who's in the kitchen

Hiding in plain sight


Two weeks ago, Jerry and I attended the wedding of the daughter of our very close friends, Debbi and Jack Shafran. Jerry sat with Sam Zylberberg, with whom he always enjoys speaking and joking around. He really loves Sam’s sense of humor and perspective.

They both graduated Rambam and BTA. They are both children of survivors. And when they get together, they are the metaphorical “perfect storm.”

They were sitting together at the chuppah, chatting and watching the wedding procession. An irate woman turned around and snapped at Jerry, “Stop talking, you’re disturbing me!”

Jerry, as he always does, felt really sorry.  He apologized sincerely and told the woman that she was absolutely right. She immediately shook her head in disbelief. “Of course I’m right!”

“I’m really sorry for disturbing you,” he said.

“You should be sorry!”

But Jerry did feel sorry. He always feels sorry when he disturbs people, whether in shul, on the train, at a chuppah, or anywhere.  He has a deep inner Jiminy Cricket conscience that manifests itself when he bothers others. At the same time, he is impulsive and is excited and happy to sit with and see his friends, and he loses all context as to where he is. So he felt sorry and sat quietly, introspectively promising himself to do better next time.

After a couple of minutes, the woman who had yelled at him began speaking to her husband. The conversation went back and forth like a tennis match, and Jerry missed none of it. Suddenly, I heard him begin to squawk in a Woody Woodpecker singsong: “Ah-ha-ha-ha ah-ahhh — you guys are talking now!”

She had violated Jerry’s internal rulebook, which retroactively abrogated his initial sincere apology.  “You have just lost your no talking privileges,” he told her. Sam concurred.

Jerry has a hard time saying “no” to anyone who asks to speak with him, whether in the office or elsewhere. It doesn’t matter whether the asker is a professional or a colleague, or just someone seeking him out about personal problems.

This is the other side of his internal Jiminy Cricket: Jerry recently shared with me how he balances tax matters which he is directly responsible for with issues his peers inevitably “need only a minute to bounce off” him. Naïvely, he used to believe that all these encounters would actually take only a minute, but inevitably they turned out to be time-consuming. Once recognizing the pressures his colleagues faced, he couldn’t let them down.

But after many years, even he began to figure reality out. Whenever he was under heavy pressure and actually needed to get his own work done, he devised a foolproof plan to hide in plain sight. He would book conference rooms on different floors of his firm and set up office meeting scenes, replete with open documents, coffee or other soft drinks in front of multiple chairs, and keep the door wide open. His colleagues, if they walked by, would keep walking, respecting the “meeting” whose other participants must have momentarily stepped out.

Of course, he still spends a considerable portion of his day, and his career, addressing the “just a minute” issues presented by his peers and colleagues.  

I totally hear you Jerry, as do many that know you. They feel you and your pain. They’ve been in conversations or discussions that seem to last forever with no end in sight. They, too, have nowhere to hide … and G-d forbid the topic of the Holocaust comes up, because they’ll have to make plans to stay the night. But that’s OK, we love you anyway, Jerry.

Speaking of hiding in plain sight, here’s a great vegan recipe from thehiddenveggies.com for brownies with beets and zucchini. They are yummy without the frosting, but if you want to hide the tiny specks of veggies I suggest using the delicious frosting.

Veggie Brownies

2 cups zucchini finely chopped or grated

1 cup cooked beets pureed

1-1/4 cup vegan sugar

1/4 cup neutral flavored oil like vegetable or canola

1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup cocoa powder

2 cups gluten free flour mix or regular wheat flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1 coat non-stick spray oil or any neutral oil to rub on the baking pan

Fudge Frosting:

1/3 cup refined coconut oil

3 Tbsp. cocoa powder

3 Tbsp. powdered sugar (use a vegan variety)

1/8 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

For Veggie Brownies:

1. Preheat oven to 350° F.

2. Chop zucchini in a food processor or with a cheese grater and place in a large mixing bowl.

3. Purée cooked beets and add them to the zucchini.

4. Sprinkle sugar over veggies and stir with a spoon.

5. Add remaining ingredients and stir slowly until mix well and it creates a thick batter.

6. Spray oil on a 9x13 baking dish or rub with a coating of any neutral flavored oil.

7. Pour brownie batter in the oiled pan and bake at 350° F for 30 minutes.

For Fudge Frosting:

1. Let the brownies cool completely.

2. Melt coconut oil and add cocoa powder, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt.

3. Mix well with a fork or small whisk to make sure all the clumps are out.

4. Pour evenly over the brownies. Pick up the pan and rock it back and forth to make an even layer of fudge over the brownies.

5. The fudge will harden as it cools.  Put in the fridge to firm up faster.

6. Cut into squares.