Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

8 Av 5760 - August 9, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Home and Family
Who Says What?

by Yisca Shimony

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the place over and what I saw was a tinier kitchen, all crowded, walls tiled with old fashioned white, so completely outdated.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 feel.

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 time.


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 them work.

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?"


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