Have Crock-Pot, Will Travel
By Judy Gruen
I am always in awe when I recall how our ancestors were able to hightail it out of Egypt lickity-split. After all, they'd been firmly ensconced for hundreds of years, yet no sooner did Moshe give the heads-up than they were able to grab everything they needed: kids, matzahs, and as much of the Egyptians' gold and silver as they could carry, seemingly in less time than I can play a round of Boggle.
In contrast, I need several days to plan and pack for only a weekend away. Even then, I've come perilously close to having to rent a U-Haul just to take our "essentials." For example, recently we went away for Shabbos with another family to Palm Springs. The other mom and I had divided the list of what we'd need to last food-wise from Friday afternoon to Sunday lunch, yet our minivan was crammed so tightly I was sure we'd have to pull over to a roadside weigh station, and possibly even cited for traveling under the influence of herring snacks in wine sauce.
All passengers except the driver were forced to straddle luggage, 12-packs of Fresca, or ice coolers. Therefore, I decided to drive. A cynical observer might have guessed that we were packing for a 40-year sojourn, and not a 40-hour one. Still, I had a sinking feeling that I was forgetting something critical to the mission.
We set out with my husband making business calls, while the teens were plugged into iPods or furiously texting friends. I was multitasking behind the wheel: focusing on driving safely, calculating how many calories I could still eat that day on my current weight-loss program, while also flogging my brain cells to remember the urgent thing I had forgotten. But, much like commercial success as an author and permanent weight loss, the goal eluded me.
I remained haunted by the question of what I had forgotten throughout much of the Inland Empire. When we reached Moreno Valley, I suddenly gripped the steering wheel and shouted, "The warming tray! I forgot the warming tray!" While a warming tray should have been hard to miss, given its size, it was now an impossible 75 miles away, on a lonely kitchen counter.
"So what? We don't need it," said one callous teen.
"Now we can't warm the chicken for Shabbos lunch," I said, vexed. I dared not broach the idea of stopping at a mall to get another one, since cold chicken was not, technically, an emergency, but a family riot would be. Unfortunately, I could not shake the nagging feeling that something else was missing. Something big. Something urgent.
As we approached Hemet, it hit me like a bad weigh-in at Weight Watchers. "I forgot the second Crock-Pot!" I shouted, realizing that my conversational contributions to this road trip were embarrassingly mundane. Just as I expected, the kids claimed that we didn't need it, didn't have room for it in the car anyway, and if we bought a new one now, we'd be a three Crock-Pot family. Who needed three Crock-Pots? People who separate not only dairy and meat but also dairy, meat, and gluten-free?
By any Jewish mother's standards, this was an emergency. I explained that the Crock-Pot we had brought was for the cholent, but what was I supposed to do with my fully cooked vegetable soup, tightly sealed in Ziploc bags, without a second Crock-Pot?
Fortunately, HaShem provides solutions in moments of crisis, if we are attuned to receive His help. Sure enough, two exits later, I lifted my eyes and saw from on high: a huge red dot in a large red circle. A Target! Right there in flat, boring Hemet! I signaled to exit, whistling a happy tune, while my son began to grouse about making another stop. My husband put a gentle hand on the kid's shoulder and said, "There are some things you just don't argue about with Mom."
This happened to be December 26, the busiest shopping day of the year. And if I thought the minivan was crowded, the Target in Hemet was a teeming mass of bargain-hunting humanity, and, based on some aggressive moves I saw in the sports equipment department, some bargain-hunting inhumanity as well. I raced through the aisles, a woman on a mission, until I found the Crock-Pots. I didn't like the knobs on some of them, and found fault with most of the others, too, but desperate times call for desperate measures, so I picked the least offensive of the bunch. Our Shabbos soup was saved! (Now I could junk the Crock-Pot left at home, which had been missing its matching lid for about three years.)
I hoisted the big box aloft as I raced to the check stands, thankful that I always worked hard on the pectoral exercises in Pilates. These were really coming in handy at that moment. "Coming through!" I shouted, jockeying my way into the 37-items or less line.
I returned to the car, triumphant as a big game hunter with a mule deer ready for the taxidermist. I ignored more family complaints as I cheerfully repacked the entire trunk to make room for the second Crock-Pot.
You won't be surprised to discover that by the end of the weekend, my friend and I were sheepishly packing up nearly as much food as we had brought, neither of us genetically capable of bringing "just enough." But if we are ever destined to wander again for years till we get back to our promised land, I'll be on the packing committee. We may not travel light, but no one will go hungry.
Judy Gruen's book, The Women's Daily Irony Supplement, slips easily into any suitcase for vacation reading pleasure. You can read more of her work at www.judygruen.com .