By Angie JACOBS, Two Teenagers, One Bathroom.
My mother has a theory about men.
She reckons they aren’t so keen on eating out because they have a good meal put in front of them every night.
It’s an old fashioned way of thinking, but I must admit this has become the case in our house most nights. In the pre-children days, we’d take it in turns to cook and wash up. We were young and free-spirited, there’d be no gender roles in our house.
Seventeen years on and the rock-and-roll lifestyle is no more. I shop, decide what to have and cook. He stacks the dishwasher. The children clear the table and moan.
We met on a blind date, set up by his younger brother who I knew from work. He sold his older sibling with an Alan Sugaresque passion. Tony had recently come back from living in Israel and was now back in the family home and his brother’s bedroom.
After a few verbal messages there was still no call, so I went for it and wrote a note to the effect of: ‘Are you going to ring me or not?’
Our first date was on 2 July 1991 at Marine Ices in Camden. The food was delicious and he had nice eyes. However, he talked about himself ALL night. The bill came and he wouldn’t let me pay; things were looking up. What with the eyes and generosity, I agreed to see him again.
He grew on me and our mutual love of food meant we went out to lots of restaurants. One of our early dates was at Marcus’s kosher Chinese restaurant in Temple Fortune.
During the meal we laughed at how the food was Chinese how your grandmother would make it, the overall flavour being Telma. This was pre-Gordon Ramsay and we English were still very apologetic in our complaining. “How was your meal?” enquired the waiter. My blue-eyed date didn’t hold back. “It was absolutely disgusting. The soup was greasy, the rice was gloopy and the chicken was all gristle.” The waiter was offended. “Hey,” he said, “that’s my grandma’s cooking you’re being rude about!”
We got engaged and decided we had to start economising. Jewish economising – we decided we would cut down our eating out to twice a week. Oh, those Halcyon days.
Now we have two teenagers, eating out en famille is a rarity. Last year, we celebrated my birthday, Tony’s birthday, Ilana’s birthday and her finishing her exams on one meatfest of a night out at La Fiesta in Golders Green. (We took Ethan with, too, which was kinda nice of us as it wasn’t his birthday.)
Not suitable for vegetarians, we had a fantastic meal. Boy, the kids were pleasant that night. Eating out on Valentine’s Day is, alas, no more. You get sensible as you get older, and a bit tight. Restaurants are always packed on Valentine’s night – they often put up their prices and the service is fraught.
Our favourite kosher restaurant was Mr Wok’s in Hendon. However, it was never that busy as it was not under the Beth Din.
Apparently it had been, but the owner couldn’t afford to pay for a shomer. Every time we went, he would theatrically produce the bills from the butcher in case we were in doubt. So this restaurant was always empty because it fell between two stools – it was not kosher enough for the frum community and those who eat treif could get a decent Chinese meal elsewhere for less money. It was fine by us and the food was incredible.
The chef was Vietnamese and there were no family members in the kitchen. We once went on Valentine’s night and the place was packed – the gentiles of Hendon just happy to get a table without booking on this busiest of nights.
We’ve been to some fancy schmancy restaurants in the West End, usually on some early bird or nebach offer, but not been especially impressed.
After much nagging one year, I schlepped him to The Ivy on my birthday. I was sorry I bothered. Old Blue Eyes’s mushroom risotto apparently tasted like snot. I play safe these days with a mixed grill at The Aviv.
My 13-year-old son just asked me a question: “If you could choose anything for dad to get you for Valentine’s Day, what would it be?”
“A holiday,” I replied, honestly. “Realistically, if you could choose…”