Jacqui Gal

Adventures of a Vegemite Knish Princess

Chocolate-covered guilt

15 November 2007

If you read my last post, you might have learned that my parents were in New York for a visit during the last few weeks.

It’s never easy to juggle freelance work, recreation and family time, but this challenge becomes even more acute this a situation, when you adopt the role of city host.

Ordinarily, I might have happily sacrificed taking on extra work, in order to spend time with my folks. But when an editor asked me to write an article (about New York’s first Chocolate Week ) that went along the lines of: “Our writer eats nothing but chocolate for 8 hours straight”, I was determined to make it work.

As the date for this chocolate-eating bonanza drew nearer, I began to feel a little uneasy. What was I going to do? Spend an entire Sunday schlepping my mother around to the participating restaurants? We were supposed to be shopping (my father had already left the country, allowing us to do our worst in peace).

Besides, there was another problem. After a lifetime spent sitting around tables with my parents, I knew only too well that watching me eat high-calorie foods (for eight hours no less!) was not going to be easy for her. I was anticipating some seriously suppressed kvetching.

Historically, it had taken a lot of angry outbursts to finally get my folks to cease and desist from asking me whether I “really need that” as I reach across a table for a cake or any other sweet indulgence. How many times did I have to explain that: “Yes, I know what cake is made from. I am an adult now. I go to the gym. I can make the cost-benefit calculation for myself. Besides, do you really have to mention it in front of all these people? It’s humiliating!”

In general, I had them trained, but I was no dope. We were still on thin ice. I knew that in this extreme case it might prove impossible for my concerned Jewish mother to hold back. And we were going to be accompanied by a photographer for the story, so again, the humiliation would be public.

With a sense of dread, I called the editor and told him about my concerns. He helped me to find a solution: “What about if you try to hit six restaurants in two hours instead of eight. And as for your mother, why not make her a part of the story?”

It was perfect. With my humiliation as a key ingredient, I was eager (with pen poised) for my mum to give me her worst. And you know what? She turned out to be a great sport.

Yes, she did produce her share of pearlers. But she also seemed too busy enjoying the warm chocolate tarts, pralines and fondues to worry about unnecessary calculations.

When my editor read the finished story he said that he “adored” my mother and loved how she had been worked into the piece. If you want to take a look at the piece and the online photo gallery of our chocolate quest, you can see it here
Now I am not one to shvitz, but the piece was admired and picked up by the sister newspaper of the website where it originated, and read by a good percentage of New Yorkers on the subway. Since I hated the main photo they chose, the victory was a bittersweet. (Terrible pun, sorry!)

So take a look, but please promise you won’t have a conniption when you see I refer to my mother as “mom”. After all, I am writing for an American audience here.

Living here, sometimes you have to simply make yourself understood – substitute “elevator” for lift, “cart” for shopping trolley and forget you ever learned the word “queue”. If you ask “Is this the queue?” in a store, people will look at you as though you just fell from the moon.

Even my mom has learned to ask where to “stand on line”, in this country.

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