Disclaimer: Certain parts of this article have been exaggerated for humor purposes.
Growing up in a Russian-Jewish household, dinner was an almost religious affair. Especially when extended family was involved. Dinner was always an interesting activity, and I use the word interesting because any other words to describe it would be too colorful for this article. The first rule of dinner was that all the guests had to eat all the food. Sometimes I did not want to eat all the food (because I wasn’t that hungry, not because I was feeling malicious). The hostess would ask me several times if I wanted a particular dish, and by several, I mean 30. When I would say no for the 30th and final time (feeling proud of myself for sticking to my guns), the hostess would say “its okay, I understand” with such a mournful look in her eyes, I would have no choice but to respond with “okay, I’ll have a little bit.” I would console myself by thinking just because it was on my plate, didn’t mean I would have to eat it.
Wrong! As soon as the food was on my plate, the hostess would keep a watchful eye on me to make sure I was actually eating the food. Clearing the plate would not be enough to keep the hostess happy; I had to eat the food in a certain order, with certain combinations, and spend an equal amount of time on each type of cuisine. When I had a piece of chicken in my mouth, I would either be told to eat it with cheese “it tastes better that way”, or I would be asked why I wasn’t eating the salad. The excuse that I already had food in my mouth never seemed to be believed. I also had to time my dinner to make sure I did not finish too early; if I finished before other family members, I would be forced to get seconds, and then I would have to endure round 2 of defending my eating habits. By the time I finished eating dinner, I was feeling more stressed out than when I took the SAT.
At every extended family dinner, there is a Russian-Jewish man present (above a certain age), that cannot serve himself food. This man might have a bowl of potatoes sitting 2 inches away from him, but the hostess, who would be on the other side of the table, would have to get up to serve this man his food. I think it is genetically impossible for a Russian-Jewish man to serve himself. In fact, I have heard of an urban legend about a Russian-Jewish man who was so hated by his wife, that she stopped serving him meals. The man died of starvation. This Russian-Jewish man did have one good purpose during dinner, while the hostess was distracted because she was serving him his entrée, I was able to move some of my food to the plate of an unsuspecting relative. I had to partake in such sneakiness because I had to save room in my stomach for dessert. The only acceptable excuse for not eating dessert was being on a diet, and even then there was only a 25% chance that this excuse would work.
So if family dinner is such a stressful affair, why do I still attend? For the vodka of course. Also the people at dinner are quite pleasant to talk to. Do you have an interesting family dinner story?