The Case of the Purloined Ice Cream

by Brian on February 13, 2009

in A Parent in Israel,Just For Fun

My wife Jody has been in the States for the last two weeks to celebrate her father’s 70th birthday, leaving me a “single parent” back in Israel. I’m pretty good at handling the day-to-day activities at home, taking care of the kids, keeping the house running. Except in one area.

The kitchen.

Frankly, I’m a total nincompoop when it comes to cooking. I imagine that if I lived alone with no family, I’d be the take out king. Chinese one night, falafel or schwarma the next. There’s no lack of fast food these days in Jerusalem. We even have our choice of upscale sushi bars.

But I have three growing kids who need a well-balanced meal, and money for eating out every night isn’t exactly flowing like Dead Sea water. So before Jody left, she made me a two-week schedule of meals along with a detailed shopping list.

The meals on the list were pretty simple. There was macaroni and cheese, pasta with cheese, grilled cheese toasts, burritos with cheese, lasagna with (you guessed it) cheese.

Actually, there wasn’t anything on the list that didn’t involve flour and cheese, except for one night when I was supposed to make “orange soup” with sweet potatoes, carrots and pumpkin. But it was a long day and I had two intense deadlines that were going to take me easily past midnight. So we ordered pizza instead…with extra cheese.

All of the starch was supposed to be balanced with a nice green salad. Emphasis on the “supposed to” part. I finally got around to cutting up some veggies at the end of the first week and then only when everyone was so constipated we could barely move.

There was also what I fondly like to call the Day of Disasters. It started when 17-year-old Amir and I were putting away the groceries. A large jar of oatmeal was perched just a tad too close to the edge of the pantry.

It crashed to the ground spewing glass and oats everywhere. I thought about scooping up the flakes into a new jar but I was worried that they might be too “crunchy.”

Then when I was carrying a bottle of olive oil to the table to dress the salad, it too slipped out of my hands, landing on a dinner plate and splattering all over 10-year-old Aviv’s pants. The bottle, thankfully, didn’t break, but the plate did.

Next, we sat down to what turned out to be a highly unusual dinner. Merav, our 15-year-old vegetarian daughter was eating out at a friend’s house, so I decided to treat the boys to some meat. At the store, a bag of what looked like meat-stuffed raviolis looked tempting. And a real change – no cheese this time!

I brought it home and heated it up, just like the instructions on the package said, then served the ravioli to my little carnivores. But something just didn’t seem right about it. The meaty dumplings looked forlorn on the plates. Maybe they needed some sort of sauce?

That’s when I realized it. These were kneidelach, meant to be served in soup not on their own. Everyone chuckled, Aviv came to my defense saying they were delicious, but I felt defeated.

As if it couldn’t get any worse, here was the coup de coup de grâce (or in our case the coup de glida): The case of the ice cream. Earlier in the day, we had bought a small carton of Ben & Jerry’s butter pecan. It’s our tradition that when we buy a decadent dessert, we always take a sample as soon as we get home.

Amir was the first in. He pulled off the top. The protective seal was open. He peeked inside. A large chunk was missing. He called down to Merav’s room – had she somehow sneaked in and snagged a bite while we were still bringing up groceries from the car?

No, she said. Same question to Aviv. “There’s ice cream?” he exclaimed.

Someone apparently had opened the ice cream in the store, scooped out a large spoonful, and put it back in the freezer. Both Amir and I instantly felt sick to our stomachs. We wondered if we had been poisoned.

Clearly this all was a conspiracy, a plot hatched in some evil fiend’s mind to make us miss Jody or, when we eventually told her the story, to compel her to take pity on us, rush back from her trip and cook up a nice pot of tofu and broccoli.

Ultimately we decided not tell Jody about our fortnight of eating badly…at least not immediately. Better she enjoys her time in the States fondly thinking of us as an independent and resourceful brood rather than a collection of culinarily-challenged cranks.

And truth be told, we survived just fine. No one was rushed to the emergency room or came down with rickets.

Jody returned last night. Jet lag may delay our departure from kitchen duty another day or so, but it won’t be long before we’re back to “normal life” and the boss is in charge again.

Welcome back sweetie. We’re glad your home!

And oh yes, when you go shopping next week, don’t forget to check the ice cream!

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