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What do we eat now? And other questions for our advice columnists

From its start in 1906, A Bintel Brief was a pillar of the Forward, helping generations of Jewish immigrants learn how to be American. Now our columnists are helping people navigate the complexities of being Jewish in 2020. Send questions to [email protected].

Illustration by Liana Finck

Image by Liana finck

Three squares? Sweetie, put down that spatula

Dear Abbys,

I am cooked out. Genug!

More than three months of cooking three meals a day, and I think people who eat three meals a day are just plain weird.

The dishwasher runs constantly, and since there are no little elves who come in the middle of the night to unload it, guess who has to do that, too? My loving husband/co-worker (who whistles) is getting better at unloading, tanks Got.

Going to three distinct markets donning gloves and masks, following the directional arrows to keep distance, and not getting to use all my lovely canvas bags from my protesting days — well, it’s a lot.

We used one of the food/menu delivery services with ingredients and instructions. Tasty but so many instructions and steps.

Help, and not even hungry anymore in LA.

Person ducks as challah is thrown at their head

Image by Liana finck

Dear Not Even Hungry,

Let me introduce you to a few foods you may not have heard of: scrambled eggs, canned soup, boxed mac and cheese, grilled cheese, takeout. Why on earth are you cooking three meals a day? Are you feeding a small band of adolescents?

Here’s a meal plan for you:

Breakfast: Cereal. Or toast. Or oatmeal. Or yogurt. Or just coffee. Lunch: A bagel. Or grilled cheese. More yogurt. An apple. PB+J. Some carrots. Dinner: Scrambled eggs. Or pasta with sauce from a jar. Or a pre-packaged salad. Or crackers and cheese. Or pita and hummus. Or more cereal.

You get the gist. You. Do. Not. Need. To. Cook. Think of yourself as a toddler who just wants to graze. If you are sick of cooking, stop it! If your husband is hellbent on having three square (cooked?) meals a day, turn over the spatulas to him. If he doesn’t know how, consider this his chance to learn.

And those meal kits? No. Just, no. Talk about more work for less reward! You can’t even get leftovers out of all that chopping! Forget it. If you want someone to do the thinking and planning for you, just order from your favorite restaurant — that way you support local business, and get a warm, delicious meal you don’t need to clean up.

Use one water glass a day. One coffee mug. Stop using so many dishes.

And please, for the love of all things pandemic, don’t go to so many stores. In our family we have a rule: one weekly shop. If we run out of something, we wait. This is the time to settle for good enough: Whole Foods doesn’t have the butter you like? Buy another kind. This is where Google really comes in handy. Do you know how many times I’ve searched “substitute for white wine vinegar” or “what is an uzuki bean and can I put it in chili?”

kid in baseball cap

Image by Liana finck

How to be a good Zoom-Mitzvah guest

Dear Abbys,

What’s the etiquette for Zoom Bnei Mitzvah? Do we all need to dress up? Do the kids need to be on video Zoom so their friends see they are there? To chat or not to chat? Do you Venmo a gift?

Pewless and Clueless

Dear Pewless, To quote the esteemed Christopher Knight (aka Peter Brady): “When it’s time to change, you’ve got to rearrange.”

This world is in desperate need of some changing and rearranging right now. Actually, more like a giant bonfire or a galactic shake-up. If someone has told you that there’s a Zoom-mitzvah “etiquette” to follow, I dare you to defy it. Wear a tiara and skip the pants. Fill the chatroom with Mazel Tov emojis. There’s too much at stake right now to worry about manners.

ICYMI, the revolution has begun. Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks — these are not just names. These are lives that have been lost because we’ve been so caught up in our social mores and patterns, our unspoken prejudices and tunnel vision.

I’m just as guilty as the next white, Jewish, gal, waking up to my own role in these tragedies. And no, I don’t advise you to squeeze all this onto your Bar Mitzvah card, but I do think this occasion — when a child is supposed to be entering adulthood — is the perfect time to focus on the world they’re inheriting.

I’ll be honest. What I remember most about my Bat Mitzvah is drinking so much Sprite that my braces were slimy for a week, and a bunch of kids getting caught smoking in a phone booth (remember phone booths? Remember smoking?). In terms of meaningful gifts, I got a bunch of savings bonds, a monogrammed dictionary, and a bedazzled dreidel.

Was I ready to take on the ills and injustices of our society? Heck, no. I’m still lost and terrified 30 years later. Only now I know adulthood and action are not optional.

Pewless, skip the Venmo. Turn your video on, and listen to that Bar Mitzvah boy closely. Whether his voice cracks like Peter Brady’s or not, he’s part of the grand Change that we need to make. You want to send a gift? Send that little mensch a book of poetry by Audre Lorde or James Baldwin.

Abby Sher and Abby Rasminsky are writers living in, respectively, Maplewood, N.J., and Los Angeles. Got a question? Submit your questions to [email protected].


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