Ask Avigail: Cooking in Canaan

Dear Avigail,

Now that we have left the Wilderness, and have settled into the Land of Milk and Honey (although the local grocer was out of both), I am beginning to obsess about fending for myself. In the Wilderness, I never worried about what to prepare for dinner. Early in the morning, the skies would open up, and a delivery of fresh, hot manna from heaven would lie at our tent. It’s a good thing there was a policy of no tipping because I wear togas without pockets and don’t carry small change. Each family member would imagine the taste of his favorite food, and thus, the manna was prepared just to his liking. And no leftovers; manna turns quickly in the desert sun, and tastes like a Middle Eastern fusion of Styrofoam and kosher airline food. Maybe I’m being a tad redundant.
Now, my family spends the whole day hunting and gathering for food, and there is little time for laundry, or shooting the breeze and calling that light fare.

Can you advise me, Avigail?

Lillian Gutbaum

Dear Lil,

I can certainly empathize. I had been in Egypt for such a long time; I wasn’t in such a rush to go. I consider myself more of a wondering Jew than a wandering Jew. But, when my husband, Nathan, rushed in to tell me we’re leaving now, I froze. I had just taken out a chicken to defrost and de-thorned a cactus as my side dish. I had taken for granted that Moses had hired a caravan, but he convinced me that, if I even thought of eating a Snickers bar, there would be little room to breathe. I’d rather walk than get stuck in an over-crowded caravan, not unlike a forty year MRI, traffic permitting. I grabbed a few non-perishables*, as well as some snacks for the road, and headed out. In all the chaos, I had forgotten to ask where exactly we were going. “Nate, should I take a cardigan, in case it gets cold at night?” Nate was looking for his pitcher’s glove, though he hoped there would be a game of cricket. That had been his favorite plague. “Nate, should I take my pumice-colored throw, or the woven straw poncho?” Nate looked at me and paused. “Surprise me.” I shuddered. Those were the same exact words my grandfather had said when I asked him which cave he wanted to be buried in. But now was not the time to wax nostalgia, never mind my upper lip. I hadn’t had time to take my sandals to the shoemaker, so I quickly donned a pair of flip flops which were water resilient. Not that I didn’t have enough faith that the Good Lord wouldn’t part the sea, but there might have been some seepage. We were on the run, and nobody had enough sense to use the facilities, BEFORE we left Cairo.

Upon entering the Wilderness, we were instructed by an ethereal voice (in Dolby sound) what to anticipate, how we would be able to survive without a subjective amount of fatty brisket, or matzapizza (when said at an accelerated speed, was frequently mistaken for a Mayan ruin). We were delighted to receive the manna, and we didn’t even have to ask if it were the pre-ordered kosher, although some Hebrews complained that their manna was tartare. We received an extra portion for Friday night, without having to ask for seconds. No one even asked for a feral hyena bag, as no pets were allowed on this junket. With each heavenly drop of our daily manna, a cookbook followed. One of them fell on Maury Kleinberg’s head, which caused an episode of dizziness and gibberish from his wife, Estelle. Some of these recipes were frugal, child-friendly and quick to prepare. My family especially enjoyed one dish, which became our Monday night tradition.

Though vegan friendly, the Manna menu offered something which sounded like P’TCHAH! It was described as jellied calves feet, primarily consisting of GRISTLE AND CARTILEDGE (not to be confused with the same-named law firm, which handled carnage claims.) We decided to throw Caution to the wind; we didn’t need him anymore. We simultaneously picked up the quivering mass of chewy jello, took one collective bite and made a sound not unlike P’TCHAH. The article of food catapulted at the speed of one of those annoying Algebra equations…if A is traveling at the speed of light…and landed on the eastern banks of the Euphrates. If only bets had been placed.
For the next 30 odd years, we stuck to the familiar and exercised Caution, though Caution stuck with “big boned with bad glands” and refused a free gym pass.

Even though manna doesn’t fall from Heaven anymore, you can still purchase it in the organic section of your produce department. Save the recipes and swap them with your neighbors. Give them creative names.
Just don’t give any names that contain the words fetid, tomaine, or FDA approved.


Non-perishables: Relatives with the surname METHUSALA.

About the Author
Shashi Ishai is a former stand-up/cartoonist from Teaneck, N.J. She resides in Netanya with her husband, Yacov; daughter, Zehava; son Zaki and dog, Stanley .Shashi is the author of ASK AVIGAIL: Advice from a Biblical Era Sagette, available on Amazon.
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