My first attempt at challah came out pretty decent!

Joel Landau

There is something about getting married that makes you want to shake a martini.

“Huh?” You’re probably saying. “Is that some kind of metaphor?”

Nope. Very literal. I’m twisting myself in culinary knots for the first time in my life because it’s the first time I’ve ever wanted to. I scour cookbooks to make dishes I’ve never dreamed I could. I shake, whip, saute, puree, blend and bake things — delicious things.

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As Alice said when she slipped down the rabbit hole: “Curiouser and curiouser ...”

I asked my sister Hannah what this was all about. I knew she had gone through it herself. I would call her in her first year of marriage on, say, a Tuesday and asking her what she was up to.

“Oh, making Avi dinner,” she would said.

“Oh, yeah? Whatcha making?”

“Roasted red pepper soup, French bread, a green salad with olives and feta and quiche.”

[Pause] “Will you be my wife?”

On reflection, Hannah said: “I guess there are two different sides to it.”

“I think on the one hand you want to prove that you can do this, be grown up, be a wife, be responsible. Because I think everyone kind of feels the need to prove themselves, because we're all a little unsure we're really cut out for it.”

And that’s true. It’s a satisfying feeling — am I really saying this?! — washing the dishes at the end of a long meal and knowing that everyone is satiated. You did that.

But there’s another side . . .

“On the other hand,” Hannah said, “I think we really just want to take care of our man, make sure they're happy in every way and maybe even impress them a little. And maybe we want them to just be amazed at a new aspect of ourselves they never knew we had.

“But I think that it is a big part of it, the wanting to take care of your hubby. He's your responsibility, so now it's your job to make sure he doesn't die of starvation.”

Funny, but true. It’s funny because (thankfully!) it’s entirely unlikely Joel will starve. Not only are we surrounded by supermarkets and Super Wawas, but Joel is more of the cook than I am.

When we first started dating, I *loved* that he cooked. I cannot emphasize this enough: The. Man. Cooks. When he made us his family’s secret recipe for pot roast, I thought, “Man, I have hit the jackpot. I am never going to cook again.” Truthfully, I did not cook all that much to start with. Macaroni and cheese here, lasagna there. Nothing special.

But, for Friday night Joel will make barbecue chicken, meatloaf, rice, fresh steamed veggies and salad. For my birthday, he turned two loaves of challah into gooey, crusty and delicious French toast. Friends who came over as skeptics — “Really? Joel is going to cook?” — left converted.

What girl wouldn’t swoon? And swoon I did.

But after we got married, something kicked in. It seems to be this primordial urge: Must nurture through food.

I’ve made skirt-steak fajitas, corn on the cob with lime and chilli butter, salmon pasta, Mexican-spiced burgers, cold herb soup from plants in our garden, and pound cake with whipped cream and berries. On a particularly ambitious Friday, I made challah. The dough made my hands smell yeasty and yummy all day.

Kneading the dough, I thought about all the generation of Jewish women before me who have gone through the same motions. When I baked it, it turned out a little flat; but I like that I have something to strive toward. I will learn how to do this!

But it still baffles me. Where did this all come from? I’m a feminist!!!

“Don’t worry, it fades,” said a friend from Mays Landing. But, truthfully, I hope it doesn’t.

I like the new me :)

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