by Sharon Garber
It started with the kugel. When my beloved Aunt Lila began having swallowing problems due to her Parkinson’s, Beth Mayerich, catering director, made special portions of her fabulous kugel for Lila that were right-sized for her, delicious and easy to swallow. It may seem like a small gesture, but it had a huge impact on someone who loved to eat but was very limited in her choices. It became standard fare for quite a while and even was a Hannukah gift one year.
When Lila recently lost her battle with Parkinson’s, Beth, with help from Karen Morin, put together a shiva lunch that accomplished something very rare in our family. We have been known to have picky eaters in our family, especially one of Lila’s daughters. We were all amazed when she snuck back to the kitchen to ask for the tuna recipe. Not only did she enjoy the tuna, she extolled the virtues of everything else on the menu, from the kugel to the Caesar salad.
Though there were only two in the kitchen that day, Karen was extremely attentive and kind. She found the recipes for two of the desserts to check whether my Uncle, who has allergies to food coloring, could try the lemon bars or chocolate-caramel dream dessert. He was very happy with the answer.
We followed the family tradition of ripping pieces of the challah and throwing them to recipients who probably won’t be trying out for the Twins anytime soon. The crumbs on the floor brought back fond memories of my father hurling the challah around the table, but nary a complaint from Beth or Karen for the ensuing mess.
When we asked to take leftovers home, plastic containers and bags magically appeared; almost everyone chose to take home some herring, lox or desserts.
I coaxed Beth out of the kitchen at one point and explained to the family how kind she had been to our Aunt. There was a lot of clapping which would have been accompanied by a standing ovation if people hadn’t been so busy lifting fork to mouth.
There are many people who can cook, but it takes a special catering department to add soul to the mix and Beth and Karen fit the bill perfectly.
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