Shabbat with Kids

chinese hams on easter sunday

In ALL, FOOD LOVE by Stephanie Klein23 Comments

Chinese food always sounds like a good idea come Sunday nights. I’m a Jew, so I’m sure it’s stamped on my DNA. Though, I’ve been told that the Jews religiously devouring Chinese food on God’s day of rest is only a regional phenomenon. Well, even living here in Texas I sometimes find myself craving orange-flavored beef and a Shirley Temple–mostly I like the idea of fruit in unexpected places. Admittedly a fruit garnish in a drink is hardly unexpected, but when you’re a child and are offered a fancy drink with an umbrella and (Yessss!) two cherries–well, if only we were that easy to please as adults. The truth, though, is that we all really do think we’re that easy.

I like the idea of traditions but only the fun ones. I realize “fun” is subjective and it changes as we age. I believe the elderly take great comfort in their traditions because it’s a link to their pasts, a door really, inviting them to remember and recount and ask for another scotch. Traditions can add great meaning to your life, a depth and understanding that there’s something bigger than you and your now, but you don’t realize that until you’re older, and even then, you kinda roll your eyes at the idea of having to put on a suit. “Respect your elders” old people say. “Learn some respect, what it is to suffer, so you know how good you have it,” they continue. These are words I cannot imagine saying very often. I’d rather show than lecture, and I’d rather learning be fun, not tights and wool and dress coats with stiff shoes.

When you’re young, “fun traditions” are sometimes about presents or the activities surrounding gift-giving, surprises upon awakening, that special one-on-one time with Grandpa in the yard. For me it was an opportunity to talk all about me. My school. My friends. My favorite color. And oooh, Grandma, come play my favorite game (Hook Line and Stinker). Then I’d (c)harm the audience with my vocals. Such a ham. I still am. I wish I weren’t, but I totally am. So over the top. I know because when I see myself in videos I cringe. And I can tell when I can tell I’m being filmed. My voice is different. You’re not supposed to hate yourself on Sundays.

Chinese food livens everyone with its little tastes on little plates, with the thin brown sauces in their little shallow bowls, glimmering like loose stones. But I never really feel satisfied unless it’s Peking duck, and even that I mostly enjoy for the curly scallions and the sting of hoisin, the way the pancakes taste of nothing more than raw flour. When people eat these foods in the movies it means their lives are good. Especially good if they’re in pajamas eating from the cartons. Male roommate, no shirt. Female roommate, no bra and barely-there terrycloth running shorts. Platonic (eye roll). Their eating Chinese food from the fridge is foreplay, a little golden ticket for the patient audience. You always know things will be okay if Chinese food’s involved. No one gets cancer in a Chinese restaurant. There are no breakups, and the good “let’s make the chick look difficult” scenes always happen at some vegan place with lesbians giving the dude nasty looks. Chinese restaurants save the (holi)day. That, or they’re the go-to place for the cops in law and crime shows, to ask an Asian man, usually dressed in a puffer coat and wool cap, “have you seen this man?”

But when I see people in the movies eating with chopsticks, I think that maybe if I eat noodles from a box my life will be lived in pajamas with inside jokes, strung together with the times that’ll come to me in montage–the moments I’ll never forget, wound in the rich tastes of our traditions. That, or I’ll just feel thirsty and want a dish of ice cream.


  1. I think Jews eating chinese food on Christian holidays in universal.. I am from NC, and have lived in a few more places and we ALWAYS eat chinese on xmas and easter. It wouldn't be the same without it.

  2. Ever seen the movie "My favorite year"? Great reference regarding Jews knowing where to get the best Chinese food. Great movie!

  3. The Godzilla Roll at Kenichi has strawberries on top. When I first saw it I was skeptical but it adds the perfect hint of flavor. I need to go back there.

  4. Long time reader first time commentor- I lived that life growing up as i'm sure so many others have. I'm a west coast girl and coasts seem to have less to do about it than where your parent's parents are from.

  5. Not really a comment about this post – but I wanted to let your readers know that is offering a 5% discount right now on preorders for "Moose."

    Can't wait to read it – BTW – I really like the cover art.

    FROM SK: Thanks so much! I designed the cover myself.

  6. Oh cool. I'm going to pre-order one today. I have the afternoon to myself and am book shopping then going to lunch alone. Love it. I need to do a huge book shopping expedition every season, just works out that way. And I have driven past that shopping center many times- glad the reviews are good there. I should try going there for a change.

  7. My Jewish husband loves Chinese food way more than me. Something about his Detroit roots. Growing up in San Antonio, my passion is for Tex-Mex and BBQ (done the South Texas way). I like Chinese, but there are no good Chinese restaurants in our area so I've branched out to Thai, Vietnamese etc. But my hubby likes nothing better than a Chinese buffet or box of chicken with asparagus.

  8. I loved this blog. Chinese food makes everything feel better. I also agree that there’s some sort of childhood connection between feeling better and Chinese food. Now that I’m older with a more sophisticated palate I like Sushi and other types of World Cuisine but when I need a pick me up, it’s Chinese food that does it for me. I’ll order up some Beef with Black Bean Ho Fun noodles, Beef with Broccoli and Chicken Fried Rice and I know that everything will feel alright.

  9. I never had Chinese food growing up (Italian from Mississippi). I learned to love it in college (Arizona). Here in CT, its def. different than out west…so, I’ve grown to love Thai and sushi way more. In fact, I had my first sushi experience post-baby this past week… it was divine. I have found the best little place near my house, and they take great care of us. Yet, don't get me wrong…a great box of extra crispy Gen. Tsos kicks ass, esp. on a night when I’m way too tired to cook, after a long day at work, and all I want to do is spend quality time with my baby and chill. Too bad my ass is getting bigger and bigger (I think my post-baby ass and my newly acquired muffin-top are in a competition to see how big they can get…Ugh!!!)

  10. Even better than the Chinese food are those Shirley Temples (I love that you called them that… so much more appetizing than Kiddie Kocktails, yuck)! When I was little, my parents would take me to posh restaurants and I'd always get one. It made me feel ever so grown up.

  11. You realize, of course, G-d's day of rest depends on one's religion. I grew up eating Chinese food on Sundays, the Christian day of rest.

    On Friday night's, the Jewish sabbath, I was eating brisket or roasted chicken.

    A time and place for everything.

  12. any jewish kid from long island knows that good chinese food can almost make up for the fact that you won't wake up in the morning to shiny wrapping paper and red ribbons. :)

    that vegan restaurant scene you described reminds me of the one from 'how to lose a guy in 10 days'…

  13. Are you kidding? You're a foodie and not concerned with the shit in Chinese food….from 2 Asian doctors in NYC…."all Chinese restaurants use MSG"…. and the sodium level in astronomical….it's like eating candy…tastes good but no nutritional value….

    as far as jews and chinese food, you eat it b/c it's cheap!!! ha! no more no less of a reason!

    so let's see, Christmas (o yes the tree is secular and has NO correlation or symbolism with Jesus)you do celebrate but no pix of the kids in their Easter bunny ears??? Oy, I can't figure out if it's a relief or a contradiction……

    u one confused mama!

  14. When I am sick, really sick, all I want to eat is Chinese soup (Sizzling Rice). The ultimate "feel better" food.

  15. I have introduced a couple of boyfriends to the joys of Chinese food on Christian holidays, but my most recent ex figured out a different holiday recently. He called me up, jubilant, from a Chinese restaurant on St. Patrick's day. He's Irish-American and a bartender and dreads St. Patrick's day and he'd figured out how to go out with friends and avoid green beer and green idiots. He has a new tradition.

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