What do you say about a child after it is born?
You call it cute, and sweet, and beautiful. You coo at it, touch its head, let it roll its hand into a tight little fist around your finger. You look at it wistfully, thinking that maybe one day, you too can have one (kind of) like that.
You tell the mother she is a champion, and so strong, and that she will make a great parent. Sometimes you mean it, but oftentimes you don’t. You say all of these things, even though you know none of them matter. Because the real crux of the matter is this: the child is here. After all those months of planning, singing to your belly, eating the right foods, and carrying with you as a daily reminder of the fact that we are here to CREATE, to bring life into the world; after all of those months of waiting and planing and wishing and hoping, the child is finally, irrevocably, here – and you don’t know what to do from here.
And so, after about five months of planning and three weeks of DOING, I can finally tell you: The Jewish Food Project is here. And its three-week launch was the most glorious, exhilarating, exciting experience – but it was also exhausting, and depressing, and frightening in a I-can’t-believe-it-actually-happened sort of way.
Over the last three weeks, I have spent at least 10 hours every. single. day in a kitchen that was not my own, doing many things besides cooking. I hung signs and painted menus. I lit candles and scrubbed pots. I bought cases of tomatoes and more plastic bottles of water than I can count (or would ever like to drink in a lifetime). I received shipments of fish and fresh produce and kosher vinegar. I scoured aisles of grocery stores, scrutinizing labels and ingredient lists and kosher symbols. I called to argue about the difference between shallots and green onions, both of which are called ‘eschallots’ in French. I instagrammed often, posted on Facebook sporadically, and tweeted barely ever. I helped programmers to plan their workshop, helped chefs to plate their dishes, helped myself to some food. I took deep breaths. I cried, sometimes hysterically. I laughed, a lot.
On the food side of things, I ate much less than I expected, but much more richly. I learned to fillet a fish, manually whisk egg whites, plate a vertical salad. I cooked for five hours with the indelible Chanie Apfelbaum of Busy in Brooklyn, spent a morning with the talented and incredible Gigi Cohen, and was inspired by bloggers who are as proficient in the kitchen as they are online (thank you, Clean Eating Goddess Jen Udashkin, Bacon Eating Jewish Vegetarian Allison Sklar, my source for all things gluten-free and paleo in Montreal Olya Krasavina, and Food Guy MTL Dustin Gilman!).
And sometimes, when no one was around, when there was a break in the work, when the kitchen was awash with the golden daytime light and a magical silence seemed to descend on everything around me, I cooked – for no one but myself.
As expected during any childbirth, there were highs and lows in the delivery of the Jewish Food Project. But I am so glad that I did it, that I stuck to my guns and argued with everyone and anyone to make this dream come true, that I believed in the power of Jewish food to bring people together. In truth, I can hardly remember my life before these three weeks, before the Jewish Food Project.
Even though I am done with the hardest part, I feel like the unknown is just as terrifying: where do we go from here? How do I continue to harness the momentum that I’ve created, engage all of the people that we’ve inspired with the potential and diversity of Jewish food? How do I reach even more, reach the non-foodies, create interest in people who have sworn off their Judaism? And most importantly, how do I do it all without losing my mind, without working so many 16-hour days, without exhausting myself and everyone around me? How can I do my job better, and smarter? I guess only time will tell.
So if you were really honest, what would you say about a child after it is born? Now comes the hard part.
*Unless otherwise noted, most photos in this post are by the talented Olya Krasavina. To see more photos of the Jewish Food Project, check out these galleries, my Instagram account or my Facebook page.