Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Good Better Bestial

I remember the menu at my wedding was great. I don’t actually remember the menu; just that it was great, and I bet that is the best compliment you could give some ‘wedding planners’. I get sad when I think back to the times when I got married. When a mother was excited for half a year before her child got married, arguing with the caterer about how much paprika she would put in the goulash. When the Town Hall was decorated with flowers, and professional waiters had the glasses gleaming when the first well-dressed guest arrived. When going to a wedding was a treat and much looked-forward-to evening out.

The Chassidim have had their way with our weddings. We, the epitomes of monogamous faithfulness and the only group I know who truly still believe, as they get married, that it is for better or for worse, have certainly brought the latter to the fore for that night.

The last few weddings I went to have broken my heart. I am a true lover of good food. I hope my maker does not judge me too harshly for having chosen that, most earthly of his creations, to become so enamoured with, but I am hopelessly besotted. In a truly well made dish, where all the notes are balanced and texture and flavour are perfectly married, I see divinity. I see none of the above at the weddings I go to lately.

The young Chassidim, who call themselves caterers, are not themselves to blame. They are not the disease, just a symptom. We have become a society that does not appreciate excellence. As we teach our children it is ‘holy’ to eat fish with our hands, show them it is ‘ehrlich’ to have filthy tzitzis, as we teach them by rote to accept without question we also train them to scorn any knowledge that does not come from a handful of sources. It is possible this stems from a sort of warped asceticism but I do know scruffiness and nonchalance do nothing to enhance spirituality.

To see a grown man picking up a piece of overcooked fish in his fingers, dipping it into some mayonnaise then chrayne, then shoving it into his mouth while his other hand prepares the next, can be pretty sickening to the faint of heart. To learn he thinks he is doing it for God makes it all the worse. When waiters holding tureens full of Osem-flavoured dishwater, see the guests they should be serving, behaving like that, you can understand why they no longer bother to polish the glasses but do polish away your plate as soon as you turn your head.

I suppose at the end of the day it is the parents of a bride I should blame for greeting the guests coming for the dancing of the puffa-train, with a bare trestle table piled high with cardboard boxes containing the leftovers of the wedding reception. And if the caterer has so little breeding that he does not realise this look might be right for an avante-garde vernissage but is completely wrong for a wedding, at least we can comfort ourselves the stuff will be excruciatingly kosher. For me it is indicative of all that is wrong with our mindless upward thrusting. We have lost touch with our humanity and the truly spiritual, and the closer we come to perfecting this neo-betterness the more it becomes clear, to all but those already on four, that what we have really done is to get back in touch with the animal.

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