Saturday, April 11, 2020

Does Anything Quimper to This Small World Passover Story?

For nearly as long as I can remember, my Aunt Claire has been collecting Quimper French pottery (pronounced CamPear). It’s mostly yellow or white, round or octagonally shaped, and often includes a man or a woman standing in profile, surrounded by a border of dainty, yet measured flourishes of blue, green, or red paint. In addition to plates, bowls, and cups and saucers, my aunt has collected, in the course of nearly 50 years, gravy boats, serving platters, wall hangings, pitchers, vases, and more. Some out-of-the ordinary pieces are painted in shades of green, but still are adorned with the distinctive French country figures. A man on one plate, a woman on another.

When she redecorated her kitchen, sometime in the 1980s, I’m guessing, she made Quimper the centerpiece of the room, choosing wallpaper, fabric for the window curtain, and plain blue everyday dishes—all to complement the yellow pottery. She and I trekked to the Pierre Deux store in New York City to find exactly the right wallpaper and fabric pattern.

Fast forward to this past Thursday evening.

As I scrolled through Facebook, admiring all the seder tables, adorned with laptops to bring friends and family into our quarantined celebrations, this photo caught my eye:

Commenting on the photo, I said, “Chag sameach! And a weird question: Do your yellow dinner plates have figures of men and women on them? Are they Quimper?”

In his reply, the poster of the photo, one-half of a couple I know through a mutual friend (and, more recently, through my synagogue) wrote: “Yes, and I don’t know!”

Me: “What does it say on the back of the plate? My aunt has been a longtime collector of antique pieces of this French pottery, which is pronounced ‘CamPear,’ and she has an incredible collection of it. It seems her collector's eye has rubbed off on me!

Adam: “I looked on the back of the plate and it does say Quimper.”

He then sent me this photo via a direct message and our conversation continued from there:

Me: As I suspected! I foresee a blog post coming from this conversation. Stay tuned....and chag sameach!

Adam: Ha ha! Ok. They belonged to Marla’s mom, Donna Newman, and after she passed away they came to Marla.

Me: Are they your Passover dishes or do you use them year-round?

Adam: We use them on special occasions year-round.

It’s now Saturday afternoon, and I’m crafting this post—not only because I love this story of an unexpected connection, but also so I can send it to my Aunt Claire in Florida. She’ll love it, too!

Never again will a Passover come or go that I don’t think of Adam and Marla and the Quimper dishes on their holiday table.

Wishing everyone a ziessen Pesach!

Saturday, April 4, 2020

My Guilt-Free Pandemic

Sheltering-in-place is hard for everyone, but perhaps more so for those of us who live alone—even if we’re introverts. Sure, I love what my sister calls “bonding with my apartment,” but that’s usually after a week of work, working out, socializing, and dealing with the stuff that goes along with running a household: laundry, garbage, recycling, cooking, bills, and all the rest.

Here are five things I won’t feel guilty about during the pandemic—and perhaps not ever again:

1. Not Cooking: Although blizzards and pandemics send many people scurrying to the kitchen to produce huge quantities of comfort food, challah, brownies, and the like, I’m not one of them. In the three weeks I’ve been home, I’ve made one batch of chili and one chuck roast—most of which is in portion-size containers in the freezer. That’s enough. Cooking brings me no joy, no comfort, and I’m not going to do it anymore. I’m going back to salads, veggie burgers, and scrambled eggs. My kitchen and I will both be happier that way.

2. Not Reading: There’s nothing that goes better with bonding with my apartment than curling up with a good book. There’s a problem here, though: I don’t have the bandwidth to read. No concentration. No attention span. No comprehension. Therefore, no guilt.

3. Not Tuning in to Minyan: Prayer can be challenging in the best of times. These days it’s nearly impossible. I think I’ll stick to a Mi Shebeirach for each ambulance siren—and there are a lot of them here across the street from NYU/Langone Tisch Hospital—and for the people I know personally who are fighting COVID-19, including a friend from my hereditary cancer network who is hospitalized on a ventilator. Any more than that is… Just. Too. Much.

4. Not Observing Passover the “Right” Way: In a year when my MacBook Air—not MetroNorth—is going to take me to the seder, does it really matter if all the chametz is out of the house or if I shake out the crumbs from the toaster-oven before Wednesday night? About some traditions, though, I say, “Pandemic, be damned.” Come the virtual seder, I’ll still want assurance that shmorah matzah tastes exactly the same as the box it comes in and that Elmo is going to make his usual guest appearance in time to sing “Echad Mi Yodea.”

5. Oreos: Drastic times demand drastic measures, and if Oreos are my comfort food of choice right now, so be it.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and wash your hands.