This week the Raggedyhome hosted two young, married couples for Shabbos - one married for a little over a year, the other married barely more than a month. Aside from being cute and lovey-dovey, these guests showed no signs of aggressively rude behavior. Which is a big step up for us! Au contraire, these guests were gracious, sweet, and pleasant every step of the way.
I have to admit that I was a little nervous about our company. For one, they are all native speakers of French, which, aside from two years in high school that were mostly spent devising new and creative ways to cut class, I have little or no experience with. Basically I remember the initial three-sentence greeting we learned that has to do with entering French class, sitting down, taking out my textbook and notebook, and saying hello. Fin. That's about it. At that point I think I excused myself to go plot my communist takeover of the school.
RaggedyDad, international man of mystery that he is, had no trouble conversing with our guests in rapid-fire French. It's okay. I was able to follow the topic if not the details of the conversations, and each guest made a concerted effort to steer the conversation back to English. Or RaggedyDad would turn to me and give me a quick rundown. By now, I’m pretty accustomed to being surrounded by Russian or Flemish being spoken around me, picking up the few words that I recognize, smiling, nodding, and eventually excusing myself to the kitchen to “prepare something.”
In truth, it was a very interesting thing for me to observe, since languages, and particularly bilingualism and/or multilingualism, fascinate me a lot. Watching these couples in action, from backgrounds that were culturally similar, yet geographically diverse, and the interplay of languages, was like being a linguistics major in college all over again. Those were the days . . .
Aside from the Frankish aspect of the Shabbos, the main thing that got my RaggedyNerves in a knot, was the fact that my husband kept emphasizing that the food I usually cook may not appeal to Moroccan tastebuds. Can I help it if I grew up with Polish cooking where a little sugar in anything never hurts? (Except I guess it does hurt my father who has type 2 diabetes, and maybe children who tend toward hyperactivity. But besides that, is sugar really such a bad thing?!) So I rifled through my spice cabinet and tried to incorporate, among some of my classics (sorry, but we are NOT adding cumin to the potato kugel!), some interesting twists on the Shabbos food. I mean Shabbat food. Everything was devoured regardless of the extent of its spiciness.
This Shabbos, RaggedyDad learned that guests from other backgrounds can enjoy chulent as much as flounder in spicy tomoato sauce. I learned that if you want to hear some of the most beautiful singing to ever grace your Shabbos table, invite some Moroccans over. My kids learned fluent French (just kidding!). Our guests learned that Ashkenazi people can be cool. A little. In a word, it was magnifique!