> Family > Mom with a View

My Most Important List

December 16, 2010 | by Emuna Braverman

A surprising and humbling lesson from a gourmet food magazine.

I admit it. I like to cook (this is actually of great benefit when you have a large family and lots of guests). I like to eat (of less benefit but it certainly impacts my desire to cook). I like to pore through cookbooks and magazines looking for recipes and culinary inspiration. I even have a website devoted to easy gourmet kosher cooking.

Yet all that said, I would balk at being called a “foodie.” I’m not that particular about what I eat and I couldn’t spend my life “In Search of the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie” (there is a cookbook by that name, I promise).

So I was particularly appalled to read the editor’s letter in a popular cooking magazine recently. In referring to her need for lists (with which I empathize – and the older I get, the more I need them!), she said “The new year starts for me the most important list of all.”

I was wondering what her resolution would be. It doesn’t matter the time of year or the forum. It’s always good to make decisions about growth and change. It’s always good to work on ourselves and try to improve, whatever the catalyst. And since it was a food magazine, I expected something about dieting and healthy eating, not quite as lofty as ridding ourselves of impatience and anger, but not irrelevant either. The body is the house for the soul and the Torah admonishes us to watch over our bodies – eating and exercising appropriately.

But her list, her most important list of all: “The food experiences I’m looking forward to having in the next 12 months.”

Yes, she does edit a food magazine, but still…it made me sad. Does she have a family? Since they didn’t make it on to her “most important” list, where do they fit? And how do they feel about it?

But it’s too easy to see the mistakes that other people make. They are so clear to us. We could live their lives so much better than they are. But what about us? Where am I making the same mistake? What’s my “most important” list? And does it reflect my true priorities? And, even more crucially, what do my actions say?

Do I talk a good show about giving to others (at least I’m smart enough not to write my distorted priorities in a national magazine for everyone to see!) but spend no time actually doing volunteer work? If I do volunteer work, am I doing what’s truly needed or what’s socially popular? Do I complain about “the rich” not giving back and then spend my own (limited) discretionary income on clothing (read: shoes) instead of charity?

Do I pontificate vociferously about how important teachers are and then delay paying tuition, or dismiss that as a potential vocation when my children talk about their future plans? Do I rant and rave about what family means and then spend every night out at a social function? Do I tell my children it’s their character that counts and then yell about bad grades? And speaking of yelling, do I beg them not to raise their voices to their siblings and then scream at them to get into the car?

When I first read this magazine item, I laughed. I was scornful and contemptuous. But upon further reflection, I’m humbled. I’m making new lists – and, even better, I’m making a plan about how to put them into action. My lists need to reflect my true goals and my actions need to be consistent with them. A push to growth is available almost anywhere we look. Who knew it would come in the guise of a gourmet cooking magazine? I can’t wait for next month’s issue…

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