What’s the emergency? Take the egg challah!

September 6, 2010 at 6:49 PM 3 comments

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Hurricane Earl was supposed to hit the Bronx on Friday night and barrage us with wind and rain up until Saturday. I didn’t take seriously the warning to stock up on bottled water and cooked food. I had Shabbat dinner and lunch invitations and didn’t feel any motivation to cook. If Earl had ended up cutting off power, I might have been forced to eat frozen Morning Star veggie quarter pounders, arugula and watercress. Oooh!

I had to contribute challah to the Friday night meal. I arrived at a bake shop on Riverdale’s somewhat anemic shopping strip on Johnson Avenue a bit after seven-thirty in the morning and was glad to see only one customer ahead of me, a woman with several bags of pita and a couple of challahs in plastic wrap. The clerk, a college-aged girl, was filling a white box with cookies that the customer pointed out in the refrigerated display case one unhurried cookie at a time.

The water challah I like was not on the bread shelves, so I chose one egg challah and one puffy white challah with sesame seeds. What difference does it make if on one day you don’t get the challah of your choice? My attitude about challah: If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.

Another counter clerk showed up and spared me a long wait. I asked him for a multigrain loaf, sliced. He went into the rear of the store to do the machine-slicing.

Meanwhile, I listened to the customer with the cookies complain:

“Ari promised me he would have whole wheat challah for me at seven-thirty today,” she said.

Her counter clerk expressed sympathy.

“I came down here especially for that challah,” the customer continued.

The counter clerk apologized.

“I want you to tell Ari that I’m disappointed. Next time I’m going to Gruenbaum’s. They have whole wheat challah when they say they’ll have it.”

The customer turned to a male acquaintance who had just entered the bakery.

“Am I right?” she asked him. The question was rhetorical because of course she was right.

Nobody could tell this woman to get a life. She was too insulted by the absence of the whole wheat challah. “I’m not kidding,” she told the counter clerk. “Tell Ari I’m going to Gruenbaum’s. Will you remember?”

By now the poor kid’s chin was trembling. She promised to convey the details of this catastrophe to her boss.

The woman was getting no sympathy from me, so she turned back to the man and said, “I’m already late for work. If it wasn’t for the pita, I would just leave. The pita is actually very good.”

At first I found the customer merely irritating. Shut up already about the whole wheat challah! If Hurricane Earl did come, she and her family could hunker down with some other variety of challah as well as the several bags of pita baked fresh on the premises. I mean, so you don’t get whole wheat challah one Shabbat. So friggin’ what?

When I left the bakery, the woman was gathering up her packages and still bitching.

A pencil costs two cents

As I went about my errands on Friday morning, I felt ashamed for the middle-aged woman who had to hassle a little store clerk about a loaf of whole wheat challah. But by the time I got home, I was in high dudgeon. I was thinking about the recent Bookpod interview I did with Twesigye Jackson Kaguri, a Ugandan-born man who wrote The Price of Stones, a book about building a school for AIDS orphans. He told me that he had been among the lucky children in his village: At the beginning of each school year, Jackson’s father was able to buy a number two pencil and break it into five pieces for him and his brothers and sisters. Jackson said, “Today when I play golf, I cannot look at the little score-keeping pencils without thinking of the children in Uganda who have to drop out of school because they cannot afford a pencil or a textbook.”

A pencil costs two cents.

Throughout Shabbat, I thought about the woman deprived of her whole wheat challah, forced to get by on some white bread loaves and pita pockets, and wondered how on God’s good green earth she was able to manage with so much.


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A recipe for challah

A recipe for whole wheat challah

Check out this gorgeous creation


Entry filed under: Food, Judaism, New York City, Shopping. Tags: , , , , , , , .

I meet bizarro me at the gym Sylvie, the battered rebbetzin

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Rivi  |  September 6, 2010 at 8:56 PM

    Brucheleh – U r a Rabbi. thank you. Shavua and LeShana Tov

  • 2. Pesha  |  September 6, 2010 at 10:46 PM

    I propose a population exchange. Send the whole wheat challah lover to Uganda, and bring a Ugandan kid to Riverdale.

  • 3. Max  |  September 7, 2010 at 12:02 AM

    I second that!


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