Sunday, September 19, 2010

Making my bed

Children often argue with their parents about chores. I was no exception. Making my bed was a particular sticking issue. My father kept telling me I would be more comfortable sleeping in a freshly made bed. My own experience proved otherwise - I was perfectly content sleeping in a bed with mussed covers. There had to be more to this bad-making thing. Turns out, most people appreciate the aesthetics of a made bed. It's good for socializing to have visible parts of your house look nice - making the bed is for the community, not the individual.

I've been thinking about that while attending services for Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. The idea behind the holiday is for people to reflect on how they can be better, and lay out an ethical plan for the year. Sounds nice.

But... it doesn't seem to work. People who attend Yom Kippur services (or comparable practices in other religions, such as Catholic confession) don't seem to have any higher standards than people who are religiously apathetic. I don't see any different behavior in myself now compared to my religious-service-free college days.

So, if the purported effect of making us better people doesn't pan out, why do we come to these services? My theory: the same reason we go to weekly services. Not for ourselves, but for the community. Those who pray together stay together and all that.

I like the community at my synagogue. It provides me with study opportunities, opportunities to give back to my local community, and social interaction with a wide cross-section of people. I'm glad we have events such as Yom Kippur that keep us together as a group.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Happy New Year

I grew up in a town with a much higher Jewish population than my current city. On major Jewish holidays, there were generally multiple people absent from my school classes. Everyone was kinda aware of the holiday season.

Yesterday at work, three coworkers learned for the first time that I am a synagogue member. They kind of stumbled into it asking how my day off was: no clue that Thursday was the start of the Jewish New Year celebration.

At least I didn't go my husband's route, telling them that we all dress up in a giant dragon costume and set off fireworks indoors.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Lack of taste

Tuesday, I was eating grape tomatoes, picked off my own tomato plant. It is really rewarding to have a successful vegetable after so many disappointing years. And they taste good, too... just as good as the store-bought ones.

I remembered all I'd read about home-grown tomatoes. About the extra flavor that vine-ripening gives, how the more delicate varieties for home gardens taste better than the bred-for-storage-and-mass-transportation commercial brands. People are driven to write songs about this wonderful flavor experienced by the successful tomato gardener. I'm not seeing it in my tomatoes.

Perhaps the brand I chose is the culprit. Or perhaps my gardening: my plant had a rough start and took about 80 days to produce its first fruit: much longer than the rated 60 days. It may not be getting all the sun and fertilizer it needs to reach its full flavor potential.

Then again... the people who rave about homegrown tomatoes also rave against refrigerating tomatoes. Not just the homegrown ones, but any tomato. The cold can break down important flavor compounds. They say. But not for me: I have done experiments, and cannot detect any taste difference between refrigerated and non-refrigerated tomatoes. Maybe it's me.

Last summer, my sister came to visit. Our conversation drifted to her college classes. She talked about her food science class, and shared how it had improved her appreciation of flavor. Not as much as her classmates, though: some of the things they could smell, she could not detect. This struck a chord with me. I cannot count the number of times friends, family, and coworkers have complained of a smell I cannot detect. "It must be genetic," I told her. Our sense of smell is sub-par.

Perhaps my poor sense of smell comes with a poor sense of taste. I think this calls for further research. Today, I'm going to a tomato tasting festival. Will they all taste alike to me? Or will I discover what I've been missing? Let the experiment begin!

Update: OK, so the partner's not up to a 3 hour roadtrip this morning. Maybe next year?