I enjoy hosting. Each person comes with his own story and perspective. Meeting different kinds of people gives me the opportunity to broaden my own thinking. Each time I open our home is an opportunity for learning.
At the last Shabbat meal I hosted in Philly before leaving for our annual vacation, we discussed the subliminal messages our children receive as a result of choices we make. For example, a woman might choose to stay home with her children because that is what she wants to do. However, a byproduct of that choice is the message that gives her children. What is their experience of gender roles, competency, and division of labor as a result? I want my daughter to believe she can do and be anything. I also know children learn best by example. Actions count more than words. I choose, and continue to choose, not to work full-time; and I continue to question how and why I made that decision.
The issue of subliminal messages pertaining to gender roles is huge. It comes up in almost every form of consumer culture. These messages are dangerous because they close off opportunities. Putting people into boxes shuts down potential and stifles growth. We tend to think about this issue as it pertains to girls and women, but what about the messages we give our boys and men?
Before one of our guests left (we will call him Ben), he came over to talk to me in a quiet moment. The table discussion hit close to home. He and his wife had recently become parents. His wife works part-time and he is a graduate student. His schedule is more flexible than hers and affords him a few days a week to be the primary caregiver for their daughter. It was important for him to stay home with their daughter in these early years. As a boy Ben did not receive the message that he was well equipped to care for children; unlike his wife, he showed no interest in babysitting or caring for cousins or younger siblings. He wondered if he was truly disinterested or if, perhaps, he was not given the message that boys are good at taking care of babies and little children. Ben wanted to feel confident in his ability to care for their daughter and understood that confidence comes with experience. He chose to push back against the messages he received about his ability to care for little ones because he did not want it to affect his relationship with his own daughter. Ben’s choice was brave and thoughtful.
As the meal came to a close I kept thinking about Ben. I was left asking myself many questions some of which went like this:
Before making a choice am I thoughtful about the message this may give my children? How does language effect my children’s gender identity? How do my husband and I think about gender in our relationship? How do we divide our roles? The questions go on and on…But, what felt most productive for me to think about is this: Whatever messages - overt or subtle – my children receive from society, from me, Abe, and extended family, from friends and other social constructs, perhaps it is more useful to think about what tools I can help them develop to be critical and fearless thinkers. Like Ben, I want my children to recognize when they are being put into a box and make choices that push back.
If gender role, gender identity, and Judaism interests you checkout this ELI Talk by Rabbi Daniel Brenner, of Moving Traditions: http://movingtraditions.org/baboons-bonobos-bar-mitzvah-boys/
Carrot, Orange, Leek Soup AKA Marak Katom
I really like some of the soups at Metropolitan Bakery. One of my favorites is their carrot, orange, ginger soup, which inspired this one. However, in the spirit of marak katomk (orange soup) served in almost every Israeli home and restaurant, anything orange colored (and some other things) is fair game. Feel free to improvise using other orange root vegetables such as squash or pumpkin, especially in the winter months. This soup is delicious served hot or cold.
2 bunches carrots, peeled and slices
3 leeks, cleaned and chopped
4 or 5 Jerusalem artichokes, sliced
2-3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced
2-3 small potatoes
2 boxes or 8 cups vegetable broth
1 orange, juiced
1 tsp. or more orange rind
2 Tbs. olive oil or other fat for sauting
ground ginger, fresh or dried
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. cardamom
Cilantro or chives for garnish
In a large pot saute leeks with olive oil until soft. Add carrots, Jerusalem artichokes, and both kinds of potatoes. Cook until soft. About 20 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. Let boil for 5 minutes and turn down to simmer. Cook soup for 1/2 hour or more.
Once cooled, puree soup with immersion blender or regular blender. Add juice of 1 orange, orange rind, and spices. Mix thoroughly and let sit for about a half hour so the flavors can settle.
Serve garnished with fresh cilantro or chives.