Burn Mitzvah!

Our pals the Schneiders had planned a Sunday bat mitzvah for their 12-year-old daughter, Naomi, at their house. Problem was, a nearby mountain was on fire.

The neighborhood

The neighborhood

The canyon, besides our Zone 7 and the hilltop gated community where the Schneiders live, had been completely evacuated. The sheriffs had roadblocks at Pacific Coast Highway and Mulholland, and were not letting anyone into the canyon. The Schneiders had invited 150 people, reserved a taco stand for catering, rented a photo booth.

“We’ll still come!” we promised, trying to be encouraging.

During the course of the day, as we all watched the news to see whether the fire was contained, the Schneiders went back and forth with the caterers about how much notice they needed to cancel, whether they could reduce the amount of food, and so forth.

Would Princess get her fancy cake?

Would Princess get her fancy cake?

The original invitation said 5 p.m., and it was decided around mid-day that the show would indeed go on — calls went out to nervous would-be guests to let them know there was a secret back route into the neighborhood that involved bolt cutters, and Don Schneider would be escorting caravans in.

We arrived early to help, and around 5:30 guests began trickling in. The fire, meanwhile, had been contained, and the authorities reopened the canyon around 6 p.m. Soon the rabbi had materialized, drinks were flowing, 60 or 70 people had arrived and the party was in full swing. The problem was the caterers.

Imogen and her pal, Myla, in the photo booth

Imogen and her pal, Myla, in the photo booth

Thinking the party cancelled, they had allocated their resources elsewhere. A call of alarm was sent out, the owner assured the Schneiders she would have tacos there ASAP. I looked at the clock, and it was now 6:30 p.m. The only food available was bowls of cashews and tortilla chips, which the guests were shoveling into their mouths by the fistfuls.

“Daddy, I’m hungry,” one of my children pleaded to me, looking faint.

“Oh my god,” I said to my pal Casey as we sat drinking beer, “I’ve got to do something.”

Even Rabbi Dovid is hungry

Even Rabbi Dovid is hungry

In an instant, I was in the kitchen, frantically pulling out pots and pans, when Monica Schneider approached from behind. “What are you doing?”

“Look at these people,” I said, pointing to the queue for the cashews, “They’re starving. I have to make some food.”

The family was gathering outside for the bat mitzvah ceremony as I riffled through fridge and cupboard, grabbing whatever I could find.

“You’re not really going to make pork for a bat mitzvah, are you Sean??” the rabbi’s wife asked as I threw a clump of frozen sausages into a pan. I blushed and withdrew the sausages back to the freezer.

The Schneider family bat mitzvahing

The Schneider family bat mitzvahing

As the proceedings went on outside, I produced and sent out the most random and unlikely assortment of party appetizers imaginable. Frozen french fries were broiled and dressed with a quick gravy and grated cheese — Quebecois poutine! — frozen steaks got a speedy pan grilling and slicing, and were served with mayo on some crusty rolls; into a pan of oil went a bag of frozen potstickers.

Poof!!  Some sizzling meat suddenly burst into a tall flame as I shook the pan.

“Fire!” one of the fire-weary guests yelled from outside, as silence fell across the bat mitzvah ceremony and all eyes turned to the kitchen. I smiled and waved, shook the pan again, the flame died away, and they carried on.

Casey’s wife, Simone, ran across the street to their house to see what they had, and returned with a couple boxes from the freezer.

“Spanakopita!?” she shrugged.

“Perfect!” I said, throwing the foil trays in the overworked oven.

“Rabbi’s gone!” my helper Greg announced a short time later, “We can cook the sausage!!”

Loiterers watch the proceedings from the house

Loiterers watch the proceedings from the house

I did all that I could. It was nearly 8 p.m., people were less hungry than they had been. Many left in search of food elsewhere. A tall stack of pizzas arrived and the famished kids were satiated.

At 9 p.m. on this particular Sunday — a school night — the taco guys finally arrived. And the few dozen of us still at the party ate well on goat birria and chile verde.

“We have a lot of leftovers,” Don told me the next morning.

Not only had we salvaged the bat mitzvah, but we would get a whole second taco party of out it!

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 6.43.46 AM

8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mom
    Jun 17, 2016 @ 00:07:15

    Naomi is lovely, give her my congratulations, Ben’s a rebel. I don’t why the rest of them were covering their eyes but he was having none of it.


  2. Patricia Colvig
    Jun 17, 2016 @ 03:05:50

    I feel blessed to have a Sean Colgin near bye. I lived in Topanga in 1994 during the Northridge earthquake. We had no power, no water. We didn’t evacuate, we cooked. Everyone in the neighborhood opened their fridges…we fired up our barbecues, brought out beer and wine and partied!!!


  3. Dina Weiss
    Jun 24, 2016 @ 22:37:44



  4. monica overzealousdesign
    Nov 01, 2016 @ 22:42:41

    Finally got around to reading this nearly 5 months later! In retrospect, a fun, crazy and memorable day. Thank you for all your help!! xoxo


  5. Ziva Gruber
    Nov 02, 2016 @ 00:21:49

    Reading this felt like I was with all of you.
    Thanks for sending it


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: