« A knack for missing opportunities | Main | Photo Friday (vol. LXXI) [mundane edition] »

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Bridge over troubled waters

The first year of marriage is a period of adjustment.  Two people who have grown accustomed to being beholden to nobody suddenly find themselves sharing bathroom and closet space, not to mention having to check with someone else about what to have for dinner.

It's no small wonder that many marriages founder in the stormy waters of this first year.

When I first met my wife she was a vegetarian of long standing (12 years) who was teetering on the precipice of reintroducing a little meat into her diet.  I, on the other hand, considered the sprig of parsley that arrived as a garnish on a steak to be a 'side salad'.

During that first year our eating habits slowly gravitated towards a shaky middle ground.  I acknowledged the existence of vegetables other than the boiled carrot from the pot of Shabbat chicken soup... and Zahava's occasional nibbling at meat allowed her blood iron level to creep into non-anemic territory for the first time in over a decade.

Then towards the end of our first year of marriage we experienced a marital crisis while driving across the Verrazano Narrows Bridge that threatened to toss our fledgling union onto the rocks below.

I need to stop at this point and provide a little background information for the uninitiated.

The 9th day of the Hebrew month of Av (called Tisha B'Av) is a date on which all manner of horrible things have befallen the Jews throughout history.  The destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem were only two of the terrible fates that befell us on this date. 

Tisha B'Av is observed with a full day of fasting and refraining from all personal pleasures such as marital relations, and even the wearing jewelry and leather. If you see your Jewish friends wearing tennis shoes with business attire in August... this is probably the explanation.

Anyway, the nine days leading up to this tragic anniversary are universally referred to as (surprise, surprise) 'the nine days'.  During 'the nine days', observant Jews refrain from listening to music, avoid public celebrations and abstain from drinking wine or eating meat.  The only exception to this last rule is on the Shabbat that falls during 'the nine days', when meat is permitted.

Back to our story...

During the first year of marriage it is quite common for a couple to be invited out to other people's homes for shabbat meals... or even for the entire Shabbat if the friends doing the inviting don't live within walking distance.  Zahava and I enjoyed many such invitations and were blessed to have friends who were accomplished hosts and chefs.

So, towards the end of our first year of marriage we received an invitation to stay with friends of Zahava's who lived in Staten Island for the Shabbat that fell during 'the nine days'.  I didn't know them, but since this first year was also supposed to also be a period of getting to meet one another's extended circle of friends, this wasn't really surprising.

Anyhoo, after having gone almost a full week without meat of any kind,  we were in the car on the way to visit these friends and the very idea of a nice plate of shabbat chicken or maybe even moist slice from a roast of beef was making me weak with anticipation. 

You have to understand... 'the nine days' is a difficult period for me.  I don't just enjoy meat.  My food pyramid is the opposite of what you learned in Jr. High School health-ed class: 

The Treppenwitz Food Pyramid

The broad base of my food pyramid consists of protein and fat (meat & poultry)... the middle is more protein and fat (cheeses, fish, eggs, etc.)... and the top (where you were probably guessing carbohydrates might reside) is an odd grab-bag including heavy cream, coffee, bourbon, and the occasional soup carrot or parsley. Oh yeah, to avoid succumbing to things like 'scurvy' or 'beriberi' I take a daily multivitamin.

So here we are driving across one of the longest, busiest bridges in the world with no possibility of turning around and going home, when my lovely bride figures the time is right to casually mention that the friends we were going to visit during the only carnivorous window of opportunity in 'the nine days' were vegetarians.  No wait, let me correct that... that they were strict VEGANS!

You can imagine that I didn't buy her excuse that it had 'just slipped her mind'.

It turned out that her friends were as nice as nice could be.  Really.  Salt of the earth... bright, personable.   But the food.... Oh.  My.  G-d.  The food.  To my carnivorous palate, everything tasted and smelled like carob or cardboard.  I mean, how many different ways can you prepare tofu and sprouts??? 

I'm sure that to people averse to eating animal products their menu was a veritable shmorgesborg of earthly delights.  But for me it was like that forlorn, empty feeling one gets while standing in the doorway of some earthy-crunchy health food store, breathing in that stale vitamin and bean curd aroma.

I'm happy to say that Zahava and I weathered that particular storm, and our marriage was stronger for it.  But you can bet that in every subsequent years we have stayed at home to enjoy a carnivorous banquet on the Shabbat during 'the nine days'... which starts this year at sunset tomorrow.

Is it Shabbat yet?  [~drool~]


Posted by David Bogner on July 27, 2006 | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Bridge over troubled waters:


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Great post!! I remember those diet (and spending) conflicts from the early years of our marriage as well. . . so much of our energy was spent on whether the way my family did things was better than the way his did. . .

Posted by: mother in israel | Jul 27, 2006 1:08:17 PM

That brought a tear to my eye...
Sounds like we should get together for a BBQ, as our food pyramids are pretty similar. (Well, except the cheeses. I'm not a dairy person. Which, of course, makes the 9 days even more treachorous for me. But I digress...) Our wives could probably get together for a nice tofu salad with quinoa on the side. We, too, have a story about veggie friends of my wife who invited us for a Shabbat meal - fortunately just lunch and I knew beforehand, so I had food waiting for me when I got home. Suffice it to say that everything that they made had cheese in it that I couldn't eat, and they somehow didn't have challot - they had a couple pitot instead. Wow. I couldn't wait to get home and eat.

Only about 30 hours 'til Shabbat. Just under 29 if you bring it in early - which although I generally oppose, I may have to make an exception this week for pikuach nefesh.

I can do this...

Posted by: steve kirshner | Jul 27, 2006 1:18:43 PM

Shabbat here is early (winter). And timezone is ahead of Israel. So we get our chance for a good roast in less than 24 hours! ;)

Posted by: Sarah | Jul 27, 2006 2:31:19 PM

Men suffer the lack of beef - women suffer the restriction on washing clothes. Just thinking about that pile of laundry waiting for me at the end of Tisha B'Av adds to the sorrow...

Posted by: westbankmama | Jul 27, 2006 3:20:55 PM

That was truly a heart-stirring recollection, thank you. One of my crazy-right-wing college friends (I was a liberal at the time) once said that America was build on two things – war and beef.

I guess if you have the misfortune to be dealing with the former, you should at least enjoy the later. I wish you victory and various manifestations of cooked cow.

Posted by: Dcotor Bean | Jul 27, 2006 3:47:10 PM

Something tells me you are finishing a mesechta soon? You forgot that exception...bon apetite:)

Posted by: Jewish Blogmeister | Jul 27, 2006 4:51:20 PM

Dude! Chill! We're only one day in!

Posted by: psychotoddler | Jul 27, 2006 4:51:33 PM

Boy do I ever relate to this! I'm a major carnivore and find that aspect of the nine days very difficult (the other hard one is lukewarm showers). On Shabbos Chazon, I always eat leftovers from Shabbos dinner/lunch for Shalosh Seudos, so as to get in that one last dose of meat before the austerity program restarts.

Posted by: Elie | Jul 27, 2006 5:09:25 PM

I just don't understand vegans. One of these days I'll have to sit down with a few and discuss the merits of their lifestyle over a good steak.

Posted by: Ozzie | Jul 27, 2006 5:54:51 PM

Reminds me of my single days. Every so often a group of us would get together to make shabbat ourselves. The menu usually consisted of meat, with a side of meat, a meat appitizer, cholent, and chicken soup (our vegtable).

Posted by: Max Power | Jul 27, 2006 5:59:07 PM

What about fish? We know you like it:


Posted by: Dave (Balashon) | Jul 27, 2006 7:14:27 PM

After my appendectomy, I was on a diet of "clear liquids" (i.e., nothing more substantial than gellatin and broth) for the best part of a week. Because I was hospitalized that entire time (since the appendix had ruptured and the doctor kept me on a anti-biotic IV drip to steve off peritonitis) the menu from which I selected my meals was rather limited: Beef bullion, or chicken bullion? Grape Kool-Aid or lime Kool-Aid?

A few days into my starvation, I was given a bit of relef and was put on "whole" liquids which included a few dairy products and semi-opaque soups. But finally the day came when, after the doctor's morning exam, he declared me fit enough to have "no dietary restrictions".

I ordered fried chicken for lunch. When my noon meal arrived, it was all I could do not to drool all over my hospital bib in anticipation of Colonel Sander's finest.

The tray was set before me and I lifted the metal cover over my plate, only to find ... cottage cheese and lime Jello. It was more than I could bear, so giving up any notion of eating, I proceeded to smeer my food all over the tray -- spelling out gooey messages that (frankly) aren't fit for publication.

Thereafter the wait staff apparently either got the doctors orders or the point of my graffiti -- not sure which. All that is to say, "Trepp, I can identify."

Posted by: Bob | Jul 27, 2006 7:30:16 PM

Oh. My. G-d.


14 years later and you STLL can't forget this?!

Shall I list all the knuckle-headed things YOU'VE done?


Seem to remember a fast around this time 4 years ago made an exceptional bit longer by SOMEONE not looking at the calendar before booking a flight....

You got even. And. Then. Some.

Let it go man! ;-P

Posted by: zahava | Jul 27, 2006 8:20:57 PM

I hear ya!

A few months ago I did a "rural" medicine elective in northern Quebec. As i walked into the hospital, the first person i saw was wearing a T-shirt with a rainbow that read; "there is room on G-D's earth for all of his creatures..... right next to the mashed potatoes!"

Posted by: david | Jul 27, 2006 8:49:04 PM

Your diet seems remarkably similar to mine. Most "normal" people are surprised at the unhealthiness of my meals, yet I'm probably the healthiest one of the bunch!

Posted by: Irina | Jul 27, 2006 9:18:38 PM

I have met my food match!! If I never ate another vegetable again, I wouldn't miss them!

Now that I am a mother, however, I do make sure to eat veggies each day, so as to provide a good example to my children. But truth be told, I could subsist completely on meat and cheese and chocolate!

Posted by: Stacey | Jul 27, 2006 9:20:28 PM

I'm a female so I just can't relate to that NEED for meat. I mean, I enjoy meat & chicken, but I don't crave it like you guys do. I actually did have meat twice last week in anticipation of the 9 days. Looking forward more to the wine tomorrow night than the meat, though. And Zahava, when I started reading the story I couldn't believe David was harping on something that happened 14 years ago! You tell him! (Sorry David, I gotta side with the wife) ;-)

Posted by: Essie | Jul 27, 2006 9:56:44 PM

Although I often think of commenting, I never do, but I wanted to alert you to a piece of your writing that's floating around the internet with someone else's name on it (unless you sometimes go by the name Dave Wilson?) My husband forwarded the link to me yesterday and I said, "Hey, that sounds familiar!"

(PS We're having steak for our shabbat dinner)

Posted by: Debbie | Jul 27, 2006 10:20:57 PM

Re: Debbie's comment above -- how strange! I took the liberty of dropping a comment over there pointing him in the right direction. He's now put up a new post at the top of his page correcting it and linking to the real source, here.

Posted by: LynnB | Jul 27, 2006 11:03:34 PM

Just went to Outback steakhouse last night for a thick juicy steak...wow, was it good. Went to In and Out Burger a few nights before...ummmm, was it good.

Posted by: Cruisin-mom | Jul 28, 2006 1:30:26 AM

How is possible that I never knew of your wifes' past vegetarian life????!!!! I mean, she's only been a member of our family for 15 years... I should STILL be getting to know her????!!! Jeesh!
Anything else I don't know?!

Posted by: val | Jul 28, 2006 1:44:19 AM

A non-hostile omnivore notes:

<< that forlorn, empty feeling one gets while standing in the doorway of some earthy-crunchy health food store, breathing in that stale vitamin and bean curd aroma >>

I am a refugee from Santa Barbara, California and immediately recall that feeling as I read your well-turned phrase. Bravo!

For the record, I am a "partial" vegetarian whose meat intake is probably well-below average (a vestige of my bachelor-college days in Santa Barbara, which is like Berkeley Lite). But I don't think twice about eating meat when the opportunity arises.

Posted by: Poison P'il | Jul 28, 2006 2:33:17 AM

thanks for the smile...hard to find in jerusalem these days...stay safe

Posted by: marallyn | Jul 28, 2006 5:07:05 AM

Poison P'il,

I miss Woody's barbecue in Santa Barbara. It has probably been gone for a good 15 years or so now, but it was good.

Posted by: Jack | Jul 28, 2006 8:28:09 AM

Yes, there definitely is something about men and their meat - oh boy, that came out wrong. Well perhaps there is some strange Testosterone connection. Having worked in a very expensive steak restaurant, I really learned how to appreciate a good cut of beef. Though, it never seemed to amaze me how some men could eat upwards to 2 and more pounds of beef in a sitting.

BTW, are pregnant women excluded from this prohibition? (not that I am) Before we decided to have kids, we/I generally only ate chicken, but man, when I was pregnant with my daughter, I couldn't get enough hamburgers. Every day I craved a BIG, JUICY, HAMBURGER! They were soooo Yummy! : )

Good luck Dave, you will prevail!

Posted by: jaime | Jul 28, 2006 9:11:54 PM

I'm a woman, and I have a thing for meat, and I hate vegetables. When I try to eat them I gag. And I totally sympathize with Trep in bringing up something that happened 14 years ago. It obviously meant a lot to him, and we all make a big deal about things that are important to us. Usually women are the ones being scolded for that. He doesn't sound bitter; he had a point to make.

Posted by: Kiwi the Geek | Jul 29, 2006 10:50:05 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.