My husband and I have an annual Chunakah celebration with dear friends every year. Hosting this year, I had everything ready, but hadn’t started cooking the latkes. Frying pancakes of any kind is a challenge without sight—at least I find. Feeling the liquidy batter through a spatula, at first, is challenging, since it doesn’t feel that different from the oil in the pan. So I’m tempted to touch lightly to find the damn pancake, burning my fingertips in the process. So my husband has always taken responsibility for the latkes.
This year, however, he ran late, having a torturous meeting that extended way over the expected end time. So I began the cooking.
Before I’d flipped a single latke, Bob arrived to take over. Two minutes later our friends rang the doorbell.
“I’ll get it,” I said.
And so I did. Greeting these longheld friends, I had 1% of my mind on the whereabouts of Flossie, who can be overly exuberant when guest arrive, so I always take hold of her leash and keep her guide dog decorum shining. But Flossie hadn’t followed me to the door. She was absent, and in that 1% of the brain, I decided she’d wandered upstairs and was relaxing. Very uncharacteristically, I should say, when guests come.
And also in that brain 1%, I noticed Bob’s absence—not even a friendly yell from the kitchen. Wow. That meeting must have wiped him out, I thought.
Finally the guests and I headed into the kitchen to greet Bob, and he was his friendly self. So I thought nothing, until serving up the meal. That’s when I noticed the oil all over the range and the one countertop beside the surface. I wiped it up and served the meal.
Later, gathering the dessert, I detected more oil, this time on the other countertop beside the range’s surface. Bob must have spilled it, I thought, cleaning up that residue, too.
As our friends left, giving hugs and thanks in our kitchen, the husband asked, “How old is she?”
“Flossie is six,” Bob said.
“She acts 12,” he said.
Flossie? Is he kidding? My six-year-old who acts like a six-month-old?
“She ate something that has made her feel sick,” Bob reported.
And then I realized she’d been in the kitchen, nearly comatose all evening.
Our friends left, and I began the dishes, finding among them, a very misshapen plastic bottle—the oil—completely empty.
“Bob, what happened?”
Apparently, as I’d run to get the door, I’d bumped the bowl of latke batter into a loosely-capped bottle of oil. Oil had spilled everywhere. The bottle itself melted into the stove top; a small fire sparked. And Flossie licked up at least a half cup of the vegetable oil. Bob hadn’t said anything in front of the guests because he didn’t want me to feel embarrassed. Very sweet, but unlikely among good friends.
After I told our friends that we’d probably used as much oil as if cooking eight days of latkes, my friend replied, “How poetic of you to conform your goof to the holiday!”
Ah, yes. A writer always looking for symbolism.