Food Friday–Cooking with Intentionality

I have some dear fiends who are part of the Chabad world. On occasion I get an email from one of them asking me to think about a particular woman as I take challah.  ( The bread is named for the challah – or small portion which is taken fro the dough before the loaves are formed. before the destruction of the Temple, the bread was given to the priests, now it is burned ) usually the woman in question is barren, or ill or needs a good shidduch.

I always feel a bit awkward when faced with such a request.  I  guess that I’m far too rational to think of the Divine paying attention to my thoughts so carefully that just thinking about someone who I don’t know while I was baking challah would do the person in question any good at all.

Which brings me to today’s challah baking. My friend’s mother died earlier this week.  Not only was Ruth a really good daughter to her mother, Ruth is an all around good friend. She is one of those people who is deeply dependable. There have been many times over the years where she has been outstandingly kind to me. Again and again as friends have gone through difficult times they have mentioned various kindnesses that Ruth has done for them.

In our community when there is a death in the family, synagogue members will cook for the mourners during the week of shiva. When the mourner has been a good friend to others, it can be hard to claim a meal to cook.  if you aren't fast enough all the meals are claimed. This was the case with Ruth.  I was too late to claim a meal, but I did get to bake challah for Ruth and her family.

As I kneaded the challah today I kept thinking about nice things that Ruth has done for me, for my family and for other members of the community. I thought about how good she was at listening  to me when we were taking care of my mother in law at the end of her life. I played back conversations about taking care of my mother and hers.  I also remembered a bit of conversation I overheard during the first night of shiva.

My friend Linda brought a condolence note to Ruth from her mother.  Linda conveyed her mother’s apologies . Linda’s mother has recently become blind and was embarrassed because her handwriting was ugly.  Linda, being a good daughter, conveyed her mother’s apologies as she was directed to. Ruth took the envelope patted it and said, “ It doesn’t matter how ugly it is because what this envelope contains is love. I accept this envelope and the message that it contains.”

Kneading challah is a full body activity. The movement starts from the soles of my feet. I brace my feet against the floor and lean into the bread dough before I lift and fold it and press it down  again in the the counter. 

So I thought good things about Ruth and put them into the challah.  I brought the two challot to Ruth in a paper bag right after I pulled them out of the oven. She opened the bag and took a big whiff. She smelled exactly what I put into the challah.

I also  made chicken for us. I made a home made version of shake N bake.

I put flour, cornmeal and spices into a bag.  I put in paprika, allspice, black pepper Chinese five spice peer and a bit of salt. I added a few chicken pieces to the bag at a time, shook and pulled them out when coated. If you do this, add whatever spices you like with chicken. you don't have to add the spices that I like.
shake n bake

This is the chicken half way through cookingshake n bake (1)

And after it was done.shake n bake (2)
The house smelled really , really good while it was cooking.  I need a smell-o-vision app.  I showed serious self control and didn’t snitch one piece of chicken before putting it the fridge.

There are no guests tonight. My husband has been working really crazy hours and might need a long nap before dinner, or might need to fall asleep during dinner. My older son would prefer we have guests but he will have to wait for another week.

Shabbat Shalom!!!


  1. That was a lovely story about your friend.
    I do homemade shake and bake as well, but I have never used cornmeal, which is very doable since it's gluten free, add our favorite spices and some gf flour.


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