies by a net. This stood in one corner. In
another corner was the ice box, with real ice!
My grandmother worked hard in this kitchen and everything was
made from scratch: koshering chickens, grinding fish and
meat, making noodles, cakes and even bread and challos. It
was necessary to replenish the ice box with a new block of
ice each day and empty out the melted one from the previous
day. Kerosene was bought from a vendor with a horse and wagon
who announced his arrival with a bell. This, too, had to be
shlepped home and poured carefully into the ovens to make
Life was hard, but no one knew any better. Now, as I recalled
Bobbe Beila's kitchen, I saw my own kitchen in a completely
different light. A white one, which was not so bad, after
all! Modern. In fact, it looked like a wonderful place to
work in. It made me feel proud as I looked all around me.
I woke up the next morning with two voices ringing in my
head. Bobbe Beila's -- admiring my cooking habitat, and the
one in the ad calling me to "REMODEL! IT'S ABOUT TIME!"
I went back to preparing for Shabbos and didn't feel so bad.
In the back of my mind, I smiled and asked myself, "Which
voice should I listen to?"