I nearly had a panic attack at my bridal shower last week, and I blame Williams-Sonoma.
In advance of my June wedding, my mother, aunt and cousin graciously hosted a festive brunch in my honor. There, an all-female crowd offered up thoughtful advice on enduring marriages, and toasted with Champagne my forthcoming nuptials.
Then came the gifts — and the anxiety.
Box after box contained cookware or kitchen appliances; many gifts were accompanied by decorative index cards containing shower guests’ favorite recipes. The women explained how helpful I’d find the Dutch oven or the casserole dish or the food processer the next time I made brisket or kugel or charoset. As if there had been a first time.
I don’t know what I had expected: My bridal registry is at Williams-Sonoma, not Frederick’s of Hollywood; I had requested all of this kitchen paraphernalia, for which I am sincerely grateful. But it wasn’t until I was sitting in my aunt’s living room, face-to-face with all of the shiny pots and pans, that reality set in. I was expected — or rather, I expected myself, thus the registry — to embrace cooking, alongside matrimony.
These days, the meals I prepare are more likely to involve a microwave-safe dish and a “flavor packet” than a roasting rack and fresh herbs. And my fiance has never pressured me to embrace my inner Top Chef.
You see, cooking and baking have never felt like anything other than a chore for me. And because I had myriad good excuses — ”It’s no fun to cook for one” and “I don’t have a paring knife” — it was a chore I could more or less avoid. But now, it seems, I’m out of excuses (although my Manhattan-size kitchen does lack for counter space).
Over the years, two distinct, if parochial, caricatures of Jewish wives have prevailed: There’s the revered Jewish woman who makes kreplach enough for an army — forcing second helpings on everyone at her table — and the reviled Jewish “princess” who makes … reservations. Intellectually, I have always rejected these categories into which most Jewish women I know do not fit. But I guess, in the back of my mind, I had always thought that I would emerge from the chupah, transformed into some variation of the brisket-kugel-kreplach-making Jewish wife.
That seems unlikely.