“Tevye, hurry up, Shmuel will be ringing the bell soon,” Golde shouted from the kitchen.
“I’m hurrying, I’m hurrying.”
Now here is one of the true joys of kibbutz life, working with my wife. It’s not that I don’t like the opportunity to spend more time with Golde, but setting tables, serving meals and washing dishes is not exactly my foremost ability — if you’ll excuse me Reb Marx — but we all have to take our turn at what are considered the less desirable tasks.
“Tevye, bring the carts over so we can start loading them.”
Another edict from the authority. Talk about turning tradition on its head, the papa taking orders from the mama. It reminds me of the time Moses was asked why he couldn’t control his sister. He said, “I can either be the leader of Israel or control Miriam. I can’t do both.”
All right, so it’s not such a tough job to put some tin boxes on the tables and fill them with forks and spoons and to wheel these little carts around with platters of food, but who needs the complaints. I don’t cook the meals, I just serve them, but everybody’s got an opinion. The porridge is cold, the eggs are hard, and the tomatoes are soft. The members had food fights like little children until we held a meeting and Jonathan lectured us on the significance of even the most menial jobs, and the importance of treating everyone, especially the kitchen staff, with respect. Well, the scolding stopped the chaverim from throwing food, but it didn’t stop the grumbling.
Who can blame them? Look at what they’re bringing out for lunch: bread with jam, fruit soup and herring. If you think it looks bad, you don’t want to know about the smell. Everyone peels the skin off the herring and wipes their hands on their clothes. That fishy smell will be around all day.
“Tevye, stop dawdling! It’s almost time.”
If I worked here more often, the committee would probably have to vote on whether to put a window in the kitchen just so Golde could yell at me without opening the door. When she stuck her head out, I could see she was chewing something. Her latest habit is to chew kamardin all the time. It’s a kind of candy made from boiled apricots. After dwindling away to practically nothing, she’s getting a little zaftik, but she’s happier so I don’t say anything.
This excerpt is from Mitchell Bard’s novel, After Anatevka – Tevya Goes to Palestine available now in paperback and on Kindle.