Disgusting As a Danish
On Thursday morning I woke up to find my danish – the one that was meant to be my breakfast danish – sitting at the top of the nearly-overflowing kitchen garbage can. My initial disappointment in seeing it there was quickly curbed by the fact that I knew I pretty much deserved it.
See – I've been eating a lot of dessert for breakfast these days. OK, these years. My rule has been that when I'm pregnant or nursing I get to have something sweet with my morning coffee. (Hey – incubating fetuses and caring for them once they're born is hard work!) Only problem is, I've been doing either one or the other for most of the last half-plus decade.
The new kosher, Israeli-style bakery that popped up around the corner a few months ago didn't make matters any easier. You don't understand what I've been up against with their chocolate rugelach.
Although I've been finding myself in that bakery every few days to keep my supply steady (I'm on a first name basis with the check-out lady. No really, I am.), by Wednesday evening, my stash was gone. So while out to dinner with the kids at the local pizza shop, I noticed that on the counter, near the register, were some other types of pastries, albeit of lesser quality than my regular goods.
Cherry or cheese, I wondered. Both seemed like pretty bad ideas in the world of danish filling, but I wasn't planning on leaving empty-handed. I went with the cheese figuring, hey, I like cheese, and that was that. I knew I'd have my morning fix of white flour and sugar to go along with my freshly brewed combination hazelnut cream/French vanilla coffee. Yum! (As an aside, the fact that I can't keep weight on while nursing my babies, despite my awful diet, doesn't give me much incentive to change.)
That night, after dinner, curious to try my wares – OK fine, I've been having dessert for dessert, too, these days - I realized, or rather remembered, that I find cheese danish to be pretty much inedible. I kept nibbling, though, in an attempt to figure out what exactly it was about the danish that disgusted me so. (Hey, I'm a philosopher at heart!)
Sweetened cheese, I thought. That was the problem – cheese should not ever be sweetened. Cheese on pizza, cheese on pasta, cheese on bread – love them all, none are sweet. But then I remembered cheesecake. I am very fond of cheesecake, but only when it's creamy cheesecake, and thus I figured out what was wrong with the cheese danish I was still nibbling on - there was lumpy sweet cheese inside of it and there's no excuse for that.
But it gets worse, people. Here's the reason I deserve to have had my 3 year-old daughter take a bite out of that cheese danish last Thursday morning and think it was gross enough to toss it into the nearly-overflowing kitchen garbage can: I was still planning on eating it. Or at the very least picking at it.
Now, while there was nothing technically "unkosher" about that danish or my questionable eating habits in general, they certainly wouldn't be called preferable or advisable, not commendable in the least bit - and might even be, well, disgusting. That's because simply following the letter of the law, within Judaism is not enough. The Torah tells us in Parshas Kedoshim "kedoshim tihiyu" – "you should be holy" – meaning you can't just rely on doing the minimum that's required of you. You must live your life in a holy manner, which means exercising self-control and moderation outside of the mitzvahs themselves.
A great 13th century rabbi called Ramban (Nachmanides) warns that if you don't go above and beyond the basic letter of the law, you could end up becoming "navel b'ri-shus haTorah" which basically means that you could become a disgusting person despite staying within the Torah's guidelines.
And speaking of disgusting, while I did embellish the details of this story for the sake of humor, upon re-reading it, I am feeling quite ill. Therefore, you'll be happy to know that I am about to prepare a large bowl of one of my favorite healthy snacks: broccoli with melted cheese. Unsweetened cheese, that is.