After many weeks of deliberating on my relationship with you, I’ve decided to say good-bye to you. I am putting this letter on a public forum in the hopes that others may also gain insight in what works for them. I think it’s crucial that I finally address our co-dependent relationship. Hopefully, this will be the first step toward my recovery.
First, let me say that I appreciate all you have done for me over the years. Every Friday night at our Shabbat table, since my childhood, you’ve provided me with comfort, warmth and excellent taste. As my father would make the blessing on the bread with our entire family around the table, then cut you into even slices, and pass around a piece to each one of us, I’d wait with my mouth watering and eyes glazed with love.
Then, invariably, after everyone took their first bite, the compliments would flow. First my father would praise my mother for baking you so perfectly. My mother would smile and shrug, and kind of humbly say, “Oh it’s the new oven” or “It’s my friend’s recipe.” But we knew she was just being modest. You were great. Maybe she brought out the best in you, but still you were great and we all knew it.
Truth is, you were special and you excelled on your own, without anyone to help you out. Your recipe was quite simple and accessible that when my mother bought me as a wedding gift a Kitchen Aid mixer, I learned quickly how to bake you almost as well as my mother. Yea, I compared myself to my mother when around you, which was also a problem. But still, I felt good baking you so well and of course you were yummy to eat.
Your ingredients were so basic and earthly: flour, oil, eggs, salt, sugar, yeast. So even when you had a bad day and didn’t turn out as well as other times, you were still great to have around. Soft, sweet and tasty. The best comfort food around.
Over the years we’ve become attached at the hips – (mine, not yours). I’d eat one piece, then two, then three. My mother would look at me with that expression of “control yourself, there’s a whole meal ahead of us.” But I was on a roll and I couldn’t stop. Back then, it didn’t matter that gefilte fish, chicken soup, brisket, salad, chicken and potato kugel were to follow. I wanted you and only you. I was willing to share my stomach with the others, but you came first. Your aroma was enticing, your flavor and texture were wonderful. But you became addictive and your calories were way beyond my allotment for a meal.
These days I’ve evolved and have become more introspective than I was back in the day. But at some level, I’m still that little girl. I may tell myself that I’m big and grown-up and I can eat “just” one piece and stop. I may try to convince myself that “come on, just have the crust or end of a piece and stop right there.” And here’s the thing: I really like you. I think you are good.
But you don’t work for me. At least not right now. Dear Challah, no matter how many times I promise myself that I will just have one small challah roll (the equivalent of a few points on Weight Watchers) or just one end piece, I always go back for another. And another.
You’ve been calling my name for so long that I hear your voice calling out “Eat me, eat me…I’m here for you…” every week at our Shabbos table. I’m a mother and grandmother and I still find you very seductive.
I can no longer succumb. I have to say good-bye. Just as an addicted alcoholic says, “One drink is too many and a thousand is not enough….” I say the same about you.
“One slice is too many, and a thousand is not enough.” You are an addiction and I must let go.
A few weeks ago, I was at a wedding and a friend and we made a pact. We both promised ourselves that we would not eat the challah bread at the wedding. We were going to hold back, and just eat the meal. No challah for us. Well, it didn’t work. I found myself washing my hands, making the blessing and then eating it. I didn’t ask my friend if the pact worked for her, but for me, it was a no-go.
And so dear Challah, in spite of my efforts to cut down, to use portion control, to enlist a buddy to do it together, nothing has worked for me. Our relationship has become toxic. We need a separation. I need to make that difficult decision to not even have a tiny piece of you. Because as much as you arouse those warm and fuzzy feelings of childhood, and as much as I adore you, our relationship is not working out well at this time.
I say this all with sadness. I admit you are delicious, charming, charismatic, warm and inviting, but I can no longer hang around you. Ironically, I can still eat your cousins – certain kinds of whole wheat breads and matzoh. For some reason, I am able to have them in my life in moderation. But not you.
You – my dear challah – I can no longer have you in my own life. Not for now. Not when you’re clothed in whole wheat, spelt, white flour, or poppy seeds. Not your water recipe, nor your egg recipe. Not your raisin toppings, nor your sesame seed toppings. Not your round ones nor your oval shape.
None of you. I say good-bye.
Good-bye Challah. Farewell.