So, I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sick of being greeted by all this melodrama and illness and – this is a technical term – ickyness every time I click on my homepage. I’m still not feeling super great physically, but I’m trying to turn a corner in terms of my attitude and outlook. By which I mean: let’s move on, shall we?
I think food might be a good place to start, considering it was pretty much the focus of my weekend. This isn’t a total aberration – as my dear friend Courtney once said, I’m pretty much a “food-centric person.” I like it. A lot. But the medicine that I tried (last reference to The Lame Mystery Illness, I promise) totally killed my appetite. So much so that I reached what I fondly refer to as my post-eating disorder weight: the weight I hit after I nixed the fat-free yogurt and saltines diet of my freshman year of high school, but before I started pairing a root beer float (real soda! real ice cream! the horror!) with pretty much every meal at the dining hall freshman year of college. Suffice it to say, without the wonders of daily crew practice and a 16-year-old’s metabolism, this feat was only accomplished due to the fact that I didn’t really eat food for 11 days. I just wasn’t interested in the stuff.
The shit hit the fan on Sunday – two days after I decided I needed to get off those meds, stat. By some strange (glorious?) twist of fate, the point at which the drugs got out of my system coincided exactly with the tasting for Dave’s brother’s bar mitzvah.
Now, for you non-Jews out there, referencing a “tasting” probably conjures up images of Molly and Jason feeding each other tiny, tidy bites of different flavored wedding cakes, right? Think again. Jewish special occasions are all about food: specifically quantity, though quality helps too. Those jokes about Jewish grandmothers grabbing rolls off the buffet line and stashing them in their pocketbooks? 100% Real. That urban legend about Jewish grandfathers (er, me) staking out the door where the servers come out? Less legend, more true.
So that’s your base-line bar mitzvah. But Dave’s parents took it up a notch for this one, at which we will celebrate the baby of the family’s coming of age. They ditched the Original Tacky NJ Catering Hall, where food surely flowed aplenty at all three other kid’s parties, to the New Tacky NJ Catering Hall, where it’s a fucking avalanche of grub. And I do mean that literally. This place has branded itself as a palace of gluttony. Dessert alone is going to send these kids into a diabetic coma: cotton candy machine, bowls of full-sized chocolate bars, a Viennese table (translation for the non-Jews/Italians: massive table, covered in desserts, rolled out to much fanfare on the dance floor.)
But dessert was not our mission – or at least not our main mission – when we headed over to the New Tacky NJ Catering Hall on Sunday. We were charged with helping Dave’s parents pick the adult’s menu, specifically the entrees. Of which there were six. SIX. They brought us six full-sized portions of salmon, chicken and beef dishes: some fried, some topped with cheese, spinach and cream, others dusted with a Thai chili marinade; all, unfailingly, super rich and heavy. Oh, and that was after the cold appetizers, hot appetizers (egg rolls! scallops! things made out of phyllo dough!) and Caesar salad, but before the chocolate mousse for dessert. And, let me repeat this: all full-sized portions.
The staff was ready and waiting with styrofoam takeout containers, but I was not going to let this catering hall best me. After starting out strong with the appetizers and salad, I took down at least three full entrees worth of fish and meat, even polishing off the chocolate mousse – which wasn’t very good, but no matter. When it was all over, I leaned my spoon against the empty dish in triumph and reclined in my chair like it was Passover. (Show off.)
The place itself was about as Jersey as it gets: fake pillars, fake waterfalls, fake fountains designed to look like they were imported from Rome (they weren’t.) Ballrooms with themes like “France,” “Italy” and “New York.” (So exotic!) The effect was such that I felt the need to turn to Dave and say something to the extent of, “Babe, I totally feel like we’re in Italy!” As a native of the state, he failed to find the setting as funny as I did.
And the truth is, it’s really nothing to make fun of. Despite all my criticism, I’m sure it’s pretty cool from the perspective of a thirteen-year-old, who is what this night is all about anyway. His friends will get to run around the whole bottom floor of the place with no parents in sight. The fake windows and disco balls dotting the ballroom light up any color you choose – in his case, it will be blue and silver, obviously, as the soiree is Yankees-themed. It’s pretty much your classic bar mitzvah venue, exactly what comes to mind when you think of “New Jersey” and “coming of age.”
Although, to be honest, I don’t think it would have flown with this girl. She’s always been a bit more…particular.