On January 14, in a letter to the Westchester Day School and the Westchester Summer Day families, Head of School Rabbi Joshua Lookstein invited the community to come together for phase two of their Instant Shabbat Cookbook project. While phase one consisted of submitting recipes for the cookbook, phase two is the testing and tasting portion.
“This is, by far, the best reason we are putting forth this huge community effort,” explained Lookstein. “We want you to meet the parents of your children’s friends and the rest of our parent body, taste some great food and, ultimately, strengthen our bonds as a community.” On Shabbat, February 1, six “pot luck” tasting meals occurred in New Rochelle and three in Scarsdale.
Each pot luck group was assigned a menu and participants selected two or three dishes or beverages to make. After the meal, participants used Shabbat-friendly, precut and pre-labeled sheets to score the finished products by folding tabs. These scoring sheets, evaluating taste and appearance, as well as the likelihood one would actually make this dish, will be tallied and analyzed.
Westchester Day School parent and full-time working mom Lauren Feuer came up with the idea for the cookbook. As a busy working mother of three young children, she wanted to find an easier way to host Shabbat company. Additionally, she also wanted to find a way to connect the different communities that make up the WDS and WSD family. From those two goals, the idea of the cookbook was born. Currently, over 475 recipes have been submitted.
Amy Tarlowe, another WDS parent and full-time working mom of three boys, came up with the idea of the pot-luck tasting event. “We had a few motivations here. One, we wanted to see how we can implement the testing and tasting with no budget. By making these types of events, you are essentially reallocating all cost to the testers and tasters in a way that they would be spending the money anyway!” Second, continued Tarlowe, “We wanted this to be a community-building project—what better way to build community than to share a Shabbat meal with one another.”
Tarlowe noted, “We wanted to make sure it was not exclusive. Affiliation with the school or camp was not required and no one was turned away,”
Tarlowe revealed, “I tested three recipes this week: green bean, chocolate biscotti and an apple cake. I needed to make these things for a Shabbat meal anyway. So, instead of making three items I already know, I just made three new ones; it’s a total win-win,”
Over the course of last Shabbat, over 50 recipes were tested. These included all types of dishes across many cuisines. “We will be testing about 200-300 recipes over the course of all the events,” Feuer explained. “The mission of our cookbook, first and foremost, is to bring our WSD and WDS communities together. What better way to meet a stranger and make a new friend in another neighborhood than with a shared experience of a meal and a common goal?”
Feuer added, “We are going to be hosting events almost every week for the next two months. We have planned them over Shabbat, Sunday evenings and even weeknights so that everyone who is interested can participate. People have been very enthusiastic. Everyone is excited to cook and have the opportunity to meet new people in a casual setting.”
Michelle Goldberg, a WDS parent and New Rochelle pot luck meal host, stated, “Pot luck events are easier and less pressured ways to get to see and spend time with friends you don’t get to see as often as you would like. I also want to help Instant Shabbat be a huge success. I cannot even keep track of how many recipes I ended up turning in.”
By Judy Berger